Our family was involved in family history research before we became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but our interest intensified after our baptisms. Here are some of the ways my husband, Tom, and I encouraged our family to participate in family history:
We often made family outings to distant cemeteries in search of our ancestors. When our children were too little to read but knew the alphabet, we printed family surnames onto index cards in large capital letters. We had the children walk between two rows of headstones and call out if they found a name that matched the name on their card. When they found a match, Tom and I hurried to record relevant information.
As the children learned to read, they were able to record information on their own. Before leaving the cemetery, we double-checked each other’s entries.
For a family home evening activity, we gathered envelopes, stamps, writing paper, and work sheets. After a prayer, we each chose a family name to research. We searched books of remembrance and wrote letters to pursue certain information. Often clues were found in past correspondence. Even now I find copies of the children’s letters, the correspondence they received, and notes they wrote, and I marvel at their wisdom.
Now that my children are grown, I send family file cards to my grandchildren to do baptisms for our ancestors. I also include whatever bits of information I have found about each individual. For example, William Samuel Baker had a jewelry store in Findley Lake, New York, and loved to go trout fishing. John W. Barden was the sextant of a cemetery and often put notices in the Sherman, New York, newspaper scolding the “errant lads who race their steeds through the cemetery at midnight.” Such information makes these ancestors come alive for my grandchildren. It can also form a basis for good family home evening lessons.
As we participate in family history, we pray for these men and women and learn how they fit into the family. The children receive a testimony of family history when they do their part in the saving ordinances. We are all able to witness hearts of the children being turned to their fathers (see Mal. 4:6) and to enjoy the feelings of unity and closeness that result.—Shirley Bock Testi, Corry Branch, Jamestown New York Stake