Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Get a Box: A new approach to family history

Back in 2003, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Boyd K. Packer published an article including excerpts from the following book:

Packer, Boyd K. 1980. The Holy Temple. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.

Quoting from's account of his writing in an article entitled, "Your Family History: Getting Started, " President Packer wrote about the process of beginning your family history. I highly recommend reviewing and internalizing the concepts of this short article. One quote from the article has caught my attention over the years. Here is the quote.
How to Begin 
It is a matter of getting started. You may come to know the principle that Nephi knew when he said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Ne. 4:6). 
If you don’t know where to start, start with yourself. If you don’t know what records to get, and how to get them, start with what you have.
There are two very simple instructions for those who are waiting for a place to begin. Here’s what you might do: 
Get a cardboard box. Any kind of a box will do. Put it someplace where it is in the way, perhaps on the couch or on the counter in the kitchen—anywhere where it cannot go unnoticed. Then, over a period of a few weeks, collect and put into the box every record of your life, such as your birth certificate, your certificate of blessing, your certificate of baptism, your certificate of ordination, and your certificate of graduation. Collect diplomas, all of the photographs, honors, or awards, a diary if you have kept one, everything that you can find pertaining to your life; anything that is written, or registered, or recorded that testifies that you are alive and what you have done.
Back in 1980, when President Packer wrote his book, the idea that we could use something called the Internet and an online program called to gather our family's memories was still way in the future. Today our box is the Family Tree. Now, every time I go to the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I see people using advanced scanning devices to scan their family's history into digital files that can be shared in the Memories section of the Family Tree. We now have a marvelous digital box to store and share all of our precious memories.

But the idea of where to start is just the same as it was when President Packer wrote his book. We need to start with ourselves. As President Packer counseled, we need to start by writing our own stories. As he continued,
Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work of Church members has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. They understand that they are tying their family together, their living family here with those who have gone before. 
Family history work in one sense would justify itself even if one were not successful in clearing names for temple work. The process of searching, the means of going after those names, would be worth all the effort you could invest. The reason: You cannot find names without knowing that they represent people. You begin to find out things about people. When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names or the number of names going through the temple. Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers—we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them. 
In doing so we store up treasures in heaven.
Technology has now advanced to the point where you and your family can, through your combined efforts, share all of your work and thereby avoid duplication of effort. We now have our box and it is sitting there on each of our computers and other devices, waiting for us to fill it with our memories and our research into our ancestral families. We need to recognize that as much as things seem to change, they really do not change at all. We are still working towards the same goals of our personal salvation and the salvation of our kindred dead as we were back in 1980 and before. But now we can do the work with the assistance of wonderful digital tools.

Even though our tools have changed, I hope that you can see that the work itself has not changed. It is still work and it still requires a substantial effort, but it is certainly worth all the time and effort we can muster. Let's start with our new, sparkling digital box, the Family Tree, and begin our learning process about our families.

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