Family History Work as a Blessing and Protection

I have been blessed many times through family history, genealogy, and temple work. I want to share one of those times.

Heading to College with $150

In 1973, I had been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for one year. I left for Brigham Young University with $150 and a half-tuition scholarship. I also brought with me to college many burdens resulting from adverse childhood experiences that affected my mental and physical health. My mood would swing between confidence that I could somehow excel, pay my way, and do all that I needed and wanted to do, and near-despair that I was deeply flawed and everything would soon fall apart.

Although I had a full class schedule and a part-time job, I tried to spend at least an hour every week on family history research—although once you get started, it’s hard to stop at the one-hour mark! The thrill of having the BYU Family History Library and all its resources housed in the BYU campus library was an opportunity not to be missed. That may sound like a sacrifice on my part, but I believe it had a genuinely protective and helpful role in getting me through college on almost no money and with enough mental and physical health to survive my undergraduate years.

Elder Dale A. Renlund, in his April 2018 General Conference talk, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” listed among several blessings of temple and family history work:

Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be . . . . Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole.

If you have prayed for any of these blessings, participate in family history and temple work. As you do so, your prayers will be answered. When ordinances are performed on behalf of the deceased, God’s children on earth are healed.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/family-history-and-temple-work-sealing-and-healing?lang=eng

I think these blessings were granted to me and that my ancestors were cheering me on, hoping I would find their records and submit them to the temple, appreciating the time and work that I gave to remember and learn about them, and also praying for me to be blessed temporally and spiritually.

The Nancy Drew of Family History Work

This was real detective work—there was no internet and few records had been indexed. Birth, death, and marriage certificates were available, if you could figure out the county to request them from and if the event had been recorded, for a $2.00 or $3.00 search fee from county clerks. I sent a lot of letters that came back with an official “sorry.” But it was so exciting when a letter came with results in it, and another line on a genealogy form could reliably be completed.

I spent one memorable afternoon in front of a microfilm reader at the BYU library, looking at every family in the unindexed 1860 U.S. Census of Anderson County, South Carolina (almost 23,000 people, Wikipedia tells me now), hoping to find a Harper family with an 8-year-old John B. Harper—my great-grandfather, who had gone to Texas and whose parents’ names were unknown. After poring through many pages of faded census-takers’ script, there he was, with his parents and sisters. Of course, I had to look through the rest of the census to be sure theirs was the only family that fit the criteria, but how exciting it was to crank the microfilm reader through many turns, squinting at pages and pages of records, and feel the jolt of recognition when the lines of script focused into in the names I was searching for! I felt like the Nancy Drew of family history research.

I made it through BYU, somehow paid for it, earned good grades, and met lifelong friends and my beloved husband. To this day (48 years after setting foot on the BYU campus for the first time), I sincerely believe that the time I made for my own and others’ family history work led to blessings of physical, emotional, and financial health—sometimes barely scraping by, but able to get by, all the same. These blessings are still reverberating through my life. Time and effort spent in doing family history work is satisfying, builds our testimonies, and has a protecting and supporting influence on our lives. Our ancestors are indeed cheering for us as we remember and do temple work for them.

. . . keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You,”
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng

(To learn more about why Latter-day Saints do family history and temple work, see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/topics/family-history/purpose-family-history-work?lang=eng  To see the 2021 sessions of the RootsTech family history conference, go to  rootstech.org—it’s all free!)

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