I was asked in the Facebook group, Genealogy! Just Ask! to share more of the spiritual side of being an admin in the group on this thread. I know that is a peculiar question for those who have never made a connection between the two before, but as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, genealogy goes much deeper than looking for evidence to construct a family tree. I believe the question posed to me refers to my testimony and the faith that drives me.
I would first like to explain that because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I believe anything is possible in the quest to identify our forebears. I believe we have more help that we are unable to see. Those who have gone before us are pulling for us, and even helping us. We have a loving Father in Heaven whose main purpose is the establishment of eternal families. We cannot establish an eternal family going back generations unless we know who they were. He will help us. As proof of that, we have a wonderful website at the world's disposal free to use, FamilySearch.org.
When I first began my research, I turned to those who were considered knowledgable. They shared opinions with me that included the belief that I would not be able to document my African American ancestors before 1870. Because of my faith, I refused to accept that. I figured there must be records out there that they had not seen yet. I vowed to uncover those records for myself and for anyone else who could use them. That meant for me, moving to South Carolina to scour the archives in person and to meet living cousins.
I found success because of faith. I found several records between 1865 and 1870 that documented my family. Another principle that I followed was to research the former owners of my African American ancestors. This was easy because the owners were in several cases my ancestors too. I looked for the records generated by the owners to document both slave owner and enslaved ancestors.
I have followed both lines as far back as I can go so far. That enabled me to become proficient in tracing both races of people. People often look to me as being an African American genealogist only with expertise in researching African Americans. To that I say, do not look at records as documenting only one color of people. People stumble today because even the Freedman's Bureau records document more than African Americans. For example, when the formerly enslaved people signed labor contracts, who did they enter into those agreements with? I am just as able to trace people not my color, especially since I have traced ancestors who owned my formerly enslaved ancestors back several generations. Looking with the eye of faith, seeing the possibility in my mind's eye, taught me that.
My experience and training through FamilySearch enabled me to assist scores of people at the same time, understand the dynamics of social media, and learn how to stay abreast of developing technologies. I learned that I could master technology by teaching it regularly to others. That is why I volunteer at the library near me, and I present for whomever asks me.
After overcoming my own hurdles in research and understanding the pain of not knowing who you are or where you came from, I was left with a great desire to help everyone else I could. There are limits to helping people offline. The is a limit to how many people you can assist. Facebook and other social media puts you in touch with the world. My desire is to help as many people as I can to feel the joy I have felt. You can call it an addiction.
I knew there would be people who would want to also share what they knew. I did not know it would be to the tune of 13,000+! Sometimes we miss out on opportunities to learn from ordinary people who are not considered experts. They have a hard time finding a place to share and feel satisfied from offering service. Genealogy! Just Ask! is a place where people can help others past the hurdles they overcame. They can share with others knowledge about records they have accessed without being made to feel inadequate. That makes for a successful community.
Genealogy! Just Ask! is a commuity that I feel so rewarded to be a part of . The exchanges that go on there are simply amazing. I am in awe of the vision of it's creator, Jan Mitchell, who through her eye of faith followed her vision and invited me.
I hope this give those who requested this post some insight into the journey I am on. I am happy to share more if need be.