Sharing our Links to the Past
by Wally and Frances Gray

The Value of Genealogical Stories

One of the purposes of this web site is to relate and preserve the valuable stories of family members, past and present. I have been delighted with the various life stories of our relatives that I have come across and published here. I have added some of my own stories also.

Genealogy is more than digging out names, dates and connections. As William Wilson, a Brigham Young University emeritus professor in folklore, has said, "Dates and events give you a skeletal outline but stories put flesh and blood on the skeleton. A lot of people fill out these pedigree sheets but nothing about the people."

Dainon Moody, a Deseret News staff writer, tells us that "When grandpa tells a story about how he uses a tool in his work or when mom tells stories about the homesteading community she grew up in, these usually punctuate some family belief; the importance lies in the context of what's told."

Certainly taped interviews are invaluable but should be transcribed to paper for preservation. Several of the biographies in this web site are based upon taped interviews. Several, too, are based on first-hand knowledge. Others are autobiographical.

All are important, however, in preserving the life experiences of our loved ones. We are including contemporary stories in our collection on this site as well. After all, some day, those will be stories of the past!

Recently at the 1999 Genealogy and Family History Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pleaded with those present, "that in the research of names and dates and places, you also make a record of the stories behind those names, the lives of these people."

He listed three reasons for doing so:

1. No one ought to be forgotten. "Everyone has something of value that needs to be remembered," he said, "and many of those who have gone on before us have elements of greatness." Citing the words of President Howard W. Hunter and President Joseph F. Smith, Elder Christofferson defined true greatness as doing well what God has ordained to be the common lot of all mankind; that is, to be a successful father or mother, a loving friend or a listening neighbor.

He spoke of Oliver Granger, a confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was sent back to Kirtland, Ohio, with the assignment to settle the Church's business there and to "redeem" the First Presidency by discharging their debts. Because of his faithful service, the Lord said of him, "his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation forever and ever." (D&C 117:12.)

2. Remembrance and a knowledge of those who have preceded us provides a sense of identity, belonging and commitment. He quoted the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley at the time of the recent launching of the Church's new FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service. President Hinckley said on that occasion: "Perhaps there has never been a time when a sense of family, of identity and self-worth has been more important in our world.

"Seeking to understand our family history can change our lives. It helps bring unity and cohesion to families. There is something about understanding the past that helps give our young people something to live up to, a legacy to respect."

Elder Christofferson commented: "It is urgent that there be cultivated and expanded in our society and across the earth that sense of identity and worth and cohesion that your records can help bring about."

3. As one preserves the record of the past, one cultivates a loyalty to and remembrance of God. "Our appreciation for what He has done in the lives of our ancestors grows," he said. "Our understanding and closeness to Him is deepened."

Elder Christofferson concluded: "To me it's only logical that this sort of work brings not just a sense of place and identity here and now, but that it preserves and creates for us an eternal sense of place and identity. There is much of the sacred involved in what you are doing." (Elder Christofferson's information from LDS Church News, Saturday, August 7, 1999.)

This site will grow over the years, and it is my desire, that long after my passing, other family members will see that it continues to grow and is preserved. I would suggest that selected portions of it be printed out for easier reference.

While we are at it, let's be sure to write our own personal history story. For advice on that subject, see "The Case for Documenting Yourself."

Wallace F. Gray
August 26, 1999

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