Week 0: Initial Thoughts
I know family history is important, because our leaders keep mentioning it over and over again. But how the heck do you do family history? If old ladies can figure it out, surely I can. What if my mom has already done everything?
And, like, how do I find the information required to really put a life sketch of my ancestors together? Supposedly they have records online (that’s what indexing is for), but am I really supposed to take some random birth record’s word for it that these people really existed? I don’t know, but the whole thing seems kind of sketchy to me, like we’re building this super precarious scaffolding based on unprovable facts and one day it will just topple over. How do we prove anyone who is dead was once alive? I DON’T KNOW. I just really don’t get how to do this.
Week 1: Trying to Take Action
The family history consultants in the ward announced a class about FamilySearch at the BYU library! Timely. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the library, it turns out the class was at a different time than I thought, so I’m going to accept defeat for today and try again when they have the class in two weeks.
But I was seriously impressed by the amount of people who were in the library working on their genealogy. I never really realized/appreciated the amount of resources our Church has been putting into this effort—the websites, the indexing program, the family history centers, the family history missionaries, the classes, and so on. Again, these are signs that it’s important.
But I’ll just index again this week because indexing is my family history safe place.
Week 2: Nothing
Giving myself an undeserved break.
Week 3: First Class
Nathanael and I went to the “Where Do I Begin?” class taught by Kathryn Grant. She was amazing! She answered my questions and told us some helpful tips, the most applicable of which for me were:
- Focus on English records from 1800-1905. (I was trying to go waaaay back.)
- Start with what you know for certain. (Like adding records to grandparents.)
- Follow the spirit. (Go figure.)
Just talking to Kathryn was super helpful because she was once in my shoes: trying to do family history, failing, getting frustrated, and feeling like she was never going to be able to do this and it wasn’t her thing.
Week 4: No Progress
Had dinner with friends this night, which sort of took up the afternoon and evening and night. I had such good intentions.
Week 5: FamilySearch Glitches
Discovered that the maternal grandma I have on my tree is a duplicate. However, FamilySearch went into a technological meltdown every time I tried to merge them. But I figured out a different way to do it. I stopped there because this is about baby steps, right?
Week 6–7: Ignoring Promptings
After patting myself on the back for just getting my tree slightly straightened out, I went on a family history hiatus for the holidays. But don’t you worry: the Spirit was giving me some very obvious, strong reminders that I’d been neglecting an important work. I am a slothful and not a wise servant, so I let other things get in the way for a while.
Week 8: First Success
You guys. FAMILY HISTORY CAN BE DONE.
I started with my maternal grandpa and noticed that he had ZERO records attached to his profile—like birth, death, marriage, etc. I took it upon myself to become the record-finder for my family. And FamilySearch makes it ridiculously easy, because they basically find the records for you (just click on a person and look on the right-hand side. BAM! Records). I found records for his birth, death, and burial. I also corrected a birth date for his sister while I was at it, because it was hugely wrong and I found a record that said the correct year—and guess what? It made her available for temple work. I feel useful!!
Week 9: Second Success
Finished finding records for my grandpa (I also expanded to using Ancestry.com, which was easier than I thought it would be). So grateful for the indexers out there making this stuff available. Onto the next victim! Eventually, my goal is to just flesh out the records for my tree (back to 1800) and then see what temple work can be done. I’ll also probably try to collect stories on the way, because I know nothing about my mom’s family! Maybe I haven’t found any new names, but I’m making sure everything has been done right, which I think is just as important.
Here’s the moral of the story: if you’re frustrated at family history, you’re not alone. But if you have even the most basic of computer skills, you can figure it out with a little help. If anyone needs assistance knowing where the heck to start/how the heck to start, I’d be happy to help you! It’ll be like the slightly-less-blind leading the blind and it will be fun.
[UPDATE: The BYU Family History Library does webinars now, so anyone can receive some family history education from them. Perfect timing.]