Our ward has been making a big family history push lately, which has actually gotten me involved in family history again. I first got excited about family history work when I was a Laurel in the Young Women's program. Family history was one of the projects I choose to do and I caught the Spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4) and consistently worked on family history and my own Personal Ancestral File during my entire senior year of high school.
When I got to BYU, I was so excited about the family history library and even took a family history class at BYU way back in 2006. (It is kind of blowing my mind that I took that class almost EIGHT years ago. I must be old.) I learned a lot--but that was before the new family search and then family tree programs came out. And I did have one problem--which isn't really a problem, but a blessing: I have amazing relatives who are super family historians and who have done a lot of work on my family line. A few weeks ago, I decided to click through my family tree to see just how far back it went. I literally found someone who was born in the year 20. Yes, 20. Because of these amazing family historians, I had a hard time even knowing what to work on or how to find any information--it would take a lot of hard work and deep research that honestly I didn't really know how to do. Swamped by school, then planning my wedding, then work and school, I soon gave up on family history.
A few times every year, though, I'd feel like I needed to get involved in family history work again. Each time, I'd dutifully return to my PAF or, when the indexing program started, I'd index a batch weekly. Each time, after a few weeks or a few months, I'd fizzle out again. I didn't plan to give up; but I didn't really have the level of commitment I needed to see it through. And I felt badly every time I stopped doing family history work--but could never find quite enough time or motivation to consistently do it.
Then a few weeks ago, we had a lesson on family history work in Sunday School. I've heard a lot of lessons on family history work and they always bring back those feelings that I really did need to get back into family history work again. But this time was different. The instructor for the classs had our ward Family History Consultants talk for a few minutes. Sister DeLesspinasse, the FHC, talked about descendancy research. I had never heard about descendancy research before--or if I had, the topic hadn't ever clicked. But that day I realized that I could try descendancy research. The basic idea of descendancy research is to go through the work that has already been done and through the families who have already been found, looking for large gaps between births of children. If you find a large gap, someone might be missing in that family. I worked on family history during every nap time that week, the most I'd worked on family history in years. Guess what I found in the second family I checked? A gap. And then I found the son that fit into that gap. His name was Orville Watson Toliver and he passed away from Tuberculosis when he was 27 years old. Before he passed though, the served in WWI. He had a wife and baby daughter. And he wasn't sealed to anyone.
As a mom, I can't imagine being sealed to all my children except one. His family was missing a piece. His wife and daughter weren't sealed to him either--they were missing a piece. I get emotional just thinking about it. Ryan's cousin's son recently turned 12 and he was able to be baptized for Orville. The rest of the temple work is underway. And now I've found Orville's wife and parents. I've found his wife's brother and am working on her extended family, the Zahners. A gentleman who has been working on the Zahner family history for many years and who saw my name pop up on familytree when I added names emailed me a history he'd compiled about the Zahner family, which was amazing.
Actually finding someone who was missing their temple ordinances was amazing. I thought I understood the Spirit of Elijah before, but I really didn't. As I've researched these people, I've felt a true connection to them even though they passed away long ago. I've felt more energy in looking for their other family members. I've felt a strong drive to not stop looking and have felt prompted to look in areas I wouldn't have. I've been led by the spirit to find the information I need. And I feel my heart turning to my fathers. I feel love for these forbears and a desire for them to have their temple ordinances, with the hope that they will accept the work. I still don't have a lot of time, but family history is more important to me than it ever has been before, and I plan to keep searching and to somehow find time to make family history part of my routine. I know that family history is an important work and it is how we can become Saviors on Mount Zion and play a role in redeeming the dead.