The Missing Book
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“The Missing Book,” Tambuli, June 1987, 25

The Missing Book

It was a beautiful summer morning in the northern German countryside as my husband and I drove from our home in Frederiksberg, Denmark, toward the county where my mother’s mother was born. Like a child looking forward to the fulfillment of a great wish, I got a lump in my throat when I saw the first road sign that said “Ladelund.” Ever since joining the Church, I had had a burning desire to submit my grandmother’s name for temple work. Often I had had divine guidance in my genealogical research, and I was eagerly looking forward to helping give my grandmother the full blessings of the gospel.

In northern Germany, vital records are scattered about in various church parish houses, rather than being gathered together in a central archive. So I had written to Ladelund to find out just where my grandmother’s records were located. Then I had telephoned the priest to set up an appointment to borrow the books containing those records.

When we arrived at the cozy little house in Ladelund, the priest’s secretary greeted us warmly. She went to the safe to get the book I had received permission to borrow, then returned, looking confused. “The book you need is not here, but it was here yesterday,” she said. Together we searched among the shelves of books, but we could not find it.

I was bitterly disappointed. I had done so much work. Why wasn’t Heavenly Father helping me now? I went to our car to wait for our next appointment several hours later. As I sat there crying, I got the idea that we could drive to the little town where my grandmother’s family had lived. Even though it had been more than a hundred years since the family had lived there, I just wanted to see how it looked.

We arrived in the tiny town at about noon, and we could see no one about. As we drove past the nine or ten houses, I finally spotted an older woman washing windows in her home. We stopped and I ran in to see if she knew anything about my grandmother’s family. As I stood at her front door, I glanced at the name plate. My heart seemed to skip a beat when I saw the name Carstensen—my grandmother’s family name!

Just then the lady opened the door and with a beautiful Slesvig accent asked what I wanted. After I explained my work, she said, “Oh, so it’s mother’s pedigree you want to see. I’ll get it.” She left the room and returned to spread before me a pedigree showing my relatives back to the 1600s. Beside the name of each married couple, with their dates of birth, marriage, and death, it listed all the children, with their place of birth and marriage. This one document gave me more information about my grandmother’s family than I could have gotten from the church records. Now I knew exactly where I needed to look for the children in the family.

After I had returned home to Denmark, I received a letter from the Ladelund church. The secretary enclosed the information from the missing book, explaining that it had been placed in the wrong cabinet by mistake. Thanks to this “mistake,” however, I have found not just one, but more than a hundred names of my German family. Indeed, the Lord had been helping me all along, even though I had not realized it at first.

  • Sister Thomsen, mother of two, teaches kindergarten and serves as genealogy adviser and librarian in the Copenhagen Denmark Stake.