I walk into the LDS temple where the local LDS library is located. I don’t see the temple as I am led by an incredibly healthy-looking girl to the LDS family history library. She leads me through hallways full of reproductions of luminous Christian art. Walls that don’t bear art are paneled with rich oak.
A high school friend of mine, who was Mormon, explained to me once that Mormons don’t drink caffeine, smoke, or indulge in any unhealthy activity because their bodies are temples. This girl’s glistening healthy looks bear evidence that she adheres to this philosophy.
I feel a bit shy in this new environment and tentatively step into the room that houses genealogical research. The LDS library is in a small room located in a the larger religious building. I’m grateful to have this opportunity, yet also feel humbled by the experience.
The LDS library is tiny and its chief components are a few giant file cabinets and an entire wall of computers. The shining, bright-eyed library assistant explains that the computers in this library not only have more access than my own at home, but also contain connections that LDS church members have already researched. Later, I see evidence of this shown by a tiny temple symbol in the top corner of a couple of the clips showing some of my own ancestors. The more I see, the more I am convinced that we are all a part of a giant web of related beings.
Today I seek information for one branch of my family tree. I think I have traced some ancestors back to the early days of the American colonies and the Revolutionary War. In just a few clicks, with the library assistant at my side, I see that most the research I found on Ancestry.com proves to be correct by further research here at the LDS center. I can order a microfilm of one ancestor’s marriage certificate – it is the only record that I can find that has microfilm available for me to review. The more I have learned, the more I know that this is just one tiny piece of the proof I will need to gather to validate my research. With empty pockets and no clear prediction for when I will be able to return to the center, I know I will have to leave with a slip of paper bearing the film numbers I hope to order soon. I promise myself that I will return to order these microfilms.
The library assistant and I talk. I learn very little about her, but she learns a lot about me through her questions about the past and present. I explain that I’m a beginner and am still learning my way around computer-based research and haven’t ventured outside of New Jersey to verify documentation in court houses and legal record stores that are located where my ancestors lived (mostly New York and Massachusetts). I tell her that every time I hit a brick wall with my research, I go onto the FarmilySearch.org site and index records. I tell her that I set a goal for myself to index 1000 records (that is 1000 people) every week.
She is pleased by this and says, “I’m in the presence of a very special person.” Her words are full of sincerity. I cannot picture this girl teasing anyone or saying anything disparaging to or about anyone. It is I who feel that I’m in the presence of a special person.
This library assistant helps me to go back through all of the people that I think I have found to see if I’m correct. Not only are the names and dates that I have correct when compared to the LDS computer system, but the research there goes back even further into the realm of British royalty.
I feverishly print all the names and connections that I’ve found. Time is running out. The library assistant tells me that the LDS system will power down for its nightly update in a few minutes. In the midst of printing, time runs out and the system automatically restarts, wiping out everything on the screen.
Even though my research has been interrupted, I walk out of the LDS family history library with a smile on my face. This has been an overwhelmingly positive experience that I hope to repeat when I have more facts.