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Genealogy, I am Doing It

Confession: I am awful at doing my family history.

Those of you who aren’t members of the LDS church might wonder why that’s such a big deal, so let’s just say that family history is really big in our church. We believe in building eternal families, and part of that is going out and finding our ancestors. This is why we have the world’s largest genealogy library, and is an online database that is free to everyone. We have lessons on Sunday about doing family history. Our Prophet and Apostles regularly encourage us to do it. We have people called to serve missions specifically to help people find their relatives.

It’s kind of a big deal to us.

But I am awful at it. My sister Kate is the historian in the family. She’s really good at doing genealogy and knows all sorts of really amazing facts and stories about our ancestors. I’ve said on multiple occasions that I’ll let her research the past, and I’ll record the present so there’s something for future generations. This is why I take so many photos and write in my journal. It’s also why I found a great measure of relief when I read this quote by Elder Richard G. Scott:

[box title=”” bg_color=”#f7ecb9″ align=”center”]”We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time.”[/box]

It’s okay if I can’t do everything right now. I’m not feeling particularly inspired to do genealogy at the moment, so I’m taking that as evidence that this isn’t the time and season in my personal life for that. I’m sure it will come at another time, but right now, I feel that God has other things for me to do. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude to take, but it feels right to me and so I’m sticking to it.

Enter my friend Sarah, a rock star of a girl who was the best first college roommate a gal could ask for. She posted a link to Facebook yesterday for’s Relative Finder, which lists all the famous people from world and church history whom you are related to.

So I took a look. Turns out, I’m related to this guy:

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau, my 4th cousin 7 times removed

And this classy lady:

Amelia Earhart, my 7th cousin 3 times removed
Amelia Earhart, my 7th cousin 3 times removed

And these people:

John Langdon, signer of the US Constitution, first Vice President of the US, and my 5th cousin 7 times removed
John Langdon, signer of the US Constitution, first Vice President of the US, and my 5th cousin 7 times removed
Jesse James, 13th cousin once removed. (There's one in every family...)
Jesse James, 13th cousin once removed. (There’s one in every family…)
Orville and Wilbur Wright, 6th cousins 4 times removed
Buffalo Bill Cody, 7th cousin 7 times removed
Buffalo Bill Cody, 7th cousin 7 times removed
Susan B. Anthony, 6th cousin 7 times removed
Susan B. Anthony, 6th cousin 7 times removed

[clear]All told, the list includes 6 signers of the Constitution, 17 presidents of the United States (and 1 presidential candidate, whom I voted for before I knew we are related), 5 witnesses of the Book of Mormon, 12 modern Prophets, and 10 of the 12 current Apostles, plus a whole host of famous authors, scientists, and actors.

Guys. Family reunions on the other side are going to be AMAZING.

And while I don’t think I’m ready to add family history to my daily to-do list just yet, it was definitely an incredible experience to look at that list of people who share the same blood as me. Look at the amazing things they accomplished! Look at the way they shaped the world!

And better yet, it really drove home to me how we really are just one enormous family. The next time I watch General Conference or a political debate or read a piece of classic literature, I won’t just see Apostles or politicians or words penned by some dead guy. I’ll see cousins. Family. They are part of me. Everyone is part of me, if you believe–as I do–that we all share a set of common ancestors who lived in a pretty garden.

This is why family history is so important. This is why someday, when Heavenly Father says, “Okay, Jess, it’s time to start doing some genealogy work,” I will roll up my sleeves and eagerly get to work.

All images in this post are public domain.

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Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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2 Responses

    1. It’s through my dad’s side, unfortunately. 🙁 But since you’re related to me, that makes you related to him by extension, right? 🙂

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