The Family History “Bug”
So guess what I learned recently? The RootsTech Conference all about Family History isn’t all that bad!! And it’s not just for “techy-nerds” like I had assumed! ha ha! In all honesty, it was way more than I had ever expected it to be!
Looking good at the Ancestry Booth
Have you ever wondered where you came from, what your heritage is, and the legacies your ancestors left?
I have always been interested in knowing more about my ancestors and their stories, who they were and the lives they led, but doing family history has been more frustrating for me than enjoyable. I never have understood how to find my ancestors in Censuses and how to add and connect a whole family in family tree from that point. It seemed to always be more of an added burden on my list of “to-do’s” during nap time, rather than an enjoyable and productive hour on the computer. Well, during this conference I had the opportunity to meet with a woman named Jill who completely changed my attitude and perspective on Family History.
Most peoples thoughts are, “Well, your husband works for Family Search, right? Why don’t you just have him teach you?” That would seem logical, I agree, and believe me, we’ve tried!
After sharing with Scott that I wanted to meet with someone and work 1-on- 1 with them doing my family history, he set up a meeting with Jill. This was super last minute and unexpected for her, but how grateful I am for her willingness to help me! Although Scott has taught me some things on FamilySearch, I never really “caught the bug” so to speak. The second I met Jill we just clicked! Besides the fact that she was hilarious and simply fun to be around, she was also able to teach me the “family history process” on my level, and not on a programmer’s level. (Just for the record, I do love my husband, very much! We just think & learn differently).
My new friend Jill
Jill had done some work on one of my lines the night before in her hotel room and had prayed specifically that she would find those who were ready and waiting to have their work done. As she showed me the line we were going to work on, I was stunned! Four years ago, almost to the day, I had been working on the same exact family, and they have continued to be on my heart and mind since. Richard and Sarah Thomas, my great-great-grandparents on my Dad’s side, immigrated from Wales, England with their families at separate times, and met and married in Iowa on July 3, 1890.
Richard and Sarah (the two in the middle, bottom row), Elizabeth Ann (tall one in middle of the top row), John W. Thomas (my great grandpa, on the end of the top row to the right), and the rest we aren’t sure of who is who yet exactly.
There were so many questions I had about this family, but I didn’t know how to find those answers. Scott wasn’t working with FamilySearch 4 years ago, and we knew little about how to search out our ancestors. All I knew then was that this family was eager to have us find ALL of them (yes, there are many!), and to get their work done. Well, because of Jill’s faithful prayer, she was lead to find a baby that was missing on the census we had. It had showed there were 8 kids, and 7 of which were living. We had assumed this was a miscarriage or a still birth, but couldn’t find record of anything. Jill thought to go to the 1895 census in Iowa (because state Censuses are on the 5th year every ten years, and federal censuses are every 10 years), and found their oldest girl, Elizabeth Ann Thomas.
Instantly I began to get emotional as I felt an immediate connection with her. I know Richard and Sarah are anxious to have ALL their kids with them, but there is only so much they can do on the other side. We had found Elizabeth and what a joy that was! I have never felt such overwhelming joy and gratitude in my whole life while doing family history work. As Jill helped me navigate through the census to find this daughter she had come across, she looked at me and said, “As you take care of this family and help find their kids, they will in turn be watching over you and keep you and your kids safe from harm, both physically and spiritually.” My heart was once again full, tears began flowing down my cheeks, and I knew the presence of this family was very real, almost tangible really. The Plan of Salvation is real, the spirit world is a real place, and when we do temple work we are doing the work of God, helping families join together to become eternal. There is no other knowledge I have that brings as much joy and absolute PEACE to my life than that truth right there.
We continued on through the emotions, and started to work on Ruth’s line (another one of Richard & Sarah’s daughters). We found her husband, Peter Smith, and their son Russel Smith who was orphaned at the age of 6. Ruth died when Russel was 4, and Peter died when Russel was 6. When both his parents died he went to live with his grandparents, Richard and Sarah, and then when Sarah died, he went to live with his aunt and uncle. This boy had quite the life and there is still so much to his story that I have yet to learn.
I couldn’t believe all that we had found, the stories we had learned, and especially the overwhelming Spirit of Elijah I had experienced during our time together. It was absolutely no coincidence. More apparent than ever was the fact that Heavenly Father knew I needed this experience that day. He was aware and sensitive to not only my circumstances and needs at the time, but was also aware of Richard & Sarah’s desire to bring their family back together again.
Sunday night after the conference, Scott and I were working on the line again because there were some things that just weren’t adding up. We had thought Elizabeth Ann had died before she was 8 because she was on the 1895 Iowa Census, but wasn’t on the the 1910 Census, and we couldn’t find the 1900 Census. Also, my dad had mentioned that night that he remembers visiting a “Lizzy Ann” in California with his parents once, and he had heard stories about her. Then, as Scott was searching he was able to find the 1900 Census which showed Elizabeth Ann still alive, and also showed 2 more children we didn’t even know about because they had died in infancy!! Ruth was a twin and her brother “Baby Thomas” was a still born as far as we can tell. Better yet, my great-grandpa John (who I absolutely CANNOT wait to meet!) was a TWIN!! His twin’s name is Jessie, and she died between the age of 1-5, because she was 1 on the 1900 census, and not present on the next census. We also found two more children on other census’s which makes a total count of 13 children for Richard and Sarah! No wonder there has been such an urgency to find all these kids and bring this family back together again!!
After having my miscarriage it’s been hard to put it past me, and move forward with faith enough to try and have more children. Knowing full well my wild range of emotions, the Lord blessed me with this experience to teach me about some of my family who may know what that feeling is like. Sweet Sarah lost 3 of her own children during childbirth, or during their early childhood. My goodness, I pray I never have to endure that trial, but if I do, I now know I am not alone.
I can’t wait to do all the temple work, and to eventually meet Richard and Sarah and all their kids! Families are Forever!
Guess you could say I’ve now “caught” the Family History “bug”!
Pictures from our RootsTech experience
How cool is this that Buddy from The Cake Boss came to speak? He was such an inspiration as he shared his great-grandparent’s journey over from Italy, and how his dad started working at Carlo’s Bakery, etc… His dad taught him, among MANY other things, how to work hard and give it your all. One time Buddy got in trouble for lighting matches in the forest with his friends, and his dad made him clean the toilet at the bakery. His dad said, “Whether you are cleaning a toilet, or making a cake, you give it 100%.” Love this!
BUDDY from The Cake Boss!!!
There was also a cake competition while Buddy was in town, and below are 5 of our favorite cakes! The winner of the People’s Choice Award, which was the Haunted House, won a brand new $10,000 oven. It was so fun!!
I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to Elder Nelson and his wife speak about eternal families and sharing their testimonies about doing family history work. A few of my favorite quotes from him were:
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
“Don’t leave your ancestors stranded on the other side”
“Sacrifice the time to do family history, and go to the temple”
Ask yourself, “What sacrifice of time can I make to do more family history?”