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The Whos, Whats, Wheres, Whys, and Hows of Genealogy

When I was first asked to write a column for Mormon Momma, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be about and I hoped that a Genealogy and Family History column was available. Long story short, I began researching my own family history in 1998 at the age of 28 when my grandfather passed away. The list of things that I didn ?t know about him was longer than the things that I did know about him. Over the past 11 years that curiosity has turned into an obsession. I am excited to pass thoughts, insights, ideas, stories, frustrations and anything else related to genealogy search along to anyone that may have an interest. I am by no means a professional, just someone with a lot of experience and desire to help others.

My first few blogs I have written with the intention of sharing the love of family history. It can be overwhelming, but I have learned a few tricks, hints, tips and shortcuts along the way that might be beneficial to anyone that is interested in learning where and how to begin.

Who can benefit from family history?

Everyone. The one doing the research receives a vast knowledge of who they are and where they came from. Future generations will know their history. Living relatives that share their stories are often thrilled at the prospect that they will not be forgotten, especially as the years pass and the world changes.

What is family history?

I think that family history is a process of learning about our ancestors. As you research your family history, you will find that your relatives become more than a name on a chart. They were real individuals that lived varied lives, had experiences, hardships, achievements, happy moments and regular experiences that are waiting to be found by you.

Where do I begin with family history?

When I began my family history ten years ago, I began by downloading a software program on my computer. A free version of the genealogy software program PAF 5.2 can be easily downloaded onto your computer. It is found at Family Search and is extremely user friendly. I then began with what I knew: myself, my parents and siblings. As I worked my way back to each generation, I took careful notes to document as much as I could about each family member I found. Don ?t overwhelm yourself when you are first starting out. You can also research what you want to know. Focus on one person in your history that you want to know about.

Also, be aware that sometimes information is conflicting, hard to find and sometimes, even a brick wall. That ?s okay. My research began with Levi Bergman in 1999. Over a period of seven years, I finally found enough information to accomplish what I wanted to know about him: Everything! In 2006 I finally found the last piece to his puzzle; his will and testament that identified his posterity as well as a key to the way he lived his life. Buried treasure isn ?t always easy to uncover, sometimes we have to dig deep!

Why should we do our family history?

We all want affirmation of who we are. Do we resemble one family member more than another? Are there similar personality traits somewhere?

We all want to know where we can from. Our nationality and ethnic group is part of our physical and cultural background.

Medical conditions are often hereditary. It is good to know if there are heart problems or genetic issues that you or your posterity may one day face.

Finding family can be an adventure. A trip to a cemetery, library, courthouse, etc can be physically rewarding.

Family history research has psychological benefits too. It can also help with grieving. When we lose loved ones, we want to remember them. This is especially true of elderly people that want to remember their loved ones that have passed on. Doing family research can help keep that connection alive. Sometimes healing also comes after a loved one has passed.

In my case it was the unknown that made me want to know. That interest turned into an everyday event kind of like breathing.

It is also a commandment. Throughout the scriptures, prophets and others were counseled to keep a record of their spiritual events, family lineage and cultural records. Why should we be any different?

Keep in mind, everyone has a story about their life to tell. Record it and learn from it. Keep in mind that not everything we find, we are going to like. Every family history has a skeleton in the closet, and black sheep of the family. That ?s okay. We are not here to judge, just to do the research.

How do I record my family history?

The key word is accurately. When writing and recording information, write clearly, and don ?t abbreviate. Spell out full names and places. Write out complete dates with four digit years; such as 1970. Include County names as well as cities and states. The further back in history that you go, you will find that territory lines, including countries, changed. Places no longer exist, maps will look different. Until you get a feel for the genealogy software that you are using, record everything. Your program will offer suggestions of ways to appropriately abbreviate, etc.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Kim Rader Whiting July 19, 2009, 7:41 pm

    Sorry I haven’t responded, we’ve had an endless family reunion that seems to finally at least have tapered off… I appreciate the comments that have been made. For me, genealogy is a way to get to know my family members. I know that when I go into the next life, I will know them and they will know me, because I have sought them out and wanted to learn about their characteristics, daily lives and the kind of people that they were. I know that some of my ancestors’ work has been done, multiple times. For me, they are more than a name that needs an ordinance done and so I try to find them and put together a basic life sketch.

    The great thing about technology is that it allows for us to work out the kinks of duplicating work and helps us to find those that have not had their work done for them yet. Thank you LDSWriter for bringing up the Familysearch program that helps us through this duplicating process. It started out as a pilot program in several Family History Libraries and seems to be available at most Family History Libraries now.

    I like this thought from Boyd K. Packer:

    “Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work of Church members has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. They understand that they are tying their family together, their living family here with those who have gone before.”

    James E. Faust said:
    “The process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging but also exciting and rewarding. We often feel spiritual guidance as we go to the sources which identify them. Because this is a very spiritual work, we can expect help from the other side of the veil. We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done. This is a Christlike service because we are doing something for them that they cannot do for themselves.”

    I know that this work will continue in the next life. We will still be completing the Lord’s work. Melvin J. Ballard said:

    “When you have done all you can do and have reached the limit, what will happen? As always in the past, man’s extremity is god’s opportunity. The Lord never helps us while we can help ourselves. This is our day. We don’t expect Him to do miraculous things that we can do ourselves. When we have done our utmost, then will come God’s opportunity. Don’t think for a moment that the temples will close. They will go on all through the millennium. Great hosts of the dead in the Spirit World are waiting for this work. Should it nor stir us to do everything to relieve them of their distress? I surely should. When we have done our utmost, then will come the day when the authorities that preside on the other side will come and make known all who have received the gospel in the Spirit World, and everyone entitled to have their temple work done. That is the simplest thing in the world. When the Lord is ready, it will be a very simple and very easy. We can speed that day by doing now the work that we can do.”

  • Alison Moore Smith July 20, 2009, 1:56 pm

    Kim, I’m so excited for your new columns! I will read them this afternoon.

    In the meantime, many welcomes to you and thank you for providing such important information. You might even motivate me! :bigsmile:

  • partone July 20, 2009, 7:35 pm

    Kim this is such helpful information. I know I should work on this but it’s overwhelming. I can take some smaller steps and get started.

    I have a question for you. I don’t want to duplicate the work that has already been done. How much of what we have to we have to verify?

    And do you have an opinion about why we do this? I know the usual answers but I get discouraged about doing it when I try to figure out why we are supposed to. Since we can’t find everyone, I can’t believe God will punish those whose work we don’t do. So why does he make us chase down clues like this?

  • Alison Moore Smith July 20, 2009, 8:20 pm

    Kim, this is an amazing entry. Thank you so much!

    I was editing the article to clean up a lot of artifacts that somehow got stuck in there and to fix the post slug. While doing so I found that the same article is posted somewhere else, on an aggregate or something called Nothing Wavering?

    I don’t know if you have control of that or not, but when a blog duplicates content that way, it make the SEO tank. Is there any way you can get them to remove that? Link backs are great or partial quotes, but it looks like the whole article. :confused:

  • ldsmusicwriter July 29, 2009, 4:06 pm

    Partone, the new family search program of the church is so great, and they tell you what is done, what is not done, and what is in progress. It used to be that up to 70% of family temple work was duplication. You have to have your membership number and confirmation date to sign up for it (get that from your bishopric) and then you can look at your family tree starting at you. They have little symbols that show the status of ordinances. http://www.new.familysearch.org

    I don’t know what Kim would say, but my opinion on why we do it is that it empowers those on the other side of the veil to help us in our lives. Call it some kind of “guardian angel” situation if you want. I also think that they can continue to progress where they are after they have their ordinances done–receive assignments and such, just like a missionary here has to be endowed.

    God isn’t about punishment. He has to follow the laws of justice, but he has made a way for mercy. The temple work and the searching for ancestors is sanctifying for us, not just an issue of saving them.

  • partone July 30, 2009, 4:24 pm

    Thanks lmw. I hadn’t thought of the time factor before. I guess I always figured that once you die eternity makes more sense so it wouldn’t really matter. But still there are going to be so many who don’t get to be empowered because no one can find them. I wonder how much help we need. I don’t know about guardian angels much.

  • Kim Rader Whiting July 31, 2009, 12:39 pm

    I don’t have any idea who took my article. But I have a few more that I have written basically as a Genealogy 101 class and they have never been published either. I don’t know how to get the content removed. In fact, I’m still learning how to work my way around your site. Sorry for the problems. What’s the best way to write my format in? Is it the Wordpress on the main page?

  • Alison Moore Smith August 1, 2009, 1:36 pm

    The best way to write it without any artifacts is to write in either within the WP side or in a plain text editor. I’m guessing you used MSWord or something similar? It adds all sorts of unintended code. 🙂

  • Michelle D August 14, 2009, 6:52 pm

    Thanks, Kim. You will be teaching and motivating many of us!

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