Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why we seek and why I am thankful that we do

Despite the frenzied efforts of the world to turn Thanksgiving into just another reason to buy and sell products or to watch sports, I began reflecting on the real reason we need to be thankful.

To borrow a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, we seek after our ancestors so that they "shall not have died in vain." That those of our ancestors whether they arrived by airplane, boat or by walking across a river, will be remembered and honored for the life they lived. After all is said and done, if we do not value our heritage and remember our fathers and our mothers who struggled against incalculable odds to bring us to this nation of immigrants, then where is the meaning of life itself?  In a greater sense, we are all immigrants and "strangers in a strange land."

How can they be honored if we do not know them? I have been frequently asked, "Why do you care?" Why would Joseph Smith have said, "“The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead?" In answer to that question, I say we seek after our dead to try to make sense of a world that often makes no sense. We need to understand and feel that we are part of something that is larger and more important that our brief lives. We have a fundamental need to connect with our ancestors. To the extent that we lose our past, we have no future. To the extent that we fail to recognize and preserve our heritage, we lose that heritage.

We have a need to belong and if we deny that need by focusing our lives on acquiring the things of this world, then we do not just lose our heritage but we lose our souls. I will not be spending this day trying to find the "best deal" so I can stand in line at Walmart, neither will I spend this day watching parades or football, I will spend it like I do every day, seeking after my dead and helping others to to the same. I will spend it with those of my family that I can and look forward to further associations with my family in the future.

Family is not just those "relatives" that you cannot get along with and those you can, family is much greater than that. It is combination of all of those who lived and died before. Some of us, like myself, are compelled to waste out our lives seeking our ancestors and preserving their memory and I am thankful for that and thankful for all those who also seek after their own families. When it comes right down to it, the greatest tragedy of our modern life is the loss of family and I, for one, will do what I can to preserve families and stand in the stream to try and prevent that loss.


  1. I agree! One way to help us connect with our living ancestors while they're still with us is to get a better understanding of what changes they've lived through. I’ve designed software to strengthen family ties by automatically creating email, text, or other messages that help younger family members understand what the world was like when older family members were their age. The software will use info about family members, family events, family relationships, and automatically located historic facts in topics the younger family member likes. It's not traditional genealogy software but it shares a passion for connecting with family roots, and I would appreciate any feedback from genealogists. Please check it out at Thanks! And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!