I often wonder why some people research their genealogy and some people do not. Those of us who identify ourselves as family historians or genealogists can usually recall a certain moment in time when our love for family history began. This “Family History is for Everyone” series aims to uncover that spark – the initial interest that brings people to research their roots. Sometimes it occurs when we are inspired by a friend or when we inherit a box full of old family photos. Sometimes the spark happened long ago when interviewing a grandparent for school or when an old family secret was uncovered. I have found that most people are at least interested in learning stories about their roots. Sometimes those stories are what cause us to dive into more genealogy research.
Today’s interview is with my brother-in-law Spencer Dyer and his wife McKinley. Spencer and McKinley got married one year ago next month. McKinley and I became close friends when, soon after getting married, they moved to Tucson! We are thrilled to have them close enough for Sunday dinners, double dates, and free babysitting. As we’ve spent time together, I have been impressed with Spencer and McKinley’s interest in Family History. Many of the young couples I know don’t research their roots regularly, so I asked them to be my next spotlight. Let’s find out how they got bitten by the “genealogy bug!”
Spencer and McKinley
Tell us about yourself.
Spencer: My name is Spencer Dyer, I am 26 years old and I am from San Diego, CA. I enjoy reading and playing sports.
McKinley: My name is McKinley Dyer. I am 21 years old and was born and raised in Payson, Utah. In June of 2015, my husband Spencer and I moved to Tucson, Arizona. I love pizza, running, and all things Disney.
How did you first become interested in family history? What do you like about doing family history together as a couple?
Spencer: I had a roommate in college who was called to be a family history teacher for the congregation and I would go to his class. I immediately became very interested in finding records and sources for my ancestors because most of my ancestors were already listed but they had very little information confirming the facts of their life. I see going through databases for records to be an interesting challenge because there are so many ways to view the problem.
I like doing family history with McKinley because she is very tenacious in trying to find her undiscovered relatives. It’s exciting to work with her because she is very diligent in searching. I back her up by looking for sources which can lead to additional family members so we make a pretty good team together.
McKinley: Growing up I had many influences in my life who tried to get me interested in family history; whether it was church members, my parents, other family members, and even some friends. But the idea just didn’t interest me. I just didn’t seem to care. I vividly remember a night when I was about 15 and my mom was reading us an awesome story about an ancestor. I also vividly remember not paying attention and playing on my phone instead. Looking back, I now realize how many wonderful things I missed out on all those times I didn’t pay attention and just didn’t care. Let’s fast forward a few years now. There I was 20 years old and a newlywed. My husband had just accepted an out of state job and we were looking at housing in Arizona for when we moved. Lucky for us, my husband’s brother and his family lived in the area and we were able to stay with them while looking at apartments. My sister-in-law that we stayed with was way into family history. She mentioned it multiple times and you could tell she had such passion to it. It was this spark that I saw in her that first got me interested.
I love doing family history with Spencer. Since Spencer had more experience with websites such as Family Search and Ancestry, he helped show me how I could find ancestors, look up records, and much more. That combined with my new-found passion, we’ve made a pretty good team. We enjoy doing family history together and do it on a weekly basis. It’s fun finding stories of our ancestors and sharing them with each other. We’ve also planned trips to travel to a few places where some of our ancestors grew up and were buried. We’ve also loved being able to take ancestors names to the temple to do their temple work. It is a wonderful spiritual experience that has brought us together as a couple.
Who influenced you to get started in family history?
Spencer: My college roommate was definitely the one that got me started in family history and then my brother and his wife also influenced me to continue with family history research because they would find and share interesting facts about my ancestors.
McKinley: My sister-in-law Nicole has been my greatest influence. She has helped me on this journey and answered all my questions helping me along the way. My husband Spencer is also such a great influence. He is always so willing to help me out when I get stuck and is always more than happy to help me research.
What are your research interests?
Spencer: I don’t have a specific research interest; maybe sourcing records. There are some places that have great records and a lot of them, while others are severely lacking. Doing family history work reiterates the importance of keeping good records because it makes it so much easier to find people when the state or government kept good records!
What do like the most about family history?
Spencer: The act of discovery. I feel like a detective because I have limited information, and I have to find more based on what I have, which is very difficult. I also enjoy reading stories about my ancestors.
McKinley: My favorite part of family history is learning the stories of my ancestors. One of my great grandmas who lived in the early 1800s had written a detailed journal entry about her wedding day, even vividly describing her dress! It was incredible. I also found a story of a relative who ended up being baptized in the early 1900s in a pond that I always played in as a kid. Both of these stories were very cool to find and I keep them close to my heart.
What do you dislike about family history?
McKinley: My problem with family history is kind of silly. But I have many ancestors from Sweden that I’d LOVE to do more research on, but all the records are in Swedish. That is a language I do not speak. There’s also a lot of missing records I cannot find. I’m trying to convince Spencer that we just need to go to Sweden to see for ourselves but I don’t I’ve quite convinced him for that yet lol!
What’s your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
McKinley: I share family history a lot through social media. I think in today’s world, it’s a great way to the get word out. If any of my posts inspire even just one person to do more family history and temple work, it’s doing its job!
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
McKinley: If I had the time and the funds, I would love to travel the world and see the places that my ancestors lived and try to learn as many stories as I can. I think it’d be awesome!
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
Spencer: I don’t know if it is the best, but it was a fun find. I was looking for records on my great-grandfather and I found his draft card from WWI. I was looking at it and realized that he had grey eyes. We don’t have any color photographs of him, but because of this record, I know what his eyes looked like.
When you were a kid, what did you think of family history?
Spencer: When I was younger, I thought family history was not for me. It was something that my Dad and aunts and uncles did, adult stuff. I wish I could go back in time and record the stories they shared so that I could share them with my future children and grandchildren. Genealogy is for everyone at every time in their life!