How I Stopped Hating Family History & Learned to Love it Instead

February 06, 2015

When I was a teenager, there was one word I probably hated more than any of the others: genealogy.

Back in my day (okay, so, like, ten years ago), we’d have lesson after lesson about genealogy and the importance of knowing our ancestors and doing their work for them. At that point, Family Search wasn’t a thing. We were still making scrapbooks at mutual on Tuesdays and still working with cameras that only functioned with film. Gathering information about our ancestors and doing their work was a responsibility that was generally sloughed onto the shoulders of retired great aunts because youhad to physically peruse libraries and old journals and photo albums to find stuff, and for a kid who was growing up in the era of fast food and Disney Channel, there was no way I was having any part of that. I had Saturday morning cartoons and best friends to go to the mall with, people. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that genealogy stuff.

The sad fact of the matter is that I hated family history work. Sure, I loved doing baptisms, and sure, I was pretty okay with paying tithing. But when it came to turning the hearts of the children to their fathers, I much preferred turning the heart of this child to pizza, Harry Potter books, and Lizzie McGuire. I went my whole life feeling that way, wanting nothing to do with these people I never knew. After all, someone would do their work, right? I came from a very active family and there was no reason for me to feel obligated to search for ancestors that needed work. It was simply a boring waste of time. 

Then a year ago, out of the blue, I felt prompted to go to a family history class. I was sort of confused, because, as mentioned, it was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do. The feeling just kept nagging and nagging at me, though. So on a Tuesday night, I went to my stake-hosted Institute and slipped into the family history class. Angelic messengers didn’t show up and set my soul aflame, dead great-uncles didn’t materialize like dead Jedi to teach me the ways of the Force, and the ghosts of Reeses past, present, and future didn’t bang on my doors and drag me through the life my life could be if it weren’t for my ancestors.

Nope. I got kicked out. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

The class was only for ward family history reps., we were informed, as there were not enough computers for everybody else. Any extra kids like me would have to find another class to go to.

I was disappointed. Here I’d gotten the distinct impression to attend a family history class, and they were kicking me out! The worst part was that I hadn’t even wanted to be there, but suddenly, I felt like I’d been robbed of something. Compelled by I don’t even know what, I went to school the next day and hopped into a Logan Institute family history class, feeling defiant. To my great excitement, there were lots of empty computers. They weren’t going to kick me out now!

I couldn’t tell you what was taught in class that day or if I was even listening. All I remember is tinkering with ancestory.com and randomly searching for documents mentioning my grandparents. I clicked on something, only half-interested. What came up was a little yearbook photo of a beautiful girl, dark hair in a curling bob, full lips in a soft smile. It was my grandmother, the one we’d lost to a car accident when I was five.

When I saw her face, everything changed.

I’ve never quite understood what the “turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers” meant until that day in that family history lab when tears were suddenly streaming down my face and I was tracing my computer screen with my fingertips. My grandmother, the woman I remember adoring as a little girl, the one who I often hoped would be proud of me, was right there, looking up at me. I felt so much love and happiness in that room, and I can’t really explain it to you aside from saying that I physically felt as though my heart had moved, like it had opened or widened in some way and something new was there. I had to know more, I had to do more.

After that day, I was hungry for family history, and that hunger hasn’t gone away yet.

The truth is that I never thought I’d like family history or care for it at all. Like the thousands of people in the church who feel the same way, I just thought, “There’s no more work to be done. This is not my job.” But as a great Institute teacher named Brother McKenna once taught me, the call is for US to save OUR dead, not for our great-aunts or our neighbors to do it alone. And as I’ve found out, there are many, many names hiding in Family Search with little green arrows above them, many ancestors whose names haven’t even been put on Family Search yet, and many of your ancestors who are desperately waiting for their work to be done so that they can share the blessings you have but aren’t getting it done because “there’s no more work to be done” or “it’s just too boring.”

Let me tell you something. The blessings of the temple are not boring. The gifts of the Spirit and of baptism aren’t lame. The ability to eternally connect someone with the rest of their family is not drudgery. It is the whole point. It is the literal center of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation.Our Savior came to this earth to save us and make it possible for us to be eternally linked to our heavenly family. He did so with his life and his own blood. Are we, who can save souls with little more than a computer and time, less obligated than he?

I know that you might not want to do family history work. I know that you’re sick of the lessons about it and that many of you think that it’s boring, but on that day when you choose to start, you will understand the incredible power of the Atonement to take a heart and change it, turn it toward something bigger than yourself. You will understand how it feels to be a savior, even if only a little bit. You will find yourself wanting to do the work of your family members and loving them more than you ever have. The distance between your uncle’s brother’s second cousin twice removed and you will collapse and be replaced with the love of family, brothers and sisters. Because Jesus Christ did the work necessary for you to choose salvation, he understands and loves you completely. When you do the work necessary for the salvation of your family members, you will understand and love them completely. I don’t say that theoretically. I say it because I know it.

Find some way to access your family history work, and above all, just start. You will be surprised by how fun it is to search for those who need ordinances done. You will be humbled at how many names you are miraculously directed to. You will be uplifted by the stories of your ancestors and their examples.

And I’m telling you, that stubborn little heart of yours that is too often turned to Netflix and ballgames and cat videos on YouTube will turn to your fathers. You will understand what that means. All it takes is the faith to start.

_Overwhelmed by Family Search? Shoot me an email! I can help you with tricks to find names you might not even know are there. Click the “Talk to Me” tab for more info. _

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