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

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Family History Mission: What I have learned so far

No. 38

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

This image is a document from the Maryland State Archives dated in 1854. Can you read it? Interestingly, every Senior Missionary at the Archives I showed this to could read it instantly and completely. Here is a photo of another interesting document from our work at the archives:

This document, a Probate Estate Inventory, was folded up into a tight bundle. None of these old documents have been opened since they were filed away over 150 years ago. Working there is like opening presents for a special occasion every day. Here is another document showing an unusual style of handwriting but more readable than the first example above:

You can click on the images to see more detail.

What have I learned so far on our mission?

First, almost all of my preconceptions about serving as a Senior Missionary were either wrong or inaccurate. Serving with my wife in the Maryland State Archives is nothing at all like being a young missionary in Argentina or anywhere else for that matter. It is very much like the last 14 years I served as a Church Service Missionary, but spending full-time rather than part-time. Overall, it is a very interesting and worthwhile experience. I suppose that there are senior missionary experiences that are more intense and harder to deal with, but we are happy to be here in Annapolis and thankful for the opportunity to serve.

What we do with our spare time away from the Archives is pretty much up to us. Since we are FamilySearch missionaries, we are doing what we have done for years; helping people with their family history research and finding names to take to the temples. We have had many good experiences already in the time we have been here. We also enjoy working in the Spanish speaking Branch here in Annapolis. We are already having experiences helping them to find their ancestors.

Being away from our home is not as much of a challenge as we might have imagined it to be. We have a nice apartment and it is centrally located and close to the Archives and to most of the stores and other businesses, we need.

One of the best parts of the mission experience is getting to know and work with the other missionaries who are assigned here in Annapolis. We have a wonderful time talking and having activities together. We are also enjoying our time with the Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy which is about five minutes away from our apartment.

One thing I have learned is the value of the documents we are processing. We have been working on probate files including guardianships, indenture documents, and Certificates of Freedom of formerly enslaved people. It makes me sad to think how many genealogists miss a great opportunity in not becoming familiar with more kinds of documents. These probate documents are a fabulous source of information about families.

I have also learned that we can get up every work day at 5:30 am and be to work by 7:00 am and then work all day. I am not sure I would choose that schedule absent a mission call, but it is possible to do.

I have been pleasantly surprised also, that I have time to write and do my own research.

I have learned we can live in a place that has all four season's weather in one day: warm and sunny, cold, ice, and snow, rain, wind, fog and almost every variation possible of all of them.

We will probably learn a lot more in the next few months.

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