I have a deep and abiding love of genealogy. The very first time I ever felt the Spirit prompt me – the prompting that lead me to sitting down with the missionaries – was when I learned that families could be sealed together for all eternity. It should be no surprise that, on my first trip to the LDS bookstore I ever made, I immediately purchased genealogy software.
As a college student, I spent a lot of my free time researching my ancestors. I made a lot of mistakes starting out that I’ve had to go back and correct, but I’ve enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. Like most college students, I thought the era of free time would continue forever.
Then I got married and had kids, and the concept of free time went directly out the window.
Many members of the church have noted that their genealogy has been done pretty much as far back as possible. I would like to challenge that idea on two fronts.
The first challenge I have relates to timing. Most Latter-day Saints with pioneer heritage have a family tree with branches stretching back hundreds of years. But when you think about your family tree, you realize that, unlike a traditional tree, ours is a little top-heavy (assuming you ‘plant’ yourself at the base and your ancestors as branches). Look at it this way: you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents…and that’s only about a hundred years worth of research. The further back your tree stretches, the more research is needed. The odds are good that, somewhere in all those branches, your great-grandparents hit a brick wall. They made every opportunity to climb over it, but could never quite do it.
A hundred years later, you have so many awesome options at your fingertips, it should make your head spin. In fact, in the ten years I have been working on my genealogy, I have been amazed at how much more and more – and more! – is available online. In the next week or so, I intend to put together a list of some great online resources, but let me start by pointing you to Cyndi’s List. Cyndi has organized pretty much every genealogical link she finds into a comprehensive (albeit somewhat overwhelming) collection. And if you can’t find it on Cyndi’s List, Google it! Try typing in “polish genealogy research”. I came up with 142 hits, per Google, and while I didn’t read over them, several of them appear quite relevant.
The second point I would like to challenge is the whole genealogy/family history concept (please note that the song has changed; it is no longer ‘Genealogy, I am doing it!’ Makes you think). Too often, we think of researching our family tree as simply names and dates. We miss the ‘real person’ example, and we think that if we don’t have a journal already in our possession, we are out of luck. This is not true! In the next few weeks, I’ll share a few more details on how to ‘flesh out’ our ancestors and make them more real to us.
Finally, you and your family may plains-crossing, genealogy-completing ancestors, but what about your spouse? In our family, my husband is of the zillion-generations-completed group, while I am the first member in my family. The best resource I had to start with was a family tree my great-grandmother paid to have compiled. My husband came out with me on several trips to do genealogy research. He didn’t help much in the library, but he was there with me as we sought out gravesites and searched for people who knew my grandfather and great-grandparents as children, and looked (in vain, sadly) for the sawmill my great-great grandfather once owned.
Family history tends to be something we procrastinate completing until ‘after the kids are grown’. I can fully emphasize; even with my strong testimony and love of the work, trying to do any form of research while juggling three small children takes planning and effort. However, when you are rejoined with your family in eternity, do you want to be the one to tell them that you were never able to seal someone to their parents, siblings, spouse, or children because you ‘just didn’t have the time’? I would rather greet them with an enormous hug after feeling as though you have cultivated a relationship with someone who passed on long before.