Three years ago my grandpa passed away after a decade long struggle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease that slowly scars your lungs and eventually makes it so you can no longer breathe. A year later, my 18 year old cousin passed away from a rare bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma, only 8 short months after her diagnosis. Though I had professed my belief in an afterlife and the Plan of Salvation this was the first time I really had to discover if I truly believed it.
Over the next few months I felt a growing desire to know more about my ancestors. What temple work had already been done and what, if any, was left to do? As I started asking questions I was led to attend a couple conferences and classes and jumped into FamilySearch pretty blind. I felt like Nephi, “being led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6)
That fire continued to burn inside me and as I’ve later learned, it was the Spirit of Elijah, which Elder Russell M Nelson explains is a “manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family.” (April General Conference 1998 “A New Harvest Time”)
There are so many blessings we receive from doing our family history work and our prophets have kindly and gently reminded us that it is our sacred duty to do this work for our kindred dead.
Elder Bednar outlines three major blessings of doing family history work in his talk, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn” (October 2011)
- Your hearts shall turn to the fathers–Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase
- Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding
- You will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary
I can’t think of any better reasons than to immerse yourself in family history work if it means protecting our homes and safeguarding them by increasing our testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and being protected from the adversary.
So, how should you start?
Elder Scott told us, “Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received. The First Presidency has declared, “Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.” (The Joy of Redeeming the Dead, Oct 2012).
Since I am a full-time wife and mom, I have found using my smartphone is a great way to easily do family history work on-the-go. Here are three of my favorite apps to use:
Recording Audio memories takes only seconds! I also love uploading photos I’ve digitized (with my phone) while at my relatives house. Using the tasks bar I can easily connect documents to people. Attaching these sources usually results in finding missing members of my tree that I can then reserve for temple ordinance work.
I started using the FindAGrave app by adding memorials for family members I knew information about their burials. Now, I try to help others by creating any memorials for interments that aren’t already listed in a cemetery when I visit my deceased relatives. It’s easy to visit cemeteries along your road trip and fulfill photo requests: simply click on the app, select search by cemetery, and click on a green headstone. The headstones represent cemeteries and the green ones have an open photo request. These requests come from people all over the world who think their relative is buried in that cemetery but would like a headstone photo to verify the source. They cannot physically visit the cemetery so you can do it for them! The same thing works when you find a relative that doesn’t have a headstone photo! You can request a photo and someone near that cemetery will claim it and you’ll have proof of your ancestor’s burial location!
Day Journal App
What does journaling have to do with family history? Elder Neuenschwander of the Seventy says,
“Not one of my children has any recollection of my grandparents. If I want my children and grandchildren to know those who still live in my memory, then I must build the bridge between them. I alone am the link to the generations that stand on either side of me. It is my responsibility to knit their hearts together through love and respect, even though they may never have known each other personally. My grandchildren will have no knowledge of their family’s history if I do nothing to preserve it for them. That which I do not in some way record will be lost at my death, and that which I do not pass on to my posterity, they will never have. The work of gathering and sharing eternal family keepsakes is a personal responsibility. It cannot be passed off or given to another” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 109; or Ensign, May 1999, 83–84, emphasis added). Whatever we don’t preserve will be lost! Whatever we don’t pass on to our children will be gone! Whatever we don’t write down might never be remembered.
I didn’t understand why journaling was so important in preserving my story until my grandma started losing her memory. Her dementia came early and we thought we had many more years to write down all her stories. Unfortunately, she is now completely non-verbal. Whatever stories or memories she didn’t write down are now inaccessible. Technology today makes recording things easy! I use this app to write separate journals: scripture and impressions journal, stuff about my kids, and work or other personal information. You can include photos with your entries as well. Don’t feel like you can type all your thoughts by the tiny keyboard? You can use voice-to-text and just talk to your phone and preserve those thoughts forever. All my entries are searchable by keyword or tagged category and I can back them up so I never lose them. When I’m ready to share any information I can publish my journal right from the app.
I continue to research and find more apps that I love to use to help me with my family history research. You can see what I’m up to on instagram: @familyhistorymodernized
Carissa is a wife to Tyler and mother to two beautiful miracle children, Eliza (7) and Jens (3.5). She caught the family history bug in 2014 and realized she had a knack for using technology to further her research, docmuenting and preserving efforts. She has taught at RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference in the world, in multiple groups and classes in Utah and Colorado, and leads her stake family history training efforts. Her instagram @familyhistorymodernized is where she shares her tips and tricks as well as inspiration for the modern ways you can do family history!
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