Family History Moment: Angel on the Internet

Contributed By Allen D. Butler, Church News contributor

  • 11 May 2017

A man leaves a message on an internet message board for family history information, and a kindly and helpful woman responds.

“I know the Lord wants this work to go forth, and He will help us if we try.” —Allen D. Butler of the Mesa Arizona Central Stake

As a fifth-generation Church member on every line, I had struggled for many years in an attempt to research the names of ancestors for whom I could do the work in the temple. Time after time, I found it already done.

One evening in 2004, I knelt in prayer and asked for help from Heavenly Father in my efforts. The next day I began my search.

I was pondering the family of my progenitor, Nils Nilsson. I found that the temple work for Nils and his wife was done, but I could find no information on their children. I spent the better part of the afternoon searching the census records, cemetery records, and other information available on the internet. After several hours of searching online, I was getting discouraged.

As one final effort, I went to an internet bulletin board and left a short message: “Looking for information on Nels Nelson (or Nils Nilsson) who married Patelda Crestenson in 1883. Family book indicates they lived in Colon, NE. Any information would be appreciated.”

I thought it would be weeks if not months before any response would be received. After an hour or so, because I was expecting some email, I stopped working to open my email account. I found the following message from a wonderful angel from Tucson, Arizona.

“Hello, Allen. Line 85 on this census page shows Nils and his family. Easier for me to send a census page than squint and type—I can see there’s twins, though! I’m hoping you can open this with no problem. If you can’t let me know, and I’ll work at it. I’ll look up more for you, too. [signed] Shirley in Tucson.”

Attached to the email was a copy of the 1900 census page showing Nels, his wife, and six children. Another email followed with a copy of the 1910 census showing a record of Nels Nelson and his family. In addition, it had another record showing the family on the 1920 census, a cemetery entry showing where Nels, his wife, and two children were buried. I also received a survey showing the land they owned in Nebraska.

Later that week I went to the family history center in Mesa and cleared six names for ordinance work as well as the sealing of the six children to their parents. I then took their names to the temple to have their ordinance work done.

I never met Shirley. Perhaps I never will. I don’t know why she had the time and the resources to give me so much immediate help. I’m not even sure how she found these records, because I had already searched these censuses with no results. But I know the Lord wants this work to go forth, and He will help us if we try.

Brother Allen D. Butler lives in the Mesa Arizona Central Stake.