Someone once said, “If you want to have spiritual experiences, do your genealogy.” There is something magical and unusually compelling about genealogy. Unlike playing golf or doing crafts or participating in any other pastime, researching our family history is something sacred that calls to us. There is a special something that tugs at the genealogist’s heart and pulls him to keep searching through dusty books and rolls of microfiche late into the night. You may be a professional genealogist or just a beginner trying to find a long lost cousin on the Internet. Your search may originate from curiosity, duty, or even religious dedication, but either way, you have felt that ancestral tug.
As we listen to the voices whispering in the leaves of our family tree, we can hear the secrets to our own lives. They are the whispers of our ancestors who have paved the way for us.
They often reveal us to ourselves. Have you ever wondered if one of your ancestors was a famous, important person? Perhaps your last name is Washington, and you’ve always fancied yourself as a distant relative of the heroic father of our country.
Genealogy is the science or study of family lineage or ancestry. John Garland Pollard defined genealogy as “tracing yourself back to people better than you are.” It is as old as the Bible, which serves as the first written example of family history. Although some people think genealogy is just a “dead” subject, family history is the most popular hobby today in America, ranking above even traditional favorites such as football and baseball!
The first day that the enormous database of worldwide family records became available on www.familysearch.org it received over one million hits, more traffic than any other web site in history. Climbing your family tree is even easier now – the web site has added “Trees” where you can see your pedigree at a glance.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the world’s largest collection of genealogy data, and freely shares it with anyone who is interested. Because of their belief in the eternal family unit they have gathered family history records of over 1.5 billion deceased people. To members of the Church, nothing is more important or rewarding than family. The Church has an impressive mission to acquire and preserve the records of mankind and help families find the links to their family chains.
What is it that keeps family history seekers going even after hours of tedious research? It is each small success of finding that special name or document to prove relationships. There is a pull, an urge and even a power that propels their quest. It is the spiritual element. It’s as if they hear “whispers through the leaves” as they climb their family trees. The intuition to look in certain records or places seems to represent a thinning of the veil that separates live mortals from those who have only moved to another sphere. Perhaps our ancestors want to be found even more desperately than we want to find them. They, somehow, are allowed to whisper through the veil to help us connect the generations. In researching our family tree mysteries, our own ancestors often become the guides. It becomes a truly sacred experience, a powerful motivation for many genealogists.
One woman remarked, “This genealogy is more than just a hobby. Strange things happen to me all the time. Pages turn in the books that I am reading. I get these funny hunches which prove very successful. I hear voices in the night. And I often have dreams about my ancestors. It is as if genealogy effects both heaven and earth.”
Trina Boice birthed 13 books and 4 sons. She lives in Summerlin with her family and is the BYU Alumni Las Vegas Chapter President.