Copyright 2004 by Intellectual Reserve. All rights reserved.

Recently, at a genealogy conference where I was teaching, I became involved in a discussion about family names.  Names are always fun to talk about, because they reflect the background, culture, and traditions of families. 

I was inquiring about interesting family names, and asked one of my professional genealogy colleagues about her surname, when she responded, “I really don’t know; this is my husband’s surname, and I’ve never looked into his genealogy!”

Never looked into her husband’s genealogy?!  The surprising thing is that I wasn’t shocked by her statement, because I had heard it many times before, by genealogists, men and women alike.  “Oh! I don’t know about my wife’s ancestors; I’ve never looked into her family lines!” 

When I first met Mary, who has been my sweetheart and helpmate for 37 years, I wanted to share my interests with her.  I not only became acquainted with her parents, and brothers and sisters, I also got to know her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.  

But the interest didn’t stop there.  I studied about her great-grandparents, and relatives that shaped Mary’s life and background.  I learned about James Glover Gleason, who was a barber in Plymouth, Massachusetts; and Waldo Tozier, a Civil War veteran, who was in the beer industry in St. Louis. 

I learned about Niels Larsen, whose family joined the Mormon Church in Denmark, and who walked across the prairies of Nebraska and Wyoming after his parents and family had died while crossing the ocean.  I traced the Crawfords back to Kirkintillock, Scotland, where my own family was from, and studied the origins of the McRae family in colonial Virginia. 

By the time we married, my investment in Mary went way beyond the love I felt for her.  I was invested in her whole family; I loved them, and I knew they loved me!

They say that “beauty is only skin deep.”  But relationships are often viewed the same way, when all we look at is a name, or the face that accompanies it.  What I mean by that is, just as real “beauty” is not merely found in the looks of a person, but is in his character; relationships are not just about one person, but rather about many people. 

When we enter a relationship with someone we affect the lives of many. We take on responsibilities of both followers and leaders whether we intend to lead or not.  When I married Mary, I became an example for her brothers and sisters to follow, by the way I respected her, and by the way I treated her.  I became friends with her friends, and reached out to the people in her life. 

I became respectful of her parents, and submitted to their authority as though they were my own parents.  As we have progressed through life together, Mary has worked with me, and has reached out to know and deal with the people in my life as well. 

The most important people that we affect in a marriage relationship are children.   As LDS parents, we not only teach our children how to have faith, how to live moral lives, how to make right decisions, and how to repent and forgive; but we also teach our children to love their ancestors. 

How can parents help turn the hearts of their children to the fathers, if the parents don’t know who the fathers are?  It is vital that husbands know the genealogy of their wives; and that wives know the genealogy of their husbands.  By knowing that information, witnesses and testimonies of the ancestors of the children are conveyed to the children. 

Bear in mind, people are not a composite of their ancestors; they do not represent a culmination of the deeds and experience of their forebears. But the lives and experiences of those people who have lived and died provide a testimony that can inspire and strengthen their children and grandchildren. 

As a professional genealogist I am constantly in search of other people’s ancestors.  Whether or not clients know it, their forebears are the subject of my daily prayers.  I believe that those who have died are living in a spirit dimension, and that they are able to communicate with us if we are willing. 

It is my experience that when I pray regarding deceased individuals for whom I am searching, I open the lines of communication, and information is conveyed through impressions and inspiration.  I believe that when we communicate with those in the “Spirit World,” as we call it, we also receive impressions of love from those whom we seek. 

I find that when I pray for, and seek ancestry on family lines, I begin to care for, and love the people for whom I seek.  I believe this is something all people should experience by seeking out their ancestry, and also that of their spouses. 

My suggestion is that at least once a month, families should discuss the stories of their ancestors and conduct research on family lines.  One month the discussion and research can be on the father’s ancestry, and the next month, it can be on the mother’s family. 

When family names are submitted to the temple for ordinance work, fathers and mothers can perform work for both sides of the family. By doing this a father can receive and bear testimony to his children regarding their mother’s family, and a mother can do the same about the father’s family.  These testimonies will teach the children both to love their ancestors, and to realize the love their parents have for one another. 

Children will learn to seek out their ancestors, and serve those they love in the temple.  They will follow the examples of their parents, and will learn to love the families of their sweethearts, and pass this love on to their children as well – all because the hearts of the parents were turned to the fathers. 

2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.