11-Year-Old Gets Addicted to FamilySearch

Contributed By Christopher Bigelow, Church News contributor

  • 13 September 2017

Left: Zach Bigelow uses a bulletin board to organize his FamilySearch work. Right: Zach’s three brothers at the Provo City Center Temple performing baptisms. Left to right: Jordan, Kimball, and Austin Bigelow.  Photos courtesy of the Bigelow family.

Article Highlights

  • Eleven-year-old Zach Bigelow finds family history work addicting.
  • His interest and hard work has motivated and involved his entire family.

“Plenty of people could have found these names, but I was the one who did it. That makes me happy.” —Zach Bigelow, Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake

Like many Mormons with pioneer ancestors reaching back six generations, Chris and Ann Bigelow of the Pleasant View Fourth Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake, haven’t done much with family history research—that is, until the ward missionaries recently came over for a visit.

Normally, ward missionaries focus on proselytizing and fellowshipping for the living. However, David and Karen Hall reminded the Bigelows that using FamilySearch.org and doing temple ordinances can be another kind of missionary work.

“I’m bored,” 11-year-old Zach complained later that week. His 13-year-old brother, Kimball, was at camp, so he felt lonely. “What can I do?”

“Let’s get on FamilySearch and start finding some names,” replied Ann. She’d tried to use FamilySearch to generate a four-generation sheet for 18-year-old Austin, who was preparing to leave for the Canada Calgary Mission. However, she’d run into some roadblocks.

Zach started out by working on the four-generation sheet. At first, he couldn’t figure out how to add his paternal grandmother, who is still living. Then he worked out how to find record numbers so he could add living people and their predecessors to the family tree.

“I liked figuring it out,” Zach said. “It was really satisfying to find the names.”

During their visit, the Halls had challenged the Bigelows to set a goal of finding 10 family names by August. After printing out the four-generation sheets, Zach started looking for family names.

He can’t stay awake for late movies, but he found FamilySearch so exciting that he worked until after 1:00 a.m.

“It’s kind of addicting,” Zach said. As he worked on FamilySearch, he shared interesting names, dates, and family situations.

That first night, Zach found only five names. Ann texted some questions to Marilyn Dahneke, a temple and family history consultant in their ward. Soon Zach was finding lots of names. By late the next morning, his pile of printouts had grown to 20 names.

Later that same day, Zach’s 22-year-old brother, Jordan, came down from Logan, Utah.

Within 24 hours of Zach starting his FamilySearch work, his three brothers were at the Provo City Center Temple performing baptisms. Left to right: Jordan, Kimball, and Austin Bigelow. Photo courtesy of the Bigelow family.

Within 24 hours of Zach starting his FamilySearch work, his three brothers were at the Provo City Center Temple performing baptisms.

When Jordan saw what Zach was doing, he got excited. He suggested the brothers go perform baptisms that very afternoon. Zach wasn’t old enough yet, but Kimball, Austin, and Jordan completed baptisms and confirmations for nine of the ancestors Zach had found.

This day happened to be Ann’s birthday. When the boys sent her a photo of them standing outside the temple, she said their temple work was the best birthday present she could imagine.

Austin decided he wanted to beat Zach on FamilySearch. He downloaded the app on his phone. Zach tried to explain how to do it, but Austin wanted to do it his own way. However, when he couldn't find any names, he relented and let Zach show him some techniques. Before long, Austin found about 20 names, but Zach stayed ahead of him.

Zach Bigelow uses a bulletin board to organize his family names from FamilySearch. Photo courtesy of the Bigelow family.

As his pile of name cards grew, Zach wanted to get more organized so the family could do temple work more easily. He sorted all the names into males, females, and couples. Then he tallied up how many baptisms, initiatories, endowments, and sealings were needed, and he estimated how many temple trips it would require.

In recent weeks, the adults in the family have performed initiatories, endowments, and sealings for a few of Zach’s names. However, much more temple work lies ahead. “It makes me want to go to the temple myself so I can get these names done,” Zach said. “But I don’t turn 12 till this December.”

During their visit, the Halls had brought cookies to the Bigelows. Now Chris was questioning what ingredients were in those cookies. “Can you add a teaspoon of the spirit of Elijah to a cookie recipe?” he wondered.

For Zach, it’s worth the time and effort. “Plenty of people could have found these names, but I was the one who did it. That makes me happy.”