“Obedience and Indexing,” Ensign, December 2019
I have a very large family with roots in the Dominican Republic: my mother had 14 brothers and sisters, and my father had 10 siblings. Each of my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and so on had a nickname that makes it hard for them to tell me each other’s real names. To find out family dates for such things as birth, marriage, and death has been almost impossible. I found that working on my family history can be a very daunting task.
I have only one Latter-day Saint cousin aside from my immediate family. One December a few years ago, I sent her an email and told her that I really needed her help in accomplishing some family history. She happily agreed but also didn’t have much information. She could give me only the name of my great-grandfather, his wife, and their five children. That was a great start, but I had no dates or locations. After receiving the email, I used my great-grandfather’s name to start a search at Ancestry.com (free for Church members through FamilySearch.org/partneraccess). However, there were so many of the same name that I didn’t know how to pick which one belonged to me. I became discouraged and walked away.
Later that month, our bishop gave the ward a challenge to index 100,000 names. Wanting to feel like I did some family history (even if it wasn’t for me), I gladly accepted the challenge and focused on indexing. I quickly fell in love with it and indexed thousands of names. I worked on records ranging from birth certificates, obituaries, and war rosters to Dominican death records. But none of those were from my area of the country and none of the names sounded familiar. During that year I never went back to my own family history.
As we approached a new year, our bishop challenged us again and said he would appreciate it if as a ward we could do 500 temple baptisms in the coming year. I thought of my family and hoped I could at least provide one name toward that goal.
While visiting my family in Arizona that December, I was happy to hear that our ward had met its indexing goal and felt that I could start working on my own family history again. I decided to look for family names from the Dominican Republic again at Ancestry.com and searched for the name my cousin had provided me a year earlier. I didn’t expect to find anything, but I will be eternally grateful that I was wrong.
When I entered my great-grandfather’s name, his name appeared. Attached to his name were his wife’s name, their marriage certificate that someone had indexed, their five children, their parents (my great-great-grandparents), and more information to help me get started. I couldn’t believe it. The names matched exactly. My maternal grandfather was listed there just as I had remembered his name. Everything was there! I quickly showed my husband what I had found, and we both marveled at the miracle. My mother-in-law helped me prepare the names for the temple, and in a matter of minutes I had 12 names ready for temple work.
To say that I was excited is an understatement. We had an upcoming temple trip with the youth for baptisms and saw it as an opportunity to get the work done for my ancestors. The youth brought a number of other names to do from the ward as well as some of their own. When I sat in the baptistry and thought of all these names submitted, I wondered why my 12 names were so special to me. I didn’t have nearly as many as everyone else. Then I realized that the Lord is pleased even if I only have a few family names. It doesn’t have to be dozens of names. It can even be one.
I spent a year working on other families’ records, never thinking that someone else who was indexing names would connect me to my own ancestors. Then at the very last moment of our ward’s indexing and temple challenge, the tender mercies of the Lord poured into my life. I am so grateful.