“Help Was in the Mail,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 69–70
I rolled out the last of the microfilm from the parish of Llywell, Breconshire, Wales, realizing I had come to the end of the research for my Welsh ancestors. Clue after clue had been followed, but fruitlessly; prayer after prayer had been offered, but still my efforts were at a standstill. Discouragement swept over me and tears were close. I wanted to do this work. I knew it was important. When I realized further research would likely not be successful, I was devastated. I gathered my books and papers and left the Family History Library with a lost feeling.
My grandfather had been born and reared in a small town named Sennybridge in Wales but came to America in 1878. In 1977 my son had visited the vicarage in Sennybridge and returned home with data for two generations going back to 1793. Years ago I too had gone to my grandfather’s birthplace to search out his roots. Research had been limited, since actual surnames had not come into use in Wales until around 1800. Before that time, Welsh family history research is tangled and complex.
During my visit to Wales, I had given an extended family member a copy of my grandfather’s life history and American experience. He had loved the book and had shown it to his friends.
Now on my way home from the library, these thoughts were on my mind. Still thinking about my day’s disappointing work, I checked my mail. When I opened the mailbox, a package fell into my hands. I opened it to find a book titled Roots and Branches by T. O. Evans, Trecastle, Wales; inside was a letter from the author. Vicar Evans wrote that he had recently seen the history I had given my cousin years before and thought his own book of records might help me in my research. He explained that he was a seventh cousin of mine.
The little paperback was filled with records of my grandfather’s ancestors: acquisition of land records and names of homeowners; records of births, marriages, and deaths; occupations of the fathers, titles, and so on. Vicar Evans had even drawn maps of the small farms and villages in Breconshire and identified them. The maps in his book guided me to parishes that might contain valuable ancestral data.
From this source I extended our pedigree charts back a full century along several ancestral lines. Even more amazing was the fact that, before I had determined my research was grinding to a halt, the vicar’s book had been on its way into my hands. This incident is a constant reminder to me of the power of prayer and of the Lord’s help in family history work.