When I was 16, I experienced very strong promptings that I needed to start family history. I could not deny them. In fact, they were so strong that they have never gone away and, if anything, they have only gotten stronger in their urgency. I feel a constant, pressing push from heaven like there are thousands of people begging me to do their name next.
So when I was 16 I started doing family history.
I think part of the reason my ancestors chose me to prompt is that I was their first opportunity. They had been waiting for hundreds of years and couldn’t wait any longer. My Dad was a convert to the church when was a young adult and his newly converted older sister somehow talked him into going to BYU, even though he didn’t really know anything about the church.
It didn’t take him too long to join the church and he married my mom not too long after. When my aunt joined the church a few years before my dad, her extended family basically told her they didn’t want anything to do with her. None of them have joined the church and very few ever would talk to my aunt. My Dad never even knew most of his extended family.
So needless to say, very little family history had been done by the time I was 16. Luckily, my aunt, Mom and Dad had done the temple work for about three generations of immediate relatives. But my Dad is 3/4th Italian and 1/4 Irish and two of his Italian lines comes from a tiny fishing village in the same Province as Rome and if you go back far enough, we are pretty much related to every person in the town.
And since there are no other members in the extended family and I’m the oldest child, I’m the lucky one who my ancestors picked at a young age to prode and bug until I started doing family history.
I haven’t been to Roots Tech Family Discovery Day myself, but in researching for this talk, I found two powerful presentations I would like to share a little bit with you. They both have an apostolic challenge and promise that are very powerful.
The first is from
2016 Dale G. Renlund
Brothers and sisters, I promise you protection for you and your family as you take this challenge, to “find as many names to take to the temple as ordinances you perform in the temple, and teach others to do the same.”
You’ll find not only protection from the temptation and ills of this world, but you’ll also find personal power—power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family together and heal that which needs healing.
Elder Scott also said “Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter. Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences”
I have found that whenever I get bogged down with the daily vicissitudes of life, that a quick way to bring me back to an eternal perspective is family history. Going to the temple is even better, but family history is good for a quick pick-me-up.
Through the years, I would have never been able to accomplish all that I have with family history without help from my aunt Janice. Before I had children I wanted to do something with eternal consequences more often.
So I started taking Wed. afternoons off work and going to the BYU family library and going through birth and marriage microfilms with my aunt.
After a few years of doing this, we have thousands of birth and marriage records we are still working on matching up to our family. I’m so grateful we took the time to do this. If nothing else, my aunt and I formed a strong bond that will last an eternity.
Enhanced Temple Experience
“Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received” (Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” October 2012 general conference).
I have definitely found this to be true. I have found that when I am holding a card of a name I prepared for the temple, it has more meaning for me. I am also more motivated to go to the temple because I am anxious for the names I prepared to get done.
How to Get Started
When I tell people I’m addicted to family history, I can’t tell you how many people have told me they want to get started but they don’t know where to start.
Let me tell you this. It is so easy to get started now. Family Search practically does the work for you. You can do so much in the comfort of your house. If my 89-year-old father-in-law can do it, so can you.
Everyone 8 and older can register for a familysearch.org account
Just by registering, you will start to get emails from Family Search. I’ve received emails with hints of records, names ready for the temple, fun things like a calendar of my ancestors birthdays, ancestor games, links to Pioneer stories, an Infographic of fun facts.
Once you’re on Family Search, on the Home page there is a “Recommend Tasks” section. It’s updated regularly. Go through all those hints first. I’ve found some really good hints this way. They are totally worth your time. If you clear them all out, wait a week and come back and see if there are some more.
Review Each Person in Your Tree
After that, make sure everyone you already know about in your family is on Family Search, that their information is correct and that all hints in your for four generations have been reviewed.
For each person, verify the information with what you have or what you personally know and make sure it looks good and makes sense.
Submit to Temple
If you get your first four generations all done and checked and aren’t addicted and don’t know what to do next, then it’s time to talk to one of our Ward Family History Consultants. Their contact information is on Family Search.
I’ve been so impressed with Family Search lately. In the past, I’ve spent so many hours trying to find out more about my great Aunts and Uncles and about my Great Great Grandpa’s two brothers that came over from Italy with him. I could never find much at all.
Just in the last two years Family Search was able to give me hints about both of my Great Great Grandpa’s brothers. One of the brothers moved to CT and one moved to Medford, MA. I would have NEVER been able to find those families without Family Search and Ancestry hints and searches. We’ve even able to connect with the 90 something-year-old grand-daughter of one of the brothers because of this.
Once you get a little farther along and can create a Gedcom file in a program like Ancestral Quest, I highly recommend you upload it to Ancestry.com. You can create a free account there now as a member of the LDS church, which is really awesome.
I have been able to connect with lots of distant relatives through Ancestry by uploading my tree and we help each other out. But the most exciting example I can think of right now happened just this week.
I’ve been trying really hard to find out everything I can about my Dad’s cousins and see if we can get in contact with any living relatives beyond the handful we’ve been able to get in touch with through the years.
Well, out of the blue last Sunday I got a message on Ancestry from my Dad’s first cousin’s grand-daughter. We didn’t even know she existed or that her Dad was ever married.
She’s interested in family history and has a bunch of information on her side of the family! You never know what a little effort on your part will open up down the road.
The next Challenge is from 2017 from
President Russel M. Nelson:
I invite you prayerfully to consider what kind of sacrifice, and preferably a sacrifice of time, you can make to do more family history and temple work this year.
It is my testimony that however fabulous your life is right now, or however discouraging and heartbreaking it may be, your involvement in family history and temple work will make it better. What do you need in your life right now? More love? More joy? More self-mastery? More peace? More meaningful moments? More of a feeling that you’re making a difference? More fun? Could you use more answers to your soul-searching questions? More heart-to-heart connections with others? More understanding of what you are reading in the scriptures? More ability to love and to forgive? How about more ability to pray with power? More inspiration and creative ideas for your work and other projects? More time for what really matters?
It is my testimony that when we show the Lord we are serious about helping our ancestors, the heavens will open and we will receive all that we need.
Help from the Other Side
“Brother Widtsoe reaffirmed that ‘those who give themselves with all their might and mind to this [family history] work receive help from the other side. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life’”
I’ve done a lot of family history over the last 25+ years, but I can’t take credit for it. I really couldn’t have done it without help from my family here on this earth and from my ancestors who are relentlessly bugging me to do it, but who also seem to make it so I have time and energy, have creative ideas of where to find records, have good enough health to keep researching, etc.
Years ago we wanted to find some living relatives in Italy. We knew we must have a lot of second and third cousins in the village so many of our ancestors are from. So we found the white pages in Italy, had my brother translate a letter in Italian and mailed it to a bunch of people in the town who had the same last name as our ancestors.
We didn’t get any responses for a long time. Then we got a “jackpot” email. Someone wasn’t related to us but knew of a relative of ours who didn’t live in the village but who was really interested in family history and who often traveled there to do family history.
Her name is Cristina and she lives in Tuscany with her husband. They actually came and visited us probably about 10 years ago and when they visited they brought a present with them. A book where she had handwritten all the research she had done over the years of the line of our common ancestors. There are over a thousand names in the book.
Now, don’t you think we had just a little help from the other side finding Cristina?
I was at a leadership meeting a few years ago when Sis. Nelson issued this same challenge and promise. I took it very seriously and have tried really hard to increase my temple attendance and family history work.
Before this, I was pretty good at doing family history. But after this, I made a goal to do family history every Sunday. No set time. Just some. Sometimes I only do it for 10 minutes. Other times I get started and find myself lost in it hours later.
As for the temple, I’ve tried not to limit myself to only once a month. I try to go when I can, cause you never know what the future will bring and it’s good to go when you can. Going to the temple is just like exercise. The longer you put off doing it, the harder it is. But the more often you go, the easier it is, the more you look forward to it, the more you get out of it, and the more you actually really, truly want to go and don’t just go to check it off your to-do list.
Plus, one of the great things about doing family history work is that you have the opportunity to do a wide variety of ordinances. I love to take my two oldest children to do baptisms. I can’t tell you how very special it is after all these years of finding other people to do baptisms to have my children do baptisms.
It’s even more special when we go and my Dad is working there and gets to baptize or confirm them. It’s nice to have the option of doing initiatories for those in our family who can’t make it through an endowment session or for when you don’t have time for an endowment session.
And then sealings are just the cherry on top of it all. We get to go as a family group several times a year and do sealings for an hour. We went yesterday as a birthday present for my Dad and it is just such a special spirit in those sealing sessions.
One of my favorite parts is the sealers often teach us things about the temple we wouldn’t be able to learn any other way. It’s such a good way to turn the hearts of your family together!
And then maybe my favorite part about going to the temple is after I get home. Not necessarily right after I get home, but usually within a week without fail.
I experience at least one major perspective change. I’ve come to expect it and look for it, notice it and be humbly grateful for it. It’s like I walk out of the temple and I am able to step back from my life and see it in a whole new way.
Problems don’t necessarily go away. I may even have new problems. But my perspective on life and my ability to cope with my challenges is so much better because I’m not down in the trenches. I’m up looking down on my problems by looking at them how Heavenly Father would look at them.
Often things don’t really change on the outside all that much, but my perspective changes so much or I get an idea about a whole new direction or a whole new way of thinking about something that I know I did not come up with the idea on my own.
Now, with all these amazing blessings and experiences, you would think I would go to the temple every day. I wish! If only life and SATAN didn’t get in the way. Satan is so good at making it so hard to get to the temple. Here are some tips I’ve found useful in my life to help me get to the temple more often:
- 9 + 1 = 11
- Take turns
- During dinner
- Bribe teens
- Temple food is really good, so bribe yourself with dinner or dessert
- Go with others because it’s way harder to say no and it’s a lot more fun
I hope I’ve given everyone some ideas of some goals you can make to improve your family history and temple work. The time is now to stop saying you want to do it and just do it.
I can testify to you that the effort is totally worth it. The more you work on family history and go to the temple, the closer you will feel to heaven and the more inspiration you will have in your life.