13-year-old Jareson Barnes didn’t think he’d be able to find new information about any of his ancestors when he and some other teenagers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started doing family history research earlier this year.
“My grandmothers are both keen family historians who’ve been doing research for a long time,” he says, “so my mum and I were not sure we would find even one un-researched ancestor.”
To Jareson’s surprise, though, over the course of a few weeks he and his mother found new information on 36 of his forebears.
Jareson’s experience was not unique. As he and around 40 other teenagers from the Church’s Adelaide Australia Firle Stake learned how to log on to FamilySearch.org and begin looking for information about their ancestors, they each found interesting facts about their families.
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The emphasis on family history and linking up family generations is a key part of the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The quest to find our ancestors is a spiritual one,” says Rainer Korte, president of the Adelaide Australia Firle Stake.
“We believe” he adds, “that family relationships continue beyond the grave. Getting to know our ancestors and doing temple service for them, prepares us for eternal family relationships. Being personally involved in finding information on an ancestor and helping to provide temple ordinances for them was a strengthening experience for our youth.”
Family members, youth leaders and family history advisers in the stake supported the youth as they conducted their research. Careful study of historical records and data led to linking individuals to the participants’ family lines and trees, while the youth learned as much as they could about their ancestors’ life stories.
“On the day of the temple visit I was baptised for my great, great, great, great grandfather and some members of his family,” Jareson says. “It felt good to be able to do this for three members of my family.”
Jareson’s younger sister Emeri is also interested in family history. She spends an hour each Sunday entering information from historical records, mostly handwritten documents, into an easy to read format on a searchable online database.
Emeri has set a goal to contribute 5,000 entries to the vast database of names and information already accessible via the Church’s free family history website, FamilySearch.org.
Latter-day Saints of all ages added more than one billion searchable records to FamilySearch.org during the past eight years, and more than four million of the records were indexed by Australian volunteers.