Art is one of the great joys of this world. During my life, I have had the privilege of associating with some really great artists. Maybe I have had more than my share—or perhaps we all just need to recognize the plethora of incredible souls that have lived in our midst and do now reside among us.
These people often express themselves through art.
Notes on a page, figurines, literature, paintings, music, words, photographs, memories, and film are prolific in our day. Art fashions itself in many forms and can lift, teach, and edify us all.
The Lord blesses those who want to improve and try. In light of that statement, I would like to share with you my journal. Hold on to your seat—this is going to get a bit rough. I mean, when you see what I am talking about, you may become overly excited.
Well, I know that seems unbelievable since you don’t even know me. But you aren’t going to get so excited about my history—it’s your history that you are going to get excited about. Thrill in the fact that the journal has already been created for YOU! Yeah, like I said, hold on to your hat. We are going for quite a ride. Let’s check it out.
- Google Maps
If you are saying you don’t have or know about these things, that is okay. It is not a requirement to use and understand these technologies. Your kids and grandchildren know all about them and your history is coming together because they are building it for you—and this is just the beginning.
I remember the day when computers were new and the internet was small and very simple. We had to format the disks when we bought them before we could use them (some of you old-timers remember that). Yes, this was back at the time when cell phones did not exist and the web was mostly text. Even then it was amazing, but incomparable to the volume and quality of today’s publications, stories, videos, music, audio, and pictures—often revolving around your own life. Phones are essentially everywhere today and the apps that they use often publish content to the internet even if you don’t know it is happening.
Government records, sales, location data, history, news, and more are tabulating your history and that of your family as you do the simple things you do every day of your life. All this has come about in less than a generation. In the matter of just a few years, the results have come together even more quickly and will continue to do so.
It is almost out of your control. Where do I begin? For an example, let’s just look for a minute at the website FamilySearch.org. You have never logged on there before, you say. Perfect!
That doesn’t even matter.
All you have to do now to receive access to FamilySearch is log in with your member password if you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. log in with your lds.org username and password) or, if you are not a member, create a free FamilySearch account. Here is just a glimpse of what is waiting for you even though this is your very first time on the site:
- Family members’ (such as ancestors and next-of-kin) personal stories, memories, pictures, and timelines that will blow your mind
- Historical information and your relationships to ancestors
- Life sketches and vitals
- Blogs, ship logs, migration records, and hundreds of family photos
And remember I said that all of this is being created for you. It’s true whether or not you contribute. My dad’s grandfather wrote a few lines in a wonderful history, which has come to be known in my family as The Little Red Book. The book’s cover is a bright red, which helps it stand out from the other books in the bookcase. Its red binding is easy to spot and the digital copy is prominent online as well. And this, in addition to the dozens of photos, stories, memories, and life experiences available on FamilySearch, are about him alone. Similarly, material is available for his children, wife, and extended family. Remember, he never logged into FamilySearch.org even once, but all of this and much, much more was created for him by others.
Many of these stories, images, and family relationships are also shared with Ancestry.com and other genealogical source libraries of this type reaching millions of people and recording billions of instances.
These resources help us come to know, love, and appreciate our extended family and emulate their lives, especially when we sacrifice and work to become familiar with them.
As I was driving down the freeway recently, a billboard prominently displayed the announcement of the RootsTech Film Fest 2019, a festival hosting a videography contest about ancestry and family history. So now I have to be a director as well to do my family history? Not at all; it can certainly be done much more simply. But here again, hundreds—possibly thousands—of talented artists are helping us compile, preserve, and present our histories in an impressive and exciting fashion that will change our lives and those of our loved ones who are modeling their lives after ours. It is happening all around us.
Now that is something really worth getting excited about.
A few months ago, my children gave me an AncestryDNA kit. That was something I had wanted for some time. It actually took me weeks to finally begin processing it, however. I activated the kit during the beginning of the month. Because I have been receiving emails regarding its status, it has been forefront in my mind and I have been excited about the results, kind of like a child on Christmas morning waiting for a big surprise. I have done some family history, but I am not a pro. However, I realize now that I don’t have to be so adept in this field to benefit from it—and neither do you.
If I said to you, “I am going to the store and I will be back tomorrow,” you would press me and ask what I am saying. “Well, I cannot build a car, so I am going to walk, and the store I am headed to is in the next city, so it will take a few hours for me to get there and the same amount of time to get back.” You would ask me if I was joking, and then, upon determining I was not, you might say something about hopping on the bus or perhaps you would offer to take me yourself. “You don’t have to know how to create cars before you can benefit from them. You can even use mine.”
That is exactly what family history is like—sharing beautiful connections with others and taking advantage of resources, stories, histories, and art already created for you. Daily disciplines help us make the most of these relationships. Deliberate efforts and faith make these experiences treasures that will perpetuate time and, I believe, the eternities.
As for AncestryDNA… I was going to finish this article when I got the results, (waiting, waiting, waiting…) but then I decided that I won’t be finished, but instead will have even more to do when the new connections are fully realized.
God will not place adversity in our path without giving us the strength to rise above it.
Everybody has a story. It may be the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, but because it is your story, the memory is beautiful and worthwhile. And if it has meaning to you now, the fact that you captured it and remember the occasion will only make it more valuable in the future. I speak from experience. My perspective is that if an experience or memory has meaning to you now, its worth will only be that much greater to your children and posterity in the future, especially when you are gone.
One final story: I was a pretty normal kid when I was young—I enjoyed baseball, elementary school, fishing, and friends. I did the typical things children do. And thanks to my father, part of that included visiting my grandparents and extended family on occasion and particularly on Sundays. I have tons of memories of my extended family because we often visited my Great-Aunt Faye, Uncle Gordon, or other family members. We regularly visited my grandparents who lived near Wanship, Utah in their cabin on the Weber River.
On occasion, we also visited my grandma and grandpa on the other side of the family. My grandpa would take us boys to play shuffleboard in their complex or get golf clubs for us so we could go putting in the facilities at their condo. This grandpa took me out to dinner—just me and him—when I received the Aaronic priesthood and became a deacon. He died when I was still very young, and it wasn’t until I was a man that I learned he was a cowboy and cowhand as a young man. My father wrote in his journal, “When my father was a boy he only learned about farming. He could get on a horse and ride it up in the hills and herd cattle. He could irrigate, pick fruit, and prune the trees. He knew all about that.”
I wish I had known this about my grandpa when I was young and began working the farm. We yet have so much to talk about—all of us.
Art is all around you in the form of your future and your past, and it can even be found within your own family. Enjoy it!
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.