Connection: A Vital Part of Family History
I’m excited to introduce our new guest blogger, Alice Childs. Alice is a temple and family history consultant for her stake in Highland, Utah. Her passion for helping consultants succeed led to the creation of her blog, Souls to Bless, where she regularly posts ideas and inspiration for Temple and Family History Consultants from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. – Nicole
A few years ago, my daughter was assigned to complete the Meyers-Briggs personality test for a high school psychology class. After the students had completed the test, the teacher grouped the students according to personality types and had them talk with one another about the results. After school, my daughter enthusiastically told me how cool it was to talk with a group of people that, in her words, “really get me.” In essence, she had experienced the exciting sense of “These are my people!”
Engaging in Temple and Family History work has the power to fill you with that same sense of belonging. I experienced this feeling a few months ago when I was working on a project that included learning about character traits of my ancestors and difficulties they had overcome. The things I learned were both insightful and motivating. I immediately recognized several character traits from my ancestors in myself. In addition, many of their difficult experiences shared common elements with some of the struggles I too have experienced. Their courage and ingenuity in the face of their challenges gave me additional strength to face and overcome my own. Every time I heard a story, I felt a deepening sense of connection, and by the time I was finished with the project, I truly felt in my heart, “These are my people!”
David Isay of StoryCorps once said, “The power of authentic stories, of stories told from the heart . . . the power to build bridges between people, bridges of understanding, is infinite. You’re going to walk in the footsteps of that person and recognize a little bit of yourself in that person.” (Rootstech 2016, Keynote Address). Hearing stories of our ancestors helps us see that our paths are similar. We begin to see common threads and find connections in our stories. We gain strength and a powerful sense of belonging from these connections.
Learning stories is only one of the ways we can connect with our ancestors. FamilySearch has tools that will help you find many meaningful ways to connect. Their Discovery Page is filled with activities and experiences designed to help you discover more about yourself and your family. One of the brand new resources on the Discovery page is “In-Home Activities: Family activities that help you discover, gather, and connect with your family–past and present.” Here are some of my favorites from their list of suggestions:
Do you know the story behind your name? Several years ago, I made a book about my name. I knew I was named after my Great-Grandmother, but as I worked on this book, I learned that I also had two Great-Great Grandmothers named Alice.
As I gathered the stories about these women, my name took on additional meaning for me. Their examples of faith, perseverance, and family devotion filled me with a desire to be more–to aspire to live up to the name Alice. Knowing about your name can help give you a sense of identity and connect you to your ancestors.
My Records and Their Records
There were no journals, no life histories about Jeremiah and Mary Ann, but the records had a story to tell. My friend, who loves the English Regency Period, was delighted to discover that Jeremiah had been a gardener for a Lord Eldon in England. Little nuggets of information like this that you find about your ancestors’ lives in their records will help you form valuable connections with them.
Pray to Find Them
Elder Quentin L. Cook taught, “You should not underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts” (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 46–47). As you pray to be led to those who have accepted the gospel in the spirit world and are ready to receive their ordinances, you will be guided to find them in amazing ways. I will never forget the Sunday afternoon that I found John Fisher. I was sitting next to my husband as we each worked on our own family history projects. I happened to glance over at his computer screen just as he was looking at a Census Record for The John J. Miller family. Included in John’s household was a John Fisher.
I have been praying about the Fisher family and wondering where John Fisher was for years! As soon as I saw him in the John J. Miller household, something clicked. John’s brother left his farm to a John Miller. This census record helped me connect a whole lot of dots. The fact that I looked up just as my husband was looking at the very Census that would provide clues about that connection is hard to explain in any way except that John Fisher wanted to be found. I know our ancestors help us as we seek to find them. Knowing we are working together deepens my sense of connection to them.
Prepare Family Names for the Temple
When you give of your time to help your ancestors receive temple ordinances, you show your love for them. You will feel their love and appreciation as you act in faith to find them, because they need you! As I think about those often distant cousins that I am preparing to do the work for, it helps me when I know my relationship with them. Who is our common ancestor? FamilySearch makes it easy to view your relationship with every ancestor you find.
When I help youth I often ask, “How do you think your great-great grandmother and grandfather feel about this cousin you have found?” How do you think they will feel about YOU if you help another of their great-grandchildren get baptized?” These simple questions help bring the spirit and a greater sense of connection to the youth as they engage in this work.
The Ultimate Connection with our Ancestors
These are only a few of the suggested activities on the new In-Home Activities page from FamilySearch. It includes many other ideas that will help you and your family connect with your ancestors. Of course, we must always remember that providing temple ordinances and sealing families together brings about the ultimate connection with our ancestors. President Henry B. Eyring said,
“To gather and unite God’s family requires more than just warm feelings. It requires sacred covenants made in connection with priesthood ordinances…Many of your ancestors did not receive those ordinances. But in the providence of God, you did. And God knew that you would feel drawn to your ancestors in love and that you would have the technology necessary to identify them. He also knew that you would live in a time when access to holy temples, where the ordinances can be performed, would be greater than ever in history. And He knew that He could trust you to accomplish this work in behalf of your ancestors.” (Gathering the Family of God, April 2017 General Conference).
As you engage in family history work and performing temple ordinances on behalf of your ancestors, be sure to look for and incorporate ways to connect with them. With your newfound sense of belonging, you too will be able to feel and say with enthusiasm, “These are my people!”