Ten years ago my stake president gave us a challenge to find some names to take to the temple. Bless my heart, I tried. I looked through the threads of my Family Search tree, tracing them back through generations, overwhelmed by the number of names and uncertain where to start. People in my family have been doing family history work for lo these many generations. As I wrote a few years ago, the low-hanging fruit on my family tree has been canned. In the absence of low-hanging fruit and easily found names, I have focused sporadically on family history stories, which I enjoy; there are pioneer journals and personal histories and all these are good for me to be aware of, to have stories to tell my children
In spite of my off-and-on attempts to do family history, I’ll be real, it has mostly been a source of guilt. One more thing I should be doing that I’m not, one more way I fall short.
But that changed with my current stake president’s challenge last year to spend an hour a week on family history, half on that on Sundays.
This felt completely doable to me. It was something I could control–I could spend the time, and it didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was family history related. I could write in my journal. I could type up my mother-in-law’s journal. I could go through Family Search looking for cool ancestor stories, or scan photos and add them. I could follow source hints on Family Search and add them in. I had all kinds of freedom to choose, and no matter what I did in relation to family history, it counted, as long as I spent an hour a week on it.
I started off the year typing up my mother-in-law’s journals, primarily for my father-in-law, but also for my husband and children. She died fourteen years ago. My father-in-law is disabled, and he can’t read her writing well anymore, so this helped him. He also gets depressed and discouraged from the challenges inherent to his disability. He needed to read about how much she loved him and was grateful for him every day.
Then one Sunday I followed a hint about a new Family Search story that had been uploaded–a personal history of my great-great-grandmother Mary Ruth Taylor Thorpe. I clicked around there for a while, reading stories about how she joined the Church, and how her husband Levi Thorpe loved to garden and always wore a flower in his suit. And then I clicked on Levi’s sister Hannah, who was mentioned in his history but not in the right place on Family Search. Hannah’s husband and children were listed, but none of her children had spouses. So I looked them up, just for fun. Thomas Levi Walker. And there he was in the 1901 England Census: Thomas Levi Walker married Mary Elizabeth Lockwood.
I found someone. Mary Elizabeth Lockwood. More accurately, the Spirit led me to her. Since that day I have been blessed to find more people, all related in some way to Hannah Thorpe. I have felt a deep joy as I’ve done temple work for some of them, and I’ve been able to share names with relatives who also thought that there was no way that we could sift through what’s been done and discover anything new.
Family history and temple work are real, and important. They are now, much more than they were before, part of the bedrock of my faith.
An hour a week is enough to make a difference–to help me keep the Sabbath Day holy more effectively, to bless my father-in-law’s life, and to bless the eternal lives of my ancestors.
Finally, this is the new year, and I would like to issue an invitation: spend an hour a week on family history, and join me in a Facebook Group: Family History, One Hour a Week. I’m creating it as a support and accountability network. You can check in when you’ve done your hour (or on Monday, if you prefer; I try to stay off social media on Sundays), and just say one word–done!–or you can share stories and talk about what you’ve been working on. I want a place to help people be accountable so they can accomplish this thing in the new year: one hour a week on Family History. It can be anything you want, just do it and report back.
This is, as near as I can tell, one of the few New Year’s Resolutions I have ever made and kept. Let it be yours too!