Finding Those Ancestors Behind the Gravestones of History

Ancestors are not always the easiest to find. Some pop right up and say, “Hey, where you been all these years?” Others simply continue to play hide and seek, figuratively speaking. Genealogy is one of the most rewarding endeavors in which a human being can be involved. We literally become saviors on Mount Zion when we participate in the genealogical process, bringing it to its natural conclusion in the temple. It is a sacred duty to redeem our dead and one of the main tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, where do you begin? Here are five things you can start with:

1. Start with what you know. Write down your information first: Name, birthday, birth place, baptism, baptism place, ordinance information (what, where and when), and whatever else you feel is necessary. Myself, I like to include a short bio with each person I find, so it doesn’t hurt to start with yours. Let me give you an example:

Name: Abigail Jane Smith
Born: 26 July, 1963
Place: National City, San Diego, California, USA
Baptism: 28 July, 1971
Baptism Place: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Endowment: 31 July, 1989
Temple: Provo
Sealing: 2 February, 1995
Temple: Bountiful

Abigail was born into a family of eight children, one mom and one dad. She was always a precocious child and learned to read and write at the age of three and never looked back . . .

You then write down everything you know about your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles. Never forget to plumb the very rich field of family for this type of information. So start with the basics.

2. Go to the church’s website, www.familysearch.org. You’ll need to have your church membership number (which you can get from your ward clerk) in order to register for access to ordinance information. Without it you can still get all of the statistics on the individuals for whom you are searching. Check out other sites like www.rootsweb.com, www.ancestry.com (you can access this site for free at the Family History center in your stake center,) www.mytrees.com and many, many others. The internet is a rich source of information for genealogical research. Even simply Googling an ancestor’s name can often gain you truck loads of information.

3. Research the history and origin of your last name. A great site for doing this is http://www.last-names.net/Articles/Anatomy.asp. This will give you access to helpful information in digging into ancient records looking for those lost ancestors. For instance, in my genealogy the name Lynch is prominent. In fact, I am descended from the Lynch’s of Dublin, Ireland. However, until I found out the history of the name and that it begin with Norman de Lynch who left France and came to Ireland, I’d hit a dead end. I never would have looked in France once I got back that far.

4. Choose the genealogical software program you wish to use. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a great program called Personal Ancestral File, PAF for short. Legacy is also a great software program. Take the tutorials located within the program of your choice. Become completely familiar with every aspect of the program and use it! You will find a wealth of information at your fingertips whenever you access your database. Most importantly, DON’T FORGET TO BACK UP YOUR DATABASE! You will cry copious buckets of tears if you lose all your hard work.

5. Pray, pray, pray. Our ancestors on the other side of the veil are anxious to be found and to have their work done. There is no richer source, than asking our Father in Heaven for help in finding these ancestors. You will find them looking over your shoulder, pointing you in the right direction. Trust me! This is one of the most valuable resources you will have. I have had experience after experience with this and had never thought to ask until someone told me to pray for help. When you pray for help, believe me, you will get it.

So these are good places to start. Don’t be hesitant. Jump right in and start building your family history. One year for Christmas, I created genealogical lines on beautiful paper which showed the ancestry of that family member back to Adam and Eve. I also included the genealogical lines back to a few famous people, just for the fun of it. It is a treasured gift, for me and for them. Genealogy is a wonderfully rewarding work that will bless your life richly, in every possible way. So go for it!