vintage family

Bucket Lists are those exceptional things a person wants to do before they “kick the bucket”, or in other words, the goals and dreams they want to accomplish before they die. You know… like going swimming in both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans or skydiving over the Rockies; climbing Mount Everest, standing in the Parthenon, or cruising around the world; writing a bestseller or painting a wall mural; or even getting a high school diploma or college degree in the waning years of our lives. Bucket lists are the special things we’ve always wanted to achieve, but never got around to because life just got in the way. Often they are part of the legacy that we want to leave for the next generation. And so we ask, “Is Genealogy on your Bucket List?

Many people say they will do their genealogy someday when they are retired and have the time. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doing family history work is a life-long commitment that we participate in one form or another from the time we are children and in our youth on through to the end of our lives. From hearing and sharing stories, to tracing ancestry and gathering the family history of our ancestors, and going to the temple for our kindred dead, in one way or another, we are a people much involved in Genealogy. It is a life-long experience, not to be left until the end of our lives. But even we can have a Genealogy Bucket List of those important family history goals we want to attain.

My Genealogy Bucket List

Genealogy isn’t just on my bucket list, it is my life. I’ve been doing professional genealogy research now for almost fifty years. I do it for people all over the world, and sometimes this discovery fortuitously intersects with my family genealogy. I have my personal Genealogy Bucket List of “to dos” that hang like stars over my research.

My primary goal is to find Hubert Petty who I first identified and documented back in the 1960s. As a young professional genealogist I found the evidence establishing him as the ancestor of tens of thousands of Petty family descendants whose origins hail from Colonial Virginia. We learned Hubert came to Maryland in 1651 as an Indentured servant of the Englishman, William Turner. When he fulfilled his service contract, Hubert moved to Virginia, eventually settling in Lancaster County by 1660. There he had one known son, my ancestor Thomas Petty, before dying in 1687. So, right at the top of my bucket list is the goal: Find the origin, home, birthplace, and family of Hubert Petty in England in about 1640.

Miles to go before I sleep

I am interested in learning as much as I can about my family history and genealogy, but my second bucket list goal is to visit the home or homeland of each of my ancestors prior to their arrival in America. Over the years I’ve had been blessed to travel to some of my ancestral lands as well as those of my wife’s. I’ve been to the actual family homes of Charles Parker in Preston Candover, Hampshire, England and to the home of Timothy Winter in the City of Bath, Somerset, England. I’ve walked the streets where William Henry Wright of Birmingham, Warwickshire, England lived when he heard the message of the Mormon missionaries in the 1840’s and have visited the home of his grandparents Samuel and Catherine Wright in Stratford upon Avon, England. I’ve been to the home of Samuel Eames at Orcup, Herefordshire, England, and to Mansfield in Sherwood Forest where the Clayton family lived. And these were just the English ancestral homes on my Bucket List.

I’ve also visited Furfeld, Germany where the ancestors of Peter Wimmer originated and Osnabruck, Germany, the home of Frederick Wilhelm Volker. With each place and home that I’ve seen, my heart has reached out to recognize and rejoice about beloved ancestors who have become part of my life. Thankfully, I still have miles to go before I sleep, more ancestral hearths to experience; I still need to visit my family homes in Scotland and Ireland, as well as Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Another Genealogy Bucket List Goal; and a dream come true

Another goal on my genealogy bucket list is to fill in my big wall-sized pedigree chart complete to the tenth generation or further where possible, and prepare a short sketch about each ancestor, so my children and grandchildren and their families will have an account of our ancestry and family history that can bless their lives as they have mine. I want my descendants to know and learn from these people who have helped me touch history and profoundly influenced my life. This goal includes identifying and documenting my ancestry for submission into Family Tree, gathering family histories and where possible, getting pictures of ancestral homes and burial sites along with an accurate GPS record. This goal alone should keep me busy until I die.

Recently, my son William and daughter in love, Emily, have joined me in this quest. It is a dream come true to share my bucket list accomplishment with loved ones as we visit cemeteries, connect with cousins, compile family stories, and do family history work.    

Begin Genealogy Research Now

Whatever your genealogy bucket list includes, do what you need to do to be successful in this quest and begin working on your special family history goals now. Genealogy research requires not only time, but education, intuition, imagination, and devotion. A recent article on NBC News (“Bucket Lists Gone Bad…” by Bill Briggs) described how many older retirees jump into their “end of lifetime” bucket lists without preparing for the physical, emotional, or even spiritual pressures required to accomplish those goals. Climbing a high mountain, or surfing the waves at Hawaii, or fishing for salmon in Canada, requires physical and psychological preparation, or a person can end up endangering themselves and others around them. Genealogy may not be life threatening, but it has eternal spiritual consequences. We don’t want people to endanger the heavenly opportunities of countless ancestors by providing incorrect or incomplete research; it is much too important. We must be prepared to do quality work and start now.

We have been taught that genealogy and temple work is one of the principle missions of the Church, and it will be instrumental in exalting us and our family before the throne of our Heavenly Father. When we stand before our Lord and Savior at the Last Day, and are asked “Did you do your genealogy?” We don’t want to have to answer “No, but I attended the Super Bowl. Does that count?” Make a Genealogy Bucket List and start on it today to leave a real legacy both here and throughout eternity.

James W. Petty, AG, CG, is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally, Since 1969”. He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc.

(, the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.

For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including expert family tree research, LDS family history assistance, and answers to genealogy questions, please see Jim’s website and his blog Heirlines: We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions. We’re ready when you’re ready!