'Doing something' key to success in family history work

Barbara Waagen

Barbara Waagen

Barbara Waagen, of Hurricane, Utah, has a tried and true method for finding the family members she’s researching. Two words: “Do something.” In her experience, it works.

Barbara grew up in Southern California. She got involved in family history as a student at BYU, but not by choice. She was studying medical technology, taking microbiology and chemistry, and “the only religion class I could fit in my schedule was a stupid genealogy class taught by Grant Stevenson!”

By the end of the class, she’d learned enough to be hooked on genealogy. So she asked her family members to share the information they had, hoping to continue where they’d left off. A cousin told her, “You’ll have to go to Sweden to get anything new.”

“Them’s fightin’ words!” she said.

She began to search out ways to find her ancestors that did not involve a journey to Sweden. In Southern California she went to the family history center located in the basement of the Los Angeles Temple’s visitor center.

“E. L. Kirkham was the director. She taught me to do research from scratch, reading all the records and microfilm,” Barbara remembers.

The Los Angeles Public Library had a very large collection of family history books. So one day she went to the third floor. “They had books, books, books,” she said, far more books than she could hope to go through in the limited time available.

“I had this guy I lost in Virginia, so I told the Lord, ‘Heavenly Father, I’ve got a babysitter and have driven miles to get here. I don’t have much time. If I go to the aisle with the books from Virginia, maybe you could tell me where to stop. And if I turn around three times, maybe you’ll tell me where to reach to find the book.

”She went to the Virginia aisle, stopped, turned around three times, reached up and took down a book. “I flipped to the index, and there he was: William Thomas Hereford.” She found his marriage information in the book.

At the San Jose library she was looking for Swedish parish records on microfilm. She went through an entire film with no luck.

“I told the Lord I was going to rewind the tape and start over, then flip the film, and if He could stop it on the right records, I would be grateful.”

She did it, and when the microfilm stopped, “I looked at the screen—it’s like it leaped off the page at me, all the people, all their birthdates.

“The Lord is just waiting for you to do something. If you’ll do something, He’ll do the rest. I ordered the film and got a babysitter and went to the family history center. If you do something and ask the Lord, He will help you.”

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