My Search by Postcard

“My Search by Postcard,” Liahona, June 2002, 46

My Search by Postcard

Years ago I spent quite a bit of time gathering information for my four-generation family group records. The information on one of my group records was eventually complete, with the exception of a great-uncle named Edward. I had searched extensively for his birth and death dates without ever finding a real lead. Every time I glanced at this record, the white space where Edward’s information should have been stared out at me.

Several times I despaired of ever finding his information, but I prayed for inspiration to know what I should do. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find a record or a person who would be able to help. After praying I felt that I must not give up.

One day, after having tried every other source I could think of, I picked up a postcard and addressed it to the “Rector of the City Cemetery” of a town where Edward’s family had lived for a while. On the back I simply asked if there was a grave with Edward Oren Tarbutton’s name on it. I wasn’t even sure a cemetery existed in that town, yet as I sent the postcard I suddenly felt free of frustration.

A few weeks went by without any answer to my postcard, and I did not expect one. Then one day I felt unusually excited. At the normal mail delivery time, I ran out to pick up the mail. The stack was big that day, but I stood at the open box and looked carefully at every piece. In the stack was my postcard, and on it was Edward’s missing information!

As I gazed at the long-sought-for dates on the postcard, a warm feeling embraced me. I felt that Edward was somehow close to me in that moment, and I could feel his great joy.

I will never forget the prompting to send the postcard and the circumstances of its return. Later I learned that the town I had sent the postcard to had no rector and no official cemetery. Realizing no one in the town would know about my ancestor, the postmaster almost stamped the card Return to Sender. Then, on second thought, he decided to search for the grave himself. He remembered once seeing headstones in a field near a small church. It was there he found Edward’s headstone and copied the inscription.

This experience deepened my love for my ancestors and helped me understand how much they long to be linked permanently to their families. And as I have encountered disappointments in the following years of family history research, I have thought of the postcard and kept going.

Photograph by Eldon K. Linschoten, from the Church film The Restoration of the Priesthood

Illustrations by Brian Call