artilleryI loved to go to Grandma’s house!

For as long as I can remember, visiting my Grandparents’ home was a thrill. I climbed the trees in their backyard and played games with the neighborhood children. There was an abundance of wildlife up and down their street, ripe for the picking by this little boy. So much to see and enjoy! To me Grandma’s house was a place of wonderment and love!

As I moved from child to teenager, my interests changed, but Grandma and Grandpa’s house retained its charm and excitement, because by that time I was fascinated by history, genealogy and all things old, all of which could be found in their home, including them. Here I experienced the gospel through my ancestors as my curiosity led me into every corner and closet of Grandma’s house.

Here I first met my Uncle Ray who had died in World War II (before I was born). Rather than restrict the archives of his life to a long forgotten chest, his boyhood treasures and (The Gold Star) were opened up to me by his loving parents. He became a hero to his curious nephew, and this curious nephew in turn became the recipient of the testimony, memory and talents of a beloved son and brother. I was taught and influenced by his life: Ray was a Boy Scout who enjoyed artwork and the outdoors, and served as a valiant priesthood holder. I became involved in those activities as well, and like Ray, I achieved my Eagle Scout Award and became an accomplished artist. Because of my Grandma’s house, he is an exemplar to this day in my service to God, Family and Country, as my heart turned to my fathers.

The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to Their Fathers

Like me in that long ago, children are susceptible to the gospel influences involving genealogical relationships. This has been planted in their hearts about the family tree of man. As promised in the scriptures in Malachi 4:5-6 and D&C 2, we know the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers. We know that as family members share their lives, their stories and their place in history, or provide experiences or memories of our kin, the Spirit of Elijah reaches out to testify about the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the eternal nature of the Family. Children, because of their sensitivity to the Spirit of the Holy Ghost can recognize these spiritual impressions about ancestry when they are taught their genealogy.

As such, youth are easily drawn to the artifacts of the past and their connection to family: letters, pictures, antiques, and other items. Great-grandpa Herb’s speedometer films, G’pa Bob’s Arabian camel saddle, Granny’s master welder-test blocks, and Doc Stewart’s name plate all bring these beloved ancestors to life. Through sharing these heirlooms, hearts are turned and children are influenced by those on the other side of the veil. As I went through my grandparents’ treasures in yesteryear, my mind and heart turned to my family and the gospel and I became even more interested in my ancestry and sharing what I learned. Visiting Grandma’s house changed my life, especially since we found the bomb in Grandma’s attic.

The Bomb in Grandma’s Attic

My Grandfather, Lewis George Winter, served in France during World War I in the Utah 145th Field Artillery Regiment. Among the items he brought home from the Great War, was a giant artillery shell, which will always be remembered as the “Bomb in Grandma’s Attic.” With it came stories, journals, letters, books, and pictures about Grandpa’s war and missionary service, and much other family heritage, which have influenced me in my pursuit of ancestry and use in my non-violent career as a professional genealogist.

Recently, Mary and I used this “dud” to teach a course in genealogy via Skype to several classes of junior high school computer IT students in Florida. Like my visit to Grandma’s house, these children were awed by this fascinating object and the variety of family artifacts we shared with them in our show and tell session.

In addition to the “Bomb in Grandma’s Attic”, we showed-off a needlepoint sampler made in 1837 by 11 year old Fanny E Camp of Marshall, Michigan who became the mother of King Camp Gillette, the founder of the Gillette Razor Company. The class was introduced to his personal 23 carat gold and sterling silver razor set, complete with soap, brush, and disposable razor blades along with a copy of her famous publication The White House Cook Book. We displayed stamped envelopes and early coins that were collected when I was a small boy and an antique chamber pot or “Honey Pot” which the students mistook for a soup tureen. From my Grandfather’s collection of World War I memorabilia we demonstrated a fragile crumbling military gas mask which he had used for protection against enemy mustard gas.

I also shared one of my talents that I had developed in my youth that has been so helpful in my genealogy research work, beautiful ornamental handwriting skills. I offered to “calligraphy” the names of each student who asked questions, and suddenly every hand in the class was raised. I would write “Cassandra” and the young people in the class would “Oooo” and “Ahhh” when they saw the name written out in decorative handwritten form.

This activity was of particular interest to both the students and the teacher because a knowledge and skill of cursive handwriting, which is so important in deciphering historical and genealogical records, is no longer taught; and several students expressed their desire to learn to write like that. With their imaginations stimulated and horizons broadened, many of our pupils were moved to consider researching their own family history.  

I am doing it – my genealogy!

A week later, the students sent an e-mail thanking us for our ancestral show and tell and the genealogical instruction. Their response came back loud and clear: “I am doing it – my genealogy!” Some of their messages read as follows:

“You have inspired me and made me look up all of my family and it goes back all the way to 1616 near when the French was in war (with my old Ancestor in it and died), and in 1942 when my grandfather was in ww2. He was a messenger on a typewriter. Also, it show my grandfather and father in a picture in France when my dad lived in Paris, France.” – Dylan

“Thank you for talking to our class and helping us find ways to trace back our families. I have already started asking my family about my grandparents and my great grandparents.” – Azuka

“Thank you for skyping with my classmates and I. We really enjoyed your stories and how you became a genealogist.

  I think it’s cool how simple puzzle pieces made you want to be a genealogist. And also I love the way you wrote some of my classmates’ names it was very cool, maybe someday i can write like that. Well it was nice actually seeing the person who is helping me find out my ancestors.” – Grace

“Thank you guys for teaching our class some stuff about genealogy. It was helpful because I learned about different websites I can use to research my ancestors. I also learned what a family heirloom is and I can find them all around my house.” ~ Crystal L.

“Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Petty, as I was once doubtful about my heritage and I knew so little, but know you have told me how to get the answers, now I know more than I would ever need to know! Did you know, that I am the descendant of the civil war general Stonewall Jackson? I think not! But now, thanks to you, I know.”- Jack T.

“Thank you Mr.& Mrs.Petty for teaching us about your family and genealogy. I learned just to ask questions and search my house. I started asking my parents questions about family treasures and where we started. My mom had many answers for my one question, same for my dad. I’m thinking about becoming a genealogist.” -Brianna A.”

And of course:

“Dear, Mr and Mrs. Petty

I appreciate what you taught me last week. Thanks to you I now know a good source of family info, my grandparents. Plus you showed us all those cool things like the razor and the bomb.”

Thanks again”

Genealogy Fun for the Whole Family!

From these and other comments, it is easy to see how quickly kids can jump into a new interest and are so computer literate. Genealogy, in our highly technical world, is a family activity just waiting to happen. We know working with youth in genealogy research projects can be fun for the whole family. We encourage every parent and every grandparent to get involved in family history with their children and grandchildren and together feel the turning of their hearts to one another.

For starters, in Family Home Evening this next week, hold your very own personal Ancestral Show and Tell. Invite each family member to find a story about an ancestor they can relate in FHE. Have a dessert, but make sure Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa also have a story to tell. Since Family Genealogy is all about “Turning the Heart of the Fathers to the Children and the Hearts of the Children to their Fathers,” this would be a good time to tell stories about each of your children and grandchildren. They’ll love it!  

Another fun Family Home Evening is to take your children on a tour of your home or Grandma’s house and point out some of your favorite treasures. They will also identify items they want know about, and before you know it, you will all be actively involved in telling family stories. If you run out of places to search in the house, check out the garage! If all else fails you might find a Bomb in the Attic! I promise you, it will be one of the best family home evenings ever!

For the Latest Genealogy and Family History News, Updates and Tips – Contact Information:

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 Heirlines website, and blog For more genealogy and family history help and advice, please follow James W Petty, AG, CG and Heirlines Family History & Genealogy on Social Media: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+.

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!