'Following spiritual promptings and feelings brings progress'
Successful genealogists learn to pay attention to their feelings and act on spiritual promptings. Elizabeth "Lizzy" Abramson, of Washington, is a family history major at BYU who has been refining those skills since she had an experience that changed the direction of her life.
"I used to be a student at the Yakima Valley (Washington) Community College. I was in the vet tech program," she said. "I was thinking about serving a mission. I wasn't sure– until one night I decided I wasn't going to."
"That night I had this dream where I was in a room with a bunch of people, and the Savior was there, and He looked at everybody in the room and said, 'I have called you to do my work–why have you not done it?' So I went, 'OK!'
"When I woke up, I applied for a mission. They wouldn't let me go on a full-time proselyting mission because of the medication I'm on. But when I mentioned a service mission, they mentioned a temple mission. I got interested in that and served a temple mission in the Seattle Washington Temple. That's when I first started pulling really into family history.
"I worked at Family File a few times, and there I had to learn about FamilySearch. While was there, I applied to BYU–Idaho and BYU Provo. I was rejected from Provo and accepted to Idaho. In August or September, I reapplied to Provo and was accepted, but I didn't like the English degree that BYU Provo has, so I went down the list of majors, trying to see if I wanted to do anything else, and family history just fit. So I said, 'OK, Father in Heaven, I'll try family history classes my first week, and if I don't like it I'm quitting.' By the end of that first week, I couldn't imagine dropping any of those classes." At the BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference she took Jewish research classes. "I have a lot of Jewish ancestors on my father's side. I'm trying to reach back on that. My dad's side is Russian Jewish, so if you've ever seen Fiddler on the Roof, that's our ancestry," Lizzy says.
She's also working on her father's Welsh line.
"I'm still working on our Ancestry Family Tree. My dad's still working on it too, so I have to be careful not to step on his toes a lot. But I found one–her name was Gwenllian Richard Williams. In our family records (we didn't have the census records or anything) we had her, her husband Thomas Evans, and three of her children–Thomas Evans, Margaret Evans and Mary Evans. That's all we had.
"I started looking for this family, and I found a family that's very similar to them, that had three other kids–Edmund, William, and I can't remember the last one. My dad thought it wasn't our family because we didn't have those kids in our family records. But I compared these two, and the names and dates matched up almost perfectly. I also felt inspired that I needed to order a record, but I couldn't figure out which one I was to order, and it costs $15 to order a record.
"When I was working in the temple, a lot of times I would feel things about the ancestors I was researching. I felt like I should order the record of Edmund, because if Edmund's parents listed on his birth record were Gwenllian and Thomas Evans, that would make these two families match up. And so the record finally came through and it was true–I got all these extra kids in there."
Her most recent "cool" family history experience happened in connection with another family her father is researching.
"Working in the temple 24-7 for every day that it's open does a lot for your spirituality," she says. "I had this one ancestor that I went through for–her name was Margaret Henrietta Poplin. During the session, she told me that she went by Henrietta–that her name was Margaret, but she went by Henrietta. When I came home and checked it, several people had listed her as Henrietta instead of Margaret on the Ancestry Family Tree. I already had done her work, and I had been very anxious to do her work because to me it felt like she wanted her work done. I was amazed because I kept feeling like I needed to go back to her. So I went back to her on the family tree and realized that she had three children that were not sealed to her. And then I was like, 'Oh. That's what I was supposed to do.'
"One of those kids was an unknown child–we didn't know the gender so we couldn't do the temple work for it. I mentioned this to my dad and I said, "She wants these kids." That's what I felt. When you do work for your ancestors you develop ties to them. I said, 'She wants these kids, Dad.'
My dad ended up looking on findagrave.com and he connected the dots and found the missing child. He was buried next to his mother. His name was Raymond Poplin. My dad was, like, 'I think you were really inspired because I wouldn't have gone looking for it otherwise.' My parents just did the sealing for the boys and we're hoping that when my parents come out next week we can do the sealing for the daughter."