Thursday, October 22 2020 - 9:47 AM
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Family Tree

A few years ago I spent some time in the Family and Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. A kind Latter Day Saint missionary donated several hours to help me search for some of my ancestors. I wasn’t searching for the same reason he might have wished, but I wanted to fill in the blanks and know more about where my family originated. Just in the past year or so, interesting details about my maternal grandmother’s heritage have come to light. This is a kind of detective work I enjoy.

My husband’s family has a book compiled by a distant cousin concerning the history of his surname. I have borrowed it and plan to soon return it to my brother-in-law. This year I have been spending spare minutes entering genealogy data into an on-line family tree, making it accessible to more members.

A few generations ago these relatives had huge families. Girls and boys were sometimes named after their parents, making things even more complicated for history. I have found myself fascinated with the names, details and relationships that have existed since the 1700s. Even the surname has gone through many transmutations with at least five or six different versions. Sometimes the name spelling changed between siblings. Now I tease my husband that he is related to just about everyone in two particular counties in Georgia and Alabama. I even know which cemeteries to visit for more details.

I didn’t know these people but they are related to my man and my children. Some surprises have popped up. I’ve found several cousins that married (not sure if that was legal back then), sisters marrying men who were brothers, and plenty of divorces plus re-marriages. I have pondered babies conceived months before weddings, and some teenagers who wed. One woman was killed by her husband and one man took his own life. Car accidents, boating accidents, wars and illnesses all claimed lives and left sorrows. However, the other day I was stunned by the addition of a family where the first four children all died in infancy year after year —several from “epidemic.” It wasn’t until their fifth child that one survived. Expectations had to be different just a few generations ago. Yet they shared so many of the same concerns of families today.

By recording this family lineage, I guess I hope to keep some memory of people alive even if they are gone. Who will remember to say our names or keep something that belonged to us? Also, I believe that many of us long for a sense of roots and community — something that was lost when our ancestors immigrated or left home.

In the pages of the Bible the followers of Jesus Christ find a sense of heritage and commonality with people in all ages, everywhere on the planet. We serve a God who has promised not to forget us. “See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”(Isaiah 49:16). The Apostle Paul speaks of names recorded in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3), and John mentions that in the New Jerusalem only those will enter whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Revelation 21:27, NIV).

That great family reunion will be awesome. Then we will meet the grandparents who prayed for their children and descendants. All the mysteries and missing people will be resolved. The branches of the Family Tree will finally be complete.

Questions for your personal journal or small group discussion:

1. Fight the cultural disconnect! What could you do in the coming year to create a better connection with your extended family?

2. Some churches still refer to members as brothers and sisters. Is there a person that you would like to “graft” or adopt into your concept of family?

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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