Family History Moment: Finding the Puzzle Pieces of Family

Contributed By Kori Russell, Church News contributor

  • 15 August 2017

Family history is like an ever-expanding jigsaw puzzle with no edge pieces.

“It’s comforting to know that so many people that I’ll meet on the other side one day will be familiar because I took the time to get to know them.” —Kori Russell, St. George, Utah

In my mind, family history is like an ever-expanding jigsaw puzzle with no edge pieces. Each piece represents a real, living, breathing person who contributed to future generations. But what if your ancestors weren’t the most moral and functional people?

Missing puzzle pieces

My maternal grandfather, Alfred, didn’t tell anyone about his family. We had basic details like his birth date, his mother’s name, and the name of his birthplace, but wars in Europe changed borders and names many times over many decades.

Bombs destroyed records, and people long passed became lost in history. They were missing puzzle pieces.

I love jigsaw puzzles, and once I get going I can’t stop. I realized that no one had been able to find the location of Alfred’s birthplace, and that was the key to unlocking any further information.

With the internet, it didn’t take me long to find the location of the town. This led to finding an online archives library for that country, which led to an index of church records for that town, which led to a trip to the Czech Republic to make copies of those records.

Those records are just quick snapshots of these people at various times in their lives. When I weave together those snapshots, I see a family that was troubled. There must have been a lot of heartache behind closed doors. It made sense to me why my grandfather had left it all behind.

Familiar faces

All the same, when I opened those record books I could feel the joy and relief of those lost souls. Someone had come looking for them. Someone had pushed hard enough at all the roadblocks in order to find them. Someone was going to give them the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins through sacred ordinances. Someone had placed their pieces into the puzzle.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said when we meet our ancestors on the other side, “You will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment” (“Hearts Bound Together,” Apr. 2005 general conference).

It’s comforting to know that so many people that I’ll meet on the other side one day will be familiar because I took the time to get to know them. My heart has been turned to my fathers (and mothers), and I don’t want any of them to be missing pieces, lost to history.

Kori Russell is a member of the Washington Fields 8th Ward, St. George Utah Washington Fields Stake.