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What Early Saints Can Teach Us about Writing Memories

Sat, 06/12/2021 - 15:00

No matter who you are, writing is often an intimidating activity—even writing in your journal where no one can see what you write! Too often we don’t know where to start or what to include. Or maybe we’re afraid of making punctuation and grammatical errors and looking foolish to someone who might one day read it.

If this is you, rest assured that almost anything you put down on paper or type on a computer will be interesting in time, especially to the family members and loved ones who come after you. And you don’t have to be a great writer to leave behind great stories. In fact, early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—most of them untrained writers—left an astounding legacy of keeping journals and recording other memories for today’s Church members to read, enjoy, and learn from.

One such early Church member is Patience Loader, a woman from England who joined the Church in her 20s and then immigrated to Utah with her parents and siblings as part of the Martin handcart company in 1856. Written in her later years, Patience’s recorded memories of pulling a handcart through Nebraska and Wyoming, encountering snow and freezing weather, and eventually meeting up with rescue parties from the Salt Lake Valley reads like a best-selling novel. That may be because Patience used some of the same writing techniques that novelists use today, including concrete description, terse dialogue, and a focus on scene rather than summary.

Bring Your Writing to Life with Detail

For people interested in making their own memories stand out, Patience’s account is definitely worth reading. Take this passage, for example, about her attempt to wade through a river shortly before a snowstorm:

The water came up to our arm pits. Poor Mother was standing on the bank screaming. As we got near the bank I heard Mother say for God sake some of you men help my poor girls. Mother said she had been watching us and could see we was drifting down the stream. Several of the breathren came down the bank of the river and pulled our cart up for us and we got up the best we could. Mother was there to meet us. Her clothing was dry but ours was wett and cold and verey soon frozen. Mother took off one of her under skirts and put on one of us and her apron for another to keep the wett cloth from us for we had to travel several miles before we could camp. Here Mother took out from her Apron the bread and molaces Sister Ballen gave her for us. She broke in pieces and gave each some. This was a great treat to us and we was all hungary. It seemed to vie us new strength to travel on. 

As you probably noticed, Patience was not a polished writer. Nearly every sentence contains a spelling or grammatical error. And what punctuation there is has mostly been added by historians and editors who helped publish her work. But the description contains so much energy and detail that you hardly notice any of the so-called mistakes—or if you do, they merely add to Patience’s unique style and writing voice. The same can be true for you, if you don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

The Power of an Image

One of Patience’s great talents as a writer is her ability to break down her memories into short, individual scenes. Scenes contain more imagery than summaries. They invite readers into the moment and allow them to feel the same emotions the writer felt. Consider Patience’s harrowing description of a search for firewood: 

Now I must say after we got to camp we found we had to go along way to go for wood so my sister Maria and myself went with the breathren to get wood. We had to travel in the snow knee deep for nearly a mile to the ceders. We found nothing but green ceder as all the dry wood on the grownd was coverd over with snow. I ask one of the breathren to cut me down a shoulder stick so he kindly gave us quite alarge heavy log. My sister took one end on her shoulder and I raised the other end on to my shoulder and started back to camp. We had not gone very far when we boath fell down with our load. The snow beign so deep made it very hard work for us to get back to camp with our load but after much hard work we got there. My Mother and sisters was anxiously awaiting our return for thay was boath hungrey and cold in the tent.

The image of the two sisters stumbling through the snow is heartbreaking. A summary of the experience would still be noteworthy, but it wouldn’t be as compelling—nor would it feel quite as much like a story. It might look something like this: “After the storms, firewood was scarce, and my sister and I often had to walk great distances through the snow to find it. The nights were very cold.”  

It can be hard to write a scene, even when we are specifically trying to do so. We slip into summary without realizing it. Writing about things readers can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell can take you out of summary mode and put you back into writing a scene.   

I will say we traveld on all day in the snow but the weather was fine and in the midle of the day the sun was quite warm. Some time in the afternoon a strange man appeard to me as we was resting as we got up the hill. He came and looked in my face. He sais is you Patience. I said yes. He said again I thought it was you. Travel on. There is help for you. You will come to a good place. There is plenty. With this he was gone. He disappeared. I looked but never saw whare he went. This seemed very strange to me. I took this as some one sent to encurage us and give us strength.

Using Dialogue

As this last excerpt demonstrates, incorporating dialogue into your memoir or journal writing can be the perfect way to make a scene more vivid and powerful for readers.

You don’t need to remember the quotation with 100 percent accuracy. A sentence or two is enough.

In this next passage, Patience recounts the morning when rescuers from Salt Lake first met up with the company. The man she mentions, Joseph A. Young, was Brigham Young’s son. Note the brief exchange of dialogue between Patience and her friend, Mary Ann Grenning, and then the one sentence, gut-wrenching line from Joseph Young asking where he can find the company’s captain.

What a deplorable condition we was in at that time. Seven hundred miles from Salt Lake and only nine days full rations. That morning the bugal sounded to call us together. The captain ask us if we was willing to come on four ounces of flour aday. All answered yes. We had already been reduced to half pound pr day. Well we return to our tents. I had left the remainer of the beef head cooking on the fire. The next tent to ours was Br Saml Jones and sister Mary Ann Greening was traveling with Sister Jones and family. Sister Mary Ann was at her fire cooking something. I don’t know what she had to cook. I am sure she had but little. We look around towards the mountains and she called out oh Patience here is some Californians coming. And as thay got nearer to us I told her no thay are not Californians. It is Br Joseph A. Young from the valley . . . Seeing us out there Br Young ask how many is dead or how many is alive. I told him I could not tell. With tears streaming down his face he ask whare is your captains tent.

One final example of Patience’s writing is a fascinating description of a man named George Grant, another member of the rescue party. By this time, the company was camped at a place called Devil’s Gate, where an assortment of abandoned huts were being used for fires. As a reader, I’ve come across multiple references to George Grant and the role he played in the rescue, but nothing I have read has been as effective at making George feel like a real person as the little bit of dialogue Patience recorded.

One day I well remember we had avery hard days travel and we came to Devels Gate that night to camp . . . Brother George Grant was there. He told us all to stand back for he was going to knock down one of those log huts to make fiars for us. For he sais you are not going to freeze to night. Now he called out again stand back and said this night I have the strength of a giant. I never fealt so strong before in my life. And at once he raised his axe and with one blow he knocked in the whole front of the building took each log and split in four pieces and gave each family one piece. Oh such crawding for wood. Some would have taken more than one piece but Bro Grant told them to hold on and not to be greedy. There was some that had not got any yet. He said there is one sister standing back waiting very patintly and she must have some. I called out Yes brother Grant my name is Patince and I have waited with patience. He laugh and said give that sister some wood and let her go and make afiar. I was very thankfull to get wood. I had waited so long that my clothing was stiff and my old stockings and shoes seemed frozen on my feet and legs.   

Try It in Your Own Writing

The FamilySearch Memories Gallery makes it easy to write and save your memories. You don’t have to write 20 pages in one sitting. You can write two or three short paragraphs. When you’re ready, try writing about something specific that happened to you. Focus on describing things readers can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. Little by little these memories add up, and before you know it, you have a substantial, meaningful history to share with others. 

Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • What is an important or perhaps humorous conversation you recently had with a child, parent, or other family member?
  • What is something scary that happened to you, and how did you respond?  
  • What is something that happened to you at work or school that you will never forget?

Source: Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, and Jill Mulvay Derr, eds., Women’s Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1982), 222–42.

The Family History Library Is Opening Soon—Unveiling the 2021 Remodel

Tue, 06/08/2021 - 19:22

Many visitors were sad in 2020 when the Family History Library closed due to global COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. One positive aspect of the extended closure is that library remodeling efforts continued without construction dust and noise disrupting guests. Workers have been busily making improvements to this flagship library located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the library reopens, guests can take advantage of newly organized research materials, upgraded technology, better lighting, new desktop book scanners, expanded room for interactive experiences, and more.

When Will the Family History Library Reopen?

Starting July 6, 2021, the Family History Library will begin a phased reopening, with limited hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hours will be expanded from there, so be sure to check the Family History Library web page for the most current opening status and visitor information.

Local FamilySearch Centers Also Reopening

FamilySearch family history centers and libraries will open based on the direction of their local ecclesiastical leaders and government guidelines. If you plan to visit a FamilySearch center soon, please call ahead to ensure it is open and learn its hours of operation.

Details about the Family History Library Remodel

Perhaps the biggest changes guests will notice when they visit the remodeled library will be the new floor rearrangements. With 5 floors, the Family History Library has a lot to offer, and research materials have been reorganized to improve space and help visitors find what they are looking for more easily.

The 2 top floors of the library are still devoted to United States and Canada research materials, with microfilms on the second floor and books on the third.

The 2 lower floors (B1 and B2) will now mirror the top floors with international microfilms on B1 and international books on B2. (Previously, British and Australian records and microfilms were separate, but they have now been integrated into the international collections.) The library’s map collections have all been consolidated into a new Global Map Area on B1 in all new cabinetry.

More Bookshelves and Other Floor Improvements

The library remodel added significantly more bookshelves to accommodate over 40,000 more volumes. On all floors, reference desks have been moved across from the elevators. Flat table space with charging stations has been expanded. Computer workstation heights are now adjustable, so guests may use them at convenient heights, from sitting to standing, for individual comfort. The new desks also better accommodate guests with ADA needs.

Technology Upgrades

Technology has been updated throughout the newly remodeled library. The improvements are well-planned to provide access to more resources and better service for guests, as well as more convenient workstations.

Many visitor computer stations now feature 2 or 3 monitors, and all stations accommodate guests’ laptops. Up-to-date microfilm readers and scanners now function with the computers at many visitor workstations so that guests may conveniently examine books and microfilm, and make digital image copies at their stations, rather than going to a designated scan or copy area.

Lights have been turned on throughout the library building, eliminating the dark corridors once needed for microfilm reading. Library spaces are now well lit, more inviting, and more conducive to learning. A room on each microfilm floor still holds a variety of traditional microfilm readers with low lighting for those who prefer that experience.

Around 30 computer stations were removed, and others were redistributed to make room for expanded research materials on all floors. This change also gives visitors more space in the provided computer stations. The learning labs hold 111 additional computers to help accommodate more guests.

Break Room Expanded

The popular guest break room on the main floor by the interactive Discovery Experiences is being expanded and improved to better accommodate groups and families. It will include a small kitchenette and ice machine for guests.

Natural light to this room will be provided by 2 windows overlooking the historic cabin on the plaza outside. A sound-proof glass wall will separate the break room from the rest of the main floor, making the area more visible and easier for guests to locate. While this will eliminate the original oak-paneled classroom A, classrooms B and C will still be available.

Visitor Information for the Reopening

When the library opens, hand cleaning stations and thorough cleaning regimens throughout the building will be in effect. Policies about masks and social distancing will be made available as well, based on the latest guidelines. We are excited to have visitors come see the remodel for themselves, and the safety of our guests and staff is of utmost importance.

Remote Services Still Available

For those who cannot make it to the Family History Library or who live too far away from Salt Lake City, Utah, the library’s remote services can be helpful. Free, 20-minute virtual genealogy consultations with staff experts will continue to be available online. A Library lookup service is also available for accessing library materials remotely.

While the library renovations have produced many changes, visitors can still expect the same helpful, expert service they have always known from staff and missionaries at the Family History Library.

Remembering a Loved One

Sat, 06/05/2021 - 05:00

How do you remember a loved one who has passed away? Many people around the world have some way in which they remember the special people in their lives who are no longer with them. Here are several noteworthy ways people are remembering their loved ones. 

Anniversary Celebrations 

Dan and his wife Crystal lost their sweet daughter the day she was born. To remember her, they visit the cemetery with their other 6 children each year on her birthday. Complete with balloons and a picnic lunch, the family celebration happens right there at the cemetery. This family has enjoyed this extra special tradition for the past 9 years. Dan shares, “We do [this tradition] not just to remember her and to remind the other kids of their sister, but also that even though we’re sad for a relatively short period of time, there will be a glorious reunion on the other side [someday].” 

Margaret visits her husband’s grave on as many occasions as she can. His birthday, their wedding anniversary, Memorial Day, Halloween, and Christmas are just a few of the times she visits his resting place. For their 60th wedding anniversary, Margaret had a special easel wreath created to remember and represent their life together. It was made with 60 white roses, 3 red roses in the middle for their 3 children, 8 yellow roses representing their 8 grandchildren, and 9 peach roses for their 9 great-grandchildren.

Picture Displays 

Ashley and her husband Patrick lost their 18-month-old daughter Preslee 10 years ago after a tragic accident. One way their family has chosen to remember Preslee is to have something represent her in each family photo. This most recent photo shows their second daughter, Oaklee, holding a pink Gerber Daisy to represent and remember Preslee. Ashley recalls, “When Preslee was a baby, the big flower bows were in style, and we always said large Gerber Daisy flowers remind us of her.” 

Many families, today and in the past, have a framed picture of their loved one in their family photos to remember someone who has passed away. 

Another unique idea is to create an ancestor wall with several framed pictures of your ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. 

Ancestor Bash 

In my family, we hold ancestor parties. An ancestor party allows us time to share details of our ancestor’s life with the younger kids in a fun and memorable way. Our first ancestor birthday party was for Grandpa Cole. He was a coal miner, so we decorated with lamps and hard hats. We had all sorts of treats that were his favorites. One of my nieces noticed his favorite cola was RC Cola. She thought that was funny because his initials were R.C. for Robert Cole! 

Other activities we have enjoyed at an ancestor party include playing their favorite games, learning a new skill they were particularly good at, or watching an old family video of them. 

Other Ideas for Remembering Your Loved One 
  • Create a quilt from the clothing that your loved one left behind. 
  • Plant a memorial garden with the flowers or vegetables your loved one enjoyed. 
  • Plant a tree in remembrance of them. 
  • Create a piece of jewelry with their handwriting engraved on it. 
  • Vacation at their favorite spot. 
  • Donate to their favorite charity. 
  • Add some stories to FamilySearch Memories about their life. 
  • Make a memory jar by writing short memories about the loved one on pieces of paper and then putting them in a jar to later share with the whole family. 
Supporting Someone Who Is Remembering a Loved One 

As special anniversaries such as birthdays, death days, wedding anniversaries, and favorite holidays approach, many people struggle to handle the grief they feel from the loss of a loved one.

  • Send a card of comfort and remembrance to the family. 
  • Share a special memory of the deceased in a personal note, text message, or if you feel it is appropriate, you could post it to their social media page. 
  • Drop off a meal. 
  • Offer to visit the gravesite of their loved one with them. 
  • Just listen. 

There are as many ways to remember a loved one as there are stars in the sky. How are you remembering your deceased loved one? If you haven’t started already, add a few stories and pictures of your ancestors to FamilySearch Family Tree Memories. It’s a great way to remember each person in your family tree and to share it with the whole family.

Getting to Know Thom Reed, a Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch

Fri, 06/04/2021 - 16:00

Standing a head taller in a crowd than the next person, you can’t miss him! Perhaps you already know Thom Reed, one of FamilySearch’s Deputy Chief Genealogical Officers. He’s known for being a key ambassador and liaison for FamilySearch to organizations and associations that promote and provide resources for African American genealogy, culture, and history.

Thom’s Formative Years

Like many people, Thom’s sense of identity is unique and has been refined over the years. When he was younger, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the designation of “African American” because technically, he is Japanese American, howbeit both of his parents are African American. You see, Thom was born in Japan and lived there for the first few years of his young life while his father was stationed at Tachikawa Air Force Base. He’d later return to Japan on his own for a few years (more on that a little later). His father considered the family’s time in Japan a high point in his career and spoke of Japan with fondness throughout Thom’s childhood. After his father’s tour in Japan finished, the family moved to California and then later to Illinois—the place Thom will say he is from.

The influence of living in starkly differing cultures in his youth has refined Thom’s art of diplomacy and ability to see and relate to multiple perspectives.

Even as a child, Thom possessed a natural ability to connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds and faiths. Like his father, he makes friends easily, values relationships and associations with people, and he accepts people unconditionally. Through one of these valued friendships, he learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although he grew up attending Baptist and non-denominational churches, in 1991 Thom joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At 21, Thom applied to serve as a missionary for the Church and was pleasantly surprised to be assigned to labor in Japan—the place his family loved so dearly—and where he was born. He says his father was elated when he announced he was “going back home to Japan when learning of his missionary assignment.

While in Japan, Thom refined his gift to share messages of faith, hope, and oneness and build relationships with those who believed differently and came from different walks of life. Thom discovered that he could deliver a more meaningful message when he knew and understood the people he served. This experience prepared him for the work he does now as he works to understand people, to help provide inspiring family history experiences to them, and to connect communities.

Building a Career

Thom Reed’s career path has not been a direct one. He admits in retrospect that a Higher Power has been guiding his journey and providing him with experiences for his current role.

Thom graduated from Illinois State University with a marketing degree, and later from Brigham Young University with an MBA. He worked in consumer product marketing at several reputable companies, but like many others, lost his job in the economic crash of 2008.

Scrambling to find work, Thom eventually found a position that required him to relocate to Utah. On the cusp of making the move from Illinois to Utah with his young family and little spare cash, he recounts the story how the family minivan died and was beyond repair the night before he was supposed to tow it behind their U-Haul. Miraculously, upon arrival in Utah, he was gifted another minivan for a dollar, and he was able to make a smooth transition. His life has always been full of such tender mercies like this, and he credits heavenly influence in all accounts.

Rising above Set-Backs

In Utah, Thom joined a small, promising start-up company. He muses that it didn’t pan out and was part of a very low point in his life when it was difficult to land firm employment. With the help of an accelerated job search program for executives, he was able to develop new strategies and business contacts, and more doors of opportunity opened for him.

During this time, he was asked what he thought about working for FamilySearch, a global nonprofit genealogy organization. There was a partner marketing position open, and Thom’s experience made him a perfect candidate. As you can already guess, he was offered the job—setting him off on the path he’s on now.

Discovering His Roots—A Defining Experience

Working at FamilySearch, Thom’s interest in his ancestral roots was kindled, and he began researching his family history. His journey to self-discovery would lay the groundwork for his passion to help others have similar experiences. Like many descendants of enslaved ancestors, he found family lines dead-ended in Mississippi and Alabama with the 1870 census. Thom felt discouraged and took a break from researching his roots.

That changed when he was sent to Ghana on a work assignment to meet with local tribal leaders and develop training materials, as well as a program for preparing contractors to collect oral histories.

It was on this trip, in a dungeon in Ghana in West Africa—the historical final holding place where countless slaves were held captive preparatory for a treacherous journey across the Atlantic as part of the slave trade—that Thom ignited a burning desire to find his African roots. A photographer who accompanied Thom Reed and the team captured a tender moment as Thom touched the wall of the holding cell which would have housed as many as 2,000 African men, all destined for the same fate.

Thom came home from the trip and took a DNA test. It placed his ancestors in Cameroon and Nigeria. He announced his discovery in real-time as a Facebook live event. He was overwhelmed with the unanticipated emotion. It was raw and defining.

He is now committed to helping others to have such inspirational experiences, and it’s part of what gets him out of bed every morning. He shared a transformative moment of discovery and connection to ancestors that occurred on stage with LeVar Burton, a famous African American actor, who was invited to speak at the RootsTech 2017 conference for African Heritage Day. Thom was asked to present LeVar Burton with his family history records that had been researched by expert genealogists. Words hardly describe that moment and the impact it had on LaVar Burton, Thom, and everyone who witnessed that singular revelatory moment of joy and discovery about family. LeVar was overcome with emotion and could only utter as he gazed at the big screen behind him on stage depicting newfound ancestral roots, “Those are my people!”

Contributions to Family History

While African American outreach continues to be one of Thom’s key focuses, it isn’t his only role. If you’ve ever used FamilySearch Family Tree’s Partner Access links to resources on, findmypast, MyHeritage, and other sites while doing your research, then you’ve benefitted from Thom’s work. He and his colleagues helped negotiate and put in place contracts and collaborative cross-links between different data systems that streamline your research and efficiently port sources into Family Tree from partner sites.

Thom also spearheaded the Freedmen’s Bureau Project. This year-long effort to index records from the Freedmen’s Bureau made over a million Civil War–era historical records fully searchable online for descendants of former slaves, poor whites, and other marginalized groups. For those who are looking beyond the 1870 census to African American Online Genealogy Records, the Freedmen’s Bureau records are rich in genealogical information.  

For many years, Thom has played pivotal roles in carrying out various elements of RootsTech, the world’s largest family history celebration that takes place each year as an event but now also offers wonderful content all year long. For the first time in 2021, the conference was totally virtual, known as RootsTech Connect. The 2021 event included 39 sessions that pertained to African heritage family history and culture. If you missed the RootsTech event in real-time, you can view these sessions for free online.

Today, Thom’s days are most often spent developing partnerships, building relationships, and collaborating on projects that benefit family history and increase personal and family discovery and connections for others.

Creating Experiences that Connect

Thom wants everyone to have the same creative, inspiring family history experience that he had with LeVar Burton. You’ll hear him repeat “finding ancestors completes us,” a core truth he comes back to again and again. That is why Thom Reed is passionate about the work he does.

You, too, can become involved in African American family history by opting into FamilySearch’s African Heritage Newsletter that will keep you or someone you know abreast of the work FamilySearch is doing to help African Americans discover their heritage.

Visit also the African American Digital Bookshelf in the FamilySearch Wiki for an expanding anthology of digital books about specific African American ancestors.

For Black History Month and Juneteenth you will find fresh content on social media celebrating black history, genealogy, and culture in fresh exciting ways by following Thom Reed using his username @iamthomreed on all social media platforms.

Also visit:

Monthly Record Update for May 2021

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 18:00

FamilySearch expanded its free online archives in May of 2021 with over 51 million new indexed family history records and over 4 million digital images from all over the world. New historical records were added from Albania, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Jamaica, Kiribati, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Samoa, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Wales, Zambia, and the United States, which includes Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Records from the United States Bureau of Land Management, the United States 1910 Census, United States City and Business Directories, and United States Enlisted and Officer Muster Rolls and Rosters were included as well. Digital images were included from Australia and Venezuela.

Find your ancestors using these free archives online, including birth, marriage, death, and church records. Millions of new genealogy records are added each month to make your search easier.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Check back next month and, in the meantime, search existing records on FamilySearch. And if you want more exciting genealogy content, peruse over 1,000 free, on-demand sessions from RootsTech Connect 2021.

CountryCollection Indexed Records Digital ImagesCommentAlbaniaAlbania, Census, 1930          2,5060Expanded collectionAustraliaAustralia, Victoria, Wills, Probate and Administration Files, 1841-1926          2,1673,998,555New collectionAustriaAustria, Carinthia, Gurk Diocese, Catholic Church Records, 1527-1986          6,9150Expanded collectionBoliviaBolivia Catholic Church Records, 1566-1996      187,3130Expanded collectionBrazilBrazil, Minas Gerais, Civil Registration, 1879-1949        17,4460Expanded collectionBrazilBrazil, Paraná, Civil Registration, 1852-1996        11,0120Expanded collectionBrazilBrazil, Santa Catarina, Civil Registration, 1850-1999          9,9110Expanded collectionCanadaManitoba Census Indexes, 1831-1870        45,4070Expanded collectionCanadaManitoba Church Records, 1800-1959        31,0900Expanded collectionCanadaNewfoundland Church Records, 1793-1945        83,7840Expanded collectionCanadaNova Scotia Church Records, 1720-2001             1690Expanded collectionCape VerdeCape Verde, Catholic Church Records, 1787-1957          1,4820Expanded collectionChileChile, Catholic Church Records, 1710-1928        11,8440Expanded collectionColombiaColombia, Catholic Church Records, 1576-2018      108,3510Expanded collectionCroatiaCroatia, Delnice Deanery Catholic Church Books, 1571-1926          9,7210Expanded collectionDominican RepublicDominican Republic Miscellaneous Records, 1921-1980          4,8280Expanded collectionEl SalvadorEl Salvador Catholic Church Records, 1655-1977        45,1310Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Essex Non-Conformist Church Records, 1613-1971          6,7820Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Gloucestershire Non-Conformist Church Records, 1642-1996             9490Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898      102,8590Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Lancashire Non-Conformist Church Records, 1647-1996        10,4320Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Middlesex Parish Registers, 1539-1988      256,8160Expanded collectionEnglandEngland, Northumberland Non-Conformist Church Records, 1613-1920        12,8050Expanded collectionFinlandFinland, Tax Lists, 1809-1915        29,5660Expanded collectionFranceFrance, Calvados, Military Registration Cards, 1867-1921        29,8390Expanded collectionFranceFrance, Rhône, Military Registration Cards, 1865-1932        16,8600Expanded collectionFranceFrance, Saône-et-Loire, Parish and Civil Registration, 1530-1892          1,5570Expanded collectionFrench PolynesiaFrench Polynesia, Civil Registration, 1780-1999             3260Expanded collectionGermanyGermany, Prussia, Saxony, Census Lists, 1770-1934        14,1410Expanded collectionGermanyGermany, Prussia, Westphalia, Minden, Miscellaneous Collections from the Municipal Archives, 1574-1912          1,3030Expanded collectionGermanyGermany, Saxony, Church Book Indexes, 1500-1900          2,7690Expanded collectionGuatemalaGuatemala, Catholic Church Records, 1581-1977      310,5650Expanded collectionHungaryHungary, Jewish Vital Records Index, 1800-1945          1,8620Expanded collectionJamaicaJamaica, Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880          9,8280Expanded collectionKiribatiKiribati, Vital Records, 1890-1991          1,4180Expanded collectionLiberiaLiberia Census, 2008        60,6370Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Coahuila, Catholic Church Records, 1627-1978        43,3280Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1514-1970      233,9280Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Guanajuato, Catholic Church Records, 1519-1984          9,6670Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Guerrero, Catholic Church Records, 1576-1979        16,3400Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Hidalgo, Catholic Church Records, 1546-1971      111,3920Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, Jalisco, Catholic Church Records, 1590-1979        75,3650Expanded collectionMexicoMexico, México, Catholic Church Records, 1567-1970      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Ideas for Holding a Celebration of Life Ceremony

Thu, 05/27/2021 - 15:02

Around the world, celebrations of life are taking the place of traditional funerals. While funerals are more somber and focus on memorializing the deceased, celebrations of life, as the name implies, take a more celebratory tone, as the focus is on the life of the individual. 

How does a celebration of life differ from a funeral? 

Celebration of life ceremonies and traditional funerals may look similar, or they may look very different. They have some things in common but vary in the following ways: 

Celebration of Life Ceremony Traditional Funeral Can be held anytime after the passing of the deceased, even up to a year later. Usually held within days or weeks of the passing of the deceased. The body of the deceased has already been buried or cremated. The body of the deceased is present and out for viewing during the ceremony. Mourners may wear a more casual attire and even favorite colors of the deceased. Funerals around the world will typically have a mourning color for their attire, often black or another dark color. Has no traditional venue or schedule of events. Usually held in a funeral home, church, or other religious location. 

Funerals Around the World 

A traditional funeral is greatly influenced by the culture and religion of a given area or people. In North America, a traditional funeral may include a viewing, the funeral service, and a committal service held at the gravesite. Attendees often wear black or dark colors.  

In Hindu regions, mourners may wear white to symbolize purity. Part of a funeral service held in many Asian countries may include a wakeprofessional mourners, a funeral service, and more than one memorial service over a lengthy period of time. 

Some African nations consider wearing red an appropriate color choice. Their funeral services may include a procession through the streets with music and dancing. 

A Celebration of Life 

A celebration of life ceremony will also be influenced by the culture and religion of a given area or people. In addition, celebration of life ceremonies can be done in a less religious fashion which is appealing to those who do not affiliate themselves with any one religion or denomination.  

Because a celebration of life is often held after the remains of the deceased are buried or cremated, this type of ceremony can be held any time after the passing of the individual. It allows for more time to plan a special event. Some families hold celebrations of life up to a year after the death of their loved one. This is especially helpful for those who are struggling with the process of grief and loss.

There are no hard or fast rules for a celebration of life ceremony. Instead, the event can be individualized to the wants of the deceased or their family members. 

There is an air of liveliness at this type of end-of-life event, and it is a time to share stories, laugh, and remember the things that made our loved ones important to us. 

What do you do at a celebration of life? 

As stated above, celebrations of life are unique to an individual and may not include any religious rites. For this reason, it may be held in a restaurant, a park, or other unique venue. Attendees may be asked to dress in a special theme or color; consider jerseys or team colors of the loved one’s favorite sports team. You may be asked to participate by sharing a story, singing along to a favorite song, or even playing a game! 

A celebration of life often includes food or refreshments that the deceased enjoyed while living. You may also enjoy live music, videos, pictures, and displays. 

You may send flowers to a family who is having a celebration of life ceremony. You may send it to their home or directly to the venue if appropriate.  

At this event, it is appropriate to laugh, cry, share funny or special stories, and engage in activities. Just as its name implies, a celebration of life is meant to be a joyous celebration. 

Ideas for a Celebration of Life Ceremony 
  • Hold a celebration walk, bike ride, or run, in honor of the deceased 
  • Choose a location that has special meaning to your loved one 
  • Make a quote board of funny sayings or favorite quotes the loved one used 
  • Decorate the venue in the deceased’s favorite color, and have guests wear that color 
  • Light lanterns or candles to honor the deceased 
  • Create a video slideshow to show the highlights of your loved one’s life 
  • Play favorite games by leaving them on tables for the guests to play 
  • Create a memorial hashtag, and share your celebration on social media 
  • Serve favorite dishes and treats of your loved one to guests 
  • Hand out a special memento or keepsake to attendees 

Have you planned or attended a celebration of life ceremony for a family member? If you have, consider writing about the details of the event and your feelings as you remembered your loved one. You can share your story and pictures of the event to the memories section of the FamilySearch Family Tree for all to enjoy. 

Share Your Memories

New Library Lookup Service—For When You Can’t Visit the Family History Library

Mon, 05/24/2021 - 08:58

The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, has long been a go-to place to find genealogical research materials and is the flagship library for FamilySearch International. With the closure of the library a year ago due to the COVID 19 pandemic, people have had to rely largely on online materials, unable to access records that are only viewable at the Family History Library or other locations. A new Library Lookup Service will soon provide greater access to these records globally. 

Online Records and Limited Access Records 

With a free FamilySearch account, you can search through a large database of records online on This search often provides a text index of the record for quick reference and a complete image of the record. Some books and materials, however, only have the index available. The full images for these records can only be accessed at the Family History Library, family history centers, or affiliate libraries—primarily due to copyright restrictions or partner agreements.

Due to COVID-19 conditions, visiting one of these facilities to look at materials has not been possible. To offset pandemic restrictions and as part of an effort to serve a global audience living too far away to visit the library, the Family History Library has launched its own lookup service.

How the Lookup Service Works 

Upon request, staff and volunteers at the library will look up specific records in their collections that cannot be viewed online. Since Library Lookup is not a research service, people will need to identify the specific record from that they need to see. 

As mentioned, an online search might provide only basic information from a document, yet frequently the original document contains more information. To use the Lookup service, visit the online request form to request a copy of the image of the original document. 

Requests may take a few weeks to process, depending on the volume of requests being handled at a given time. 

Special Cases for Books 

Many books in the FamilySearch collections have not yet been digitized, also because of copyright limitations. Those same restrictions mean that the library cannot copy large numbers of pages from any one book. 

When requesting a book, please be as specific as possible about what you are seeking. Using the same online request form, guests can provide the title or call number of the book, along with the page number they would like copied. The staff will send a PDF copy of the page or pages, as allowed. In cases where page numbers are unknown, staff can check the index in a book for the listing of a name or chosen term to help provide the right pages.  

Available in Many Languages 

The FHL Library Lookup Service is available in about 15 languages and can help you access various records from countries worldwide. Sometimes books at the Family History Library are also available through other sources, as explained here

Continuing Service after the Reopening 

Renovation work has been done inside the Family History Library during the closure to prepare for guests when it is time to reopen. The exact date for reopening for the library and FamilySearch centers is dependent on government and local leadership guidelines. That date will be announced as soon as it is available.  After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the library reopens, the Library Lookup Service will continue as part of the FamilySearch global outreach.

Celebrating Japan and Its Heritage

Sat, 05/22/2021 - 17:00

From the sophisticated to the whimsical, Japanese culture captures it all. With centuries of iconic architecture, elegant kimonos, and sophisticated designs, Japan is a source of excellence and beauty. In stark contrast, unique and fun-loving subcultures unlike anything else in the world have developed in recent years, making Japan a diverse and complex country. If you have Japanese heritage, learning more about this incredible country can help you learn more about your ancestors!

Life in Japan

What’s it really like living in Japan? As an island country with over 126 million people, it’s often known for its bustling cities. Japanese cities are famous for their expansive transportation systems (including the well-known bullet train), convenience stores, and use of small spaces. But there’s more to Japan than just big cities! 

Traditional Japanese Culture

Honor and respect are deeply rooted in Japan, with centuries-old traditions at the forefront of its culture. As part of a culture centered around honor, work ethic and diligence are both highly valued characteristics, as are fiscal and civic responsibility. More about Japanese culture.

Japanese Food

Japan is renowned for its food, which is both delicious and healthy. Rice, miso soup, seafood, and vegetables are the foundations for many diets. Japanese cooking can be incredibly rewarding, since it focuses on enhancing the natural flavors of the food and utilizing a variety of ingredients. More about Japanese food.

Fashion in Japan

Japan is home to a range of fashions, from the traditional kimono to an edgy take on modern Western styles to bright and colorful alternative trends. Each style serves a different purpose. Western clothing dominates the workplace while traditional clothing is often reserved at events or ceremonies. In casual settings, you might see other styles that emphasize bold colors or even child-like features. More about Japanese fashion.

What’s the Weather Like in Japan?

You’ll see all 4 seasons on display in Japan at different times of year. Spring, from March to May, is a pleasant time of year with moderate temperatures (21° to 26° C or 70° to 80° F). Early spring is also the best time to see Japan’s famous cherry blossoms.

Summer in Japan (June to August) is generally hot and humid, with temperatures reaching as high as 35° C (95° F). It’s also typhoon season, meaning heavy rainstorms are common. The heat makes it the perfect time to visit Japan’s gorgeous turquoise beaches.

The brilliant colors and cooler temperatures of fall make it an idyllic setting. While typhoon season continues through October, the autumn months make for an unforgettable experience.

Japan’s mountain ranges transform in winter with a blanket of snow, making it an ideal place to ski from December to February. Temperatures can drop as low as -4° C or 25° F.

The Japanese Language

Japanese syllables typically start with a consonant and end with a vowel and tend to be timed with a short pause between syllables, known as mora-timing. This, combined with short vowels, gives the Japanese language an enchanting and almost staccato feel to it.

The spoken language largely developed isolated on the island, but it has Chinese influences as well. Japanese writing is another matter altogether. Three separate alphabets are used in Japanese writing—kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji is a set of over 8,000 characters based on Chinese characters. Hiragana and Katakana in contrast each offer 47 syllable-based characters.

The People of Japan

What is a country if not a sum of its people and their history? Japan is no exception. 

What Is the Population of Japan?

As of 2021, Japan has a population of over 126 million people. Despite having the largest percentage of elderly citizens in the world, Japan’s population is decreasing year after year due to a shrinking birth rate. 50 years ago, the average woman in Japan had 2.1 children. Today, that number has dropped to 1.4. The result? Japan’s population drops by as much as 400,000 in a single year.

Immigration and Emigration in Japan

Immigration to and emigration from Japan have been limited until recent years. Historically, Japan has worked to maintain its borders, something made easier by the fact that the country is an island. Over 98% of Japanese citizens are ethnically Japanese, and there are roughly 3 million people with Japanese ancestry around the world. The Philippines, Asia, Brazil, Hawaii, and the western United States are the most common destinations for Japanese emigrants. Read more about Japanese immigration and emigration.

Japanese Names

Japanese names traditionally follow the East Asian tradition of using the family name before a given name. Family names originated from the differing family clans. Given names are typically reserved for close friends and family. Acquaintances and professional relationships may instead use honorifics, or titles based on the relationship you share with the person. More about Japanese names.

Japanese Heritage

Do you have Japanese heritage? Japan has a culture of excellence, and it’s a heritage you can be proud to share. Learning more about your cultural heritage opens the doors to understanding your family and feeling part of something more. 

Find Your Japanese Ancestors 

If you have Japanese ancestry and want to learn more about your family, FamilySearch provides access to free records that can allow you to learn about your family members and the lives they led. If you’re uncertain if you have Japanese ancestors and you want to find out, this is also a great place to start. More about Japanese records.

Visit Japan

One way to fully appreciate a culture is to experience it for yourself. Visiting a place immerses you in the landscapes, the food, the people, and the culture. If you have Japanese heritage, traveling to Japan can give you a taste of the lives your ancestors led. Whether or not you have Japanese ancestors, it’s worth the trip with everything that Japan has to offer.