Family, Gospel

Family History: From Frustration to Success

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


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, 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.]

Gospel, Life

No Higher Tribute

About a week and a half ago, my Church held its global meeting called General Conference. But wait! Don’t go! Even if you’re not a member, these powerful messages can touch and heal you. Start with the first session (there are six) by clicking here.

But if there is one message that I would recommend to any person to watch, it would be that of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. This guy is famous for his amazing talks, but this one truly is special, even for him. I’ve never heard anything more powerful about womanhood. Ever. Period.

If you’ve ever had doubts about the Church’s teachings about women, watch this. Don’t listen to the naysayers who whisper lies that the Church or God doesn’t value women as much as men just because the distribution of administrative roles or perceived power seems imbalanced to you. Listen to Jeffrey R. Holland preach the real feelings of the Apostles and Jesus Christ about how powerful a woman can be (and this can apply to any woman who mothers in any sense of the word, not just those who have born their own genetic children):

To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.” To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth, and to a Mother in Heaven, I say, “Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.” . . . In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and like the Master you follow, your love ‘never faileth.’ ” I can pay no higher tribute to anyone.

Oh boy, that talk made me excited for motherhood! Not so much the shopping and decorating and parties (although I do realize people generally have a lot more fun with those things than I do, but that’s why my husband calls me the Grinch of babies).

If this subject matter doesn’t interest you, here are some other speeches that were stellar (click on the phrases below):

On being happy . . . 

On why the Church seems to be run by a lot of old guys . . .

On the reason we have commandments . . .

On being guided by the Holy Spirit . . .

On improving ourselves one thing at a time . . .

These talks were totally restorative to me. I am at peace again :).

Gospel, Life, Pictures, Traveling

Where We Are Now

After New York City, we ended up in Ogunquit, Maine, and Dover, New Hampshire, while we looked for an apartment. Those “trips” aren’t even worth mentioning, except for this amazing dinner we had in Ogunquit:


We now live in coastal New Hampshire, which is pretty gorgeous, I have to admit. And I mean coastal—the ocean is less than a five-minute walk from our house. Cue the beach pictures . . . 

Beach 2Beach 1We were so blessed to find a home. It’s an apartment inside a woman’s house, and she has been so welcoming and generous to us! It was the miraculous answer to a lot of prayers. Heavenly Father seriously spoiled us with this one.

The best thing about where we live is the ward. Everyone has been so welcoming, which is to be expected from a group of Mormons. But this ward has gone far above and beyond the call of duty.

However, the most impressive thing to me is that they seem to be just as kind to longstanding members as they are to new ones. Take my second week in Relief Society, for example. We were talking about the responsibilities parents have to their children. We were reading ten things fathers should focus on doing and ten things mothers should focus on doing (here’s the lesson. It’s amazing). When we were reading one of the father’s duties, the woman reading commented that her husband is really good at doing whatever it was. I was impressed that she was so openly complimentary of her husband, which is something I want to be. But what impressed me even more is that woman after woman jumped in and said, “Yes, your husband IS good at that. I’ve noticed. One time, I saw him . . .” It was so cool that they didn’t hesitate to praise each other’s spouses and not just their own.

Later, when we were reading some of the mother’s responsibilities, a woman raised her hand and said, “I just have to say, I think Jen [pointing to the woman next to her] is such a good example of . . .” And so it went for the majority of the lesson. Praise and compliments were flying around the room, I tell you!

And you know what? I kind of loved it. Normally I’m the type of person who tries really hard to stay on task in church and only make comments that are directly related to the lesson material and are as impersonal as possible. Because we’ve all heard those comments that are just TMI, haven’t we?

Being in that lesson opened my mind to the kind of loving spirit I could bring into my future wards! And if your ward is totally not like that, somebody has to start it, right?

Gospel, Pictures, Portraits, Uncategorized

His Image

I’m a very private person (which is why it regularly surprises me that I have a blog), and that encompasses hiding my talents. Even people who know me well don’t know how much I love drawing. And to be honest, my drawing abilities were serving next to no purpose until this summer—the summer I worked really hard on making something of the gifts I’ve been given, which included creating these:

Jesus Christ

The Savior of the World, as depicted in images found in the LDS Media Library.

Nathanael blog

My handsome husband. Although, to be honest, I think this one is the worst and I will most likely make changes to it.

Shelbey blog

Yours truly.

I was inspired by a comment made by a friend in church regarding the covenant Latter-day Saints make at baptism to “take His [Jesus Christ’s] name upon us.” She noted that taking the name of the Savior upon us meant we became representatives of Him, and said we should ask ourselves if we were true likenesses of Him.

I’ve never felt creative inspiration that strongly before! When she said that, I was suddenly struck with the idea of drawing pictures of the Savior, Nathanael, and me to hang in our house. These would serve as a reminder to Nathanael and I of whose countenance we are trying to take upon us, language taken from Alma 5:14:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

To me, becoming like the Savior is the entire purpose of this life. Any other noble purpose can be categorized under that one. I’m awful at it, and maybe you are too, but it is SO important to try!

Happy Sunday!

Gospel, Quotes

Blogging Devotion

This post may be rhetorically worthless, but on this the Sabbath day I wanted to share some blogs that have greatly increased my faith. Isn’t it crazy how a blog can do that? You’ll understand if you take a look at these, though.


Desiring God:
I LOVE THIS BLOG. Let’s just say, that if the Gospel hadn’t been restored, I would want to join this church (probably because they believe in nearly the same principles as the LDS church teaches). This blog has not yet failed to refresh my faith. Some favorites:

I will admit, I don’t read every post he puts up, simply because they are all somewhat similar. However, here are some favorites that say everything I feel, or want to feel:

This awesome Christian woman blows me away sometimes. She seems to really understand the most important things, like motherhood. Here’s a good post to get you started: Late Night Accusations.

71 Toes:
The mom who write this blog completely changed my attitude about motherhood. Obviously she puts up a lot of posts that are just journal entries about things they’ve done lately, but when she gets to writing her thoughts, they are always inspiring! I tried to find this post I read a few years ago about nature that was simply amazing, but I can’t :(. Just search around through this blog and you’ll find something fantastic.

A Couple of Love Birds:
I think everyone who has ever met the author of this one openly or secretly adores her blog. She just gets it, especially on subjects like motherhood.

Calendar Girl:
Obviously, because Kenzie is one of my best friends, I can see her faith spilling out of her words. But I think you’ll see it, whether you know her or not, in posts like this: On Womanhood.

Even though it’s not my place, I would encourage you (and me) to fill our minds with goodness. We all know we’re gonna read blogs no matter what, so why not trade “reading” some of those blogs that are only ever about what the author is wearing or perfectly photographed parties she’s thrown and take a look at some of these gems? Or at least pay more attention to the blogs written by people we actually care about, and not for what they’re wearing? Thanks for giving mine the time of day, by the way! And if you have any hidden treasures that I don’t know about, please share!