Nothing makes me wish I were a convert to the Church more than doing family history. Kacy posted a couple of weeks ago on good pioneer stock, and she asked the question, “what does it mean to come from good pioneer stock?” Sitting in front of my laptop, staring at my impossible PAF file, I’ll tell you what it means: it means I’ve got three thousand plus names all branching out behind me. It means that the low-hanging fruit on the branches of my family history tree has been picked, blanched, peeled, cored, and canned. It means that, while I may have various inspiring pioneer stories to learn about, I have to dig deep and spend many hours figuring out what in the heck has already been done before I have a prayer of finding a new ordinance that needs to be performed. I thought I had one in my grandmother’s younger sister, who died in childhood, but it turns out we don’t baptize underage children posthumously either. Dang.
I’ve been inspired to approach the behemoth of my family history by our stake’s challenge this year: Redeem a Stake in 2008. I’ve been working on it sporadically since January, here a little and there a little. I found a cool program called PAF Insight that will check my monster file against the IGI, to see what’s already been done, and I’m working my way through that. Now in the 200 RIN numbers, thank you very much. 2800 left to go. But my problem is, I get distracted easily. I find the end of one line, and I google the name for fun, to find out something about the person. And then I find just enough information to keep me clicking on links, thinking that one after the other might have the information I’m looking for, the place where me and the spirits beyond the veil connect. Staring up at me will be the vital information of some name hitherto unknown on my family tree, and I’ll prepare the file and take it, dancing, to the temple.
So far, I’ve found nothing new, nothing that hasn’t been done, as I work my way through the scrolling names. I have, however, met some people I did not know before. This morning I met Joseph Wright, my great-great-great-etc. uncle, who painted portraits of Erasmus Darwin (father of Charles) and James Watt (steam engine inventor). I read about him while searching for a correct wedding date for his parents, John Wright and Hannah Brookes. The date in my files was listed as sixty years after their death, and looked wrong even to my untrained eyes. Also, I was secretly hoping that Hannah Brookes’ family would pop up on the screen before me, in someone’s transcript of a parish record someplace.
I’m still looking for the wedding date. And I still want to contribute a name, just one name, towards my stake’s “Redeem a Stake” goal. But I am also enjoying the discovery of stories I find online, stories of names webbed and threaded to my own, bound with the solid light of these ordinances, that have (sigh?) already been done.