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I grew up in Utah as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I know that my four-generation family chart has been filled out my entire life. I know the names on my family tree and have visited many of my ancestors’ graves over the years, but I never really got to know any of them. I wondered why it was so important to know who my great-great-grandparents were and why their journals were important to read. But throughout the process of growing up, as I tried to understand who I really was—and still am—I realized that knowing about my ancestors helped me a great deal. Here are three things that I learned about myself from family history work, which may help you learn something about you.
Be Proud of Who You Are
When I would introduce myself to people in my hometown by my full name, they would respond with a nod of respect and an approving smile. At my father’s funeral, one of my cousins explained this feeling as she ended her remarks. It’s something my grandfather told her to say when introducing herself: “Tell them who you are—you’re a Devey.”
I have thought about that phrase countless times throughout my life. My father and grandfather added to the meaning of the Devey name that came from my early ancestors, who emigrated from England after joining the Church.
As I have learned about the history of my family, being proud of who I am and where I come from has also given me greater vision and purpose as to the kind of man, father, and son I want to be.
Know Your Roots
It’s important to know about the lives of your ancestors and some of the experiences they had. One of my favorite family history stories comes from my great-great-great grandfather, John Devey. He married his wife on the ship while crossing the Atlantic, built one of the first cars in Utah, and even worked for Brigham Young. Reading about his accomplishments inspires me to do my very best, and knowing that we are directly linked gives me an extra bit of poise and confidence.
On FamilySearch.org there is a scanned picture of a handwritten note from John, sharing his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Reading his testimony touches my soul and strengthens my testimony and belief in the restored gospel.
Knowing about the trials and triumphs of past ancestors can help you in similar times of need.
Become a Historian
If your ancestors’ stories haven’t been recorded yet, find a way that works for you and your family to keep track of these historical gems. In an article published on FamilySearch.org, Aaron Holt of the National Archives and Records Administration says that “it only takes three generations to lose a piece of oral family history.”
Having only heard many great stories about my family over the years, I worry that someday I won’t remember them and neither will anyone else. I have resolved to better record these meaningful stories through video, audio, pictures, or writing. I receive great joy from reliving these memories and connecting with past generations. My hope is that my family will do the same and find strength, support, and direction in them as well.
There are always ways to connect more with generations past and find inner strength to confront the difficulties of this life because, after all, it’s in your blood.