1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah, the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
Okay, part two in our series on the Blessings of Family History work. Now that we’ve (hopefully) established the importance of turning our hearts to our forefathers and their eagerness to have their work done, this brings us to actually rolling up our sleeves and doing it.
When we think of Family History, there are usually two obstacles that prevent us from getting started.
Obstacle 1: My Family History is All Done
I had this excuse. My father’s side of the family had traced the Gifford family line all the way back to Charlemagne in 750 AD. The family gave me a binder with printouts, pictures, and pedigrees. What a treasure! Now whenever a lesson or talk was given on Family History, I could raise my chin and nod confidently, Yes, this does not apply to me, for, my family history is done!
Yet, why the confidence? I didn’t do the work. I couldn’t take the credit. My saying, “Gary is the family historian and he does it all,” is a bit like saying, “I don’t go to Church, but that’s okay because Gary goes for me.” Fact is, for our hearts to be turned to our fathers, to forge that welding link that seems so important to the Lord, we need to be personally participating in the work.
Has anyone’s family history been completed? Let’s do the math. We each have 2 parents and 4 grandparents. Those numbers double each generation. In 10 generations you have 512 direct ancestors, not counting the thousands of siblings, spouses, children, and in-laws. I know of a woman who is working on her 33rd generation. If she found all names, she would have more than 1 billion direct forebears. Has the temple work been all done? Not a chance.
This brings us to our next obstacle that gets in the way of our doing Family History.
Obstacle 2: Too Complicated. I Don’t Know How to Input Information
I had this excuse. In the olden days, family history was done with things like: PAF Program, Microfiche, Floppy Discs, Huge Pedigree charts that were filled in by hand. The PAF program required special training. Family History was something retired people did. The whole thing was too overwhelming. Not my thing. Can’t do it. My family history is done. I’ve got a binder!
These were my obstacles up until the year 2001/2002. That’s when the nudges started.
Harassment from Beyond the Veil
First, the feelings were subtle, “Family history is important.”
Then they were direct, “You mother’s side of the family needs researching.”
I responded by reciting the obstacles, the don’ts: “I’m not a PAF Group member. Don’t have time. Don’t know how to do it!” But the promptings became more pressing, “Do temple work for the Italian and Polish side of the family! This is urgent. Do it now!”
That’s when I started losing sleep.
There was a constant barrage of signs, miracles, and messages that were simply too much to ignore, but the final two-by-four hitting my head came from a couple of school assignments:
• My daughter Lauren, who was in elementary school was given the 2nd grade class assignment: “Create a 4 Generation Family Tree, then give an Oral Report about your Ancestors.”
• A few days later, my daughter Ashley, who was in Middle School, was given the speech contest theme: “What I have Received and Learned from my Heritage.” I’m not kidding!
Waves of nudging became a tsunami – compelling me to do my family history and temple work. I didn’t know how to do it, I just knew I had to get it done.
So I caved, “Okay, okay! I’ll do four generations. That’s it!”
I grabbed my mother’s old Book of Remembrance and headed to the Church’s Family History Library. When I walked in the doors, I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I need help.” A kind woman sat by my side and navigated me through the computer program and input a few names.
The work still wasn’t done. So, I asked a genealogy specialist in my ward, Lyn Melville, if he could meet me at the stake center to help me finish inputting my family names. He graciously agreed. And after an hour or so, four generations were input and on a floppy disc, ready for the temple.
This experience broke down both obstacles. There was plenty of family still to be researched, and I didn’t have to know how to do it all. There were people eager to help at the Family History Library, and in my own ward. I just needed to ask.
“You Haven’t found Everybody!”
As we took those names to the temple and completed their work, powerful revelation came to search further. “You haven’t found everybody!” were the words. But this time, there was an excitement to find them. That’s the spirit of Elijah.
By this time, the old PAF Program was replaced by Family Search, then New Family Search. Now I could input information on my own computer. It was easier. More convenient. And I quickly discovered that the Internet was a way to open my world to my forebears.
Unearthing Ancestors via Internet
• I Googled the Meschi name and found obituaries and grave sites.
• From two non-professional genealogy sites, I found dozens of extended family names.
• From an Italian historical site, I discovered ancestor, Alberto Meschi, who led a heroic revolution on behalf of the stone and mason workers. A statue is erected of him in Tuscany, Italy.
• From an Italian government site, I found the address for Capannori, Tuscany, Italy City Hall to write and obtain free birth, marriage, and death certificates.
• Google translator helped translate the letters into Italian.
I wrote to the Capannori City Hall in Lucca, Italy requesting information for my great grandparents, Virginia Gemignani and Salvatore Meschi’s family. They replied with information for, not just a few names, but an entire generation!
Turns out, Salvatore didn’t have two brothers. He had five brothers and one sister. All but one sibling had emigrated to the United States in the 1800s.
My daughter, Ashley, posted a message on an ancestry.com message board, asking if anyone had info about Meschis from Tuscany, Italy. Three replies came: two from Salvatore’s brothers, Lorenzo and Silvio’s families (both settled in New York), the other reply was from Salvatore’s sister, Annunciata’s family (she came to the United States on her own at age 21).
My mom’s uncle Stanley Alot, from the Polish side of the family, died in a tragic drowning accident, leaving his pregnant wife a widow. The family never knew what happened to Stanley’s wife and child after his death. A couple of years ago, we discovered that the child was a girl named Susan.
We had a hunch that Susan might have a Facebook page. Lo and behold, she did. We found her in Northern California, and were able to connect and share with her things about her father she never knew. My mother and her new-found cousin now talk on the phone every Saturday.
So, Why is This All Important?
Methods for searching are plenty. It’s astonishing what can be found online, from the comforts of home. The internet has been invaluable.
There’s Another Important Reason
When my kids stand at the baptismal font of the Temple and feel something too sacred for words, a name from the past becomes a relationship for the present. And, the Spirit World suddenly is something not to fear, but to appreciate. When I complete temple work for someone whose life I’ve studied, the veil is increasingly thinner and my experience immeasurably deeper.
With all of the information and thousands of names I have found, Family History for me, now, is not just “a name to do” in the Temple, but flesh and blood, experiences to pass on, stories to bind and strengthen families.
Could this be what the Lord had in mind when He said that the hearts of the children would be turned to their fathers?
To read –
Part I: Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to their Fathers
Part III: Guardian Angels
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