Great-aunt’s stories spark his interest in family history

William O. Lewis

William O. Lewis III, of Savannah, Georgia, tells how he became involved in genealogy.

“I had a great-aunt Mamie, and to the 11- or 12-year-old Billy Lewis, she was the oldest person on the face of the earth,” he says. “My mother told me later that she was prematurely gray, but she looked old. We were up visiting her and she was telling about people in our family from the past. It suddenly hit me that she was reciting facts that no other living person knew. So I went out to the car [he was 16 by then], got a notebook, and began copying names, dates, and places.

“That was the beginning of my genealogy. It was five years before I joined the LDS Church.”

William did genealogy all those years until he joined, which came about after the Mormon missionaries came knocking at his door.

“My attitude was, ‘I’ll listen to you,’” he says. He listened, and he even joined the Church, but it took three more years for his intellectual testimony of the gospel to become a true testimony, he said.

It was only after he joined the Church that he learned of the Church’s heavy involvement in genealogy and family history. He was called to be the ward genealogy advisor. Then the Church decided that the high priests group leader would be the ward genealogy advisor.

“So they ordained me a high priest and made me the high priests group leader so I could continue to serve as genealogy advisor,” he says. “I was a high priest by my mid-20s with not a real responsible calling—there were not enough high priests in the ward to have a meeting.”

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