Families, communities, and nations are stronger when family members are connected through generations. There are many ways to do family history, and there are numerous organizations that offer help. However, Family Search International may offer the best services.
The Genealogical Society of Utah began in Salt Lake City on November 13, 1894, under the direction of President Wilford Woodruff of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The organization began 125 years ago “in an upstairs room with 190 donated books.” It is now known as Family Search International and is “the largest genealogy organization in the world.”
Family Search has published “almost 4.8 billion searchable records” and has grown “its family tree to more than 1.2 billion people” over the “past 125 years.” Much of the growth in Family Search can be attributed to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ about families, but two events are recognized as essential to its growth.
The first event was the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple about 18 months before the Genealogical Society of Utah was established. In the dedicatory prayer offered on April 6, 1893, President Woodruff “asked the Lord to send the spirit of Elijah and increase the desire of the Saints to search out their ancestors.
Bless them, we pray Thee, in their labors, that they may not fall into errors in preparing their genealogies. Furthermore, we ask Thee to open before them new avenues of information, and place in their hands the records of the past, that their work may not only be correct but complete also.
The answer to this prayer was “very real and very dramatic” in that the number of published family histories increased greatly, especially in New England, the former home of many of the Saints. There were “thousands of names of ancestors and family members of the Saints” made available by the published family histories.
The second event took place in the April 1894 General Conference where President Woodruff said, “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it” (Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994).
I am fortunate to belong to a family that has been actively involved in gathering family histories for over one hundred years. My paternal grandmother, my father, several of my siblings, and many of the next generation have worked and still work in family history. I try to do my part by taking as many of the names as possible to the temple for their work to be performed. I know that connection with ancestors and posterity brings great strength to families, and strong families strengthen communities and nations.