By Jan Edwards
I’ve been working in the Family History Center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints since March of 1994. It has been a great experience, met lots of great people, helped lots of great people and learned lots of great things. One of the most interesting things when a person new to the Center comes in they ask a question, “Where do I start?” I look at them and say “with yourself.” The next statement is always the same, “why me?”
I say the same thing each time, “why would you want to start anywhere else?” They then state isn’t that like just re-inventing the wheel? We usually get into this discussion, “yes, but my great aunt did so much of ours already.” And again, I say the same thing, “You start with yourself; work each generation including direct line siblings and spouses.”
“But I want to know where I came from across the water? You know like am I German or Swedish?” “I want to go on a vacation to where I came from!” “I want to find stuff in the western days.” Or, they say “I was on a TREE and I want to find the end of the lines on all of my surnames, you know the BRICKWALLS. Then I repeat myself and say “start with yourself and work each generation.” Why would I say that?
Here are my reasons:
1. I want to know my family, when you physically do the work yourself you learn more about your family, you remember what you have learned. If you just grab other peoples work, then you don’t.
2. I want to make sure what I have is correct; I would rather have 4 generations documented and proven than 10 generations with no proof.
3. I want to dissect each line finding each clue; walk a little of their walk; understand where they came from, how they lived, their challenges, their sorrows and their joys.
4. I have no desire to use other people’s work and miss out on the fun of the “HUNT.”
5. I’m fussy; to grab other people’s work you may end up typing in: she was born in 1848 in West Virginia (we all know West Virginia was not a state by then) or putting in a county that did not exist. Yep, I’m fussy.
6. I’m even fussier how it is entered in my database. I like my style, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right style. I just like it. I want my initials to have a period after them. I want my places to have the commas in the right place and end with United States. You know like Grants Pass, Josephine, Oregon, United States.
7. To break down a BRICK WALL, you have to know if that WALL really even belongs to you. You will not know that if you just start in the middle.
So “WHY START WITH ME?”, I say “Why would you want to start anywhere else?”