Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jenneology and the Spirit of Elijah

I was asked to submit my experiences with family history and temple work for an article in the ward newsletter, and this is what I wrote:

My conversion to the gospel was very dependent on understanding and knowing about the temple. I was looking for the way that I could be reunited with my father who had died when I was 15. The doctrine of sealing ordinances was a joyful relevation for me. After I joined the church, I had to learn how to do family history in order to get my dad's name ready to go to the temple. That was when I was introduced to the Family History Centers and genealogy. I started looking up ancestors and got hooked really quickly. As the first latter-day saint in my family, I was really excited to put together the family information that relatives had shared with me.

Growing up, my family had been very proud of their Swedish and Italian ancestry so I knew some information. One of my friends realized how interested I was in genealogy and one time wrote me a note that joked that my name could be "Jenneology." I loved it and it became my screen name, email address, etc. My family history has truly become part of my identity.

Once I transfered to BYU, I felt like I was in the Vatican City of family history research and one semester I was very lucky to be able to spend 6+ hours a day collecting family history in the BYU Family History Library. I loved living 10 minutes from a temple and attending once a week, sometimes more. I loved calling home and telling my mother the information I discovered. I had a relative on the Mayflower, soldiers who fought in the Revolution and the Civil War for both the Union and Confederacy. One ancestor was a contemporary and friend of John Calvin and immigrated to Switzerland with him. I found a connection to a Danish prince from Shakespeare and traced one line back to 457 in France. It was truly fascinating and exciting work. I was proud to have been swept up by the Spirit of Elijah.

It was during that time that I learned that I really like to research and data entry is relaxing to me (strange, I know!). I became skilled at using Personal Ancestral File, Temple Ready,,, census records, requesting records from vital statistics and reading microfiche. As a product of the technological revolution and the information age, I loved all the digital resources the LDS Church had compiled and how easy it was to find out so much using the internet.

Although I loved the work I was doing, I also realized that it is an imperfect system and I began wishing that Temple Ready could be done using the internet instead of going into the Family History Center. I heard rumors that the Church was working on that project. When the new Family Search was announced in church last year, I almost jumped out of seat and yelled for joy because I have been looking forward to it for so long.

I'm at a different stage of my life now so I don't have as much time as I once did to work on my family history. I have checked out the new Family Search and it is really nice to be able to submit names to the temple from home. The system works well, especially for a stay at home mother and graduate student. I have had some frustrations with the new system; like when I discovered that you can't delete a mistake. I accidently transcribe the wrong wife for an ancestor and found I couldn't delete it. So it is different that using the old PAF program. It is a welcome adjustment for me to make, but like learning most new things, there is a learning curve. I think there will probably be improvements made to the system as more people use it, but right now I'm excited to learn how to use it and help others as they learn too.