Genealogy Stories as Mormon Literature

As a genealogist, I am particularly interested in the form of Mormon literature which might be called “genealogy miracle stories.” I just finished a collection of them that was compiled by Marilyn Brown and Lee Nelson and published by Cedar Fort, and it was great to hear how things just seem to come together to help genealogists find dead people.

There are collections of such stories that are not particularly LDS, PSYCHIC ROOTS and MORE PSYCHIC ROOTS being two examples, but the emphasis is slightly different in that the source of the “extrasensory communications” is not understood as we understand it, and very different in the reason for the research. As those who attended the fireside with David McCullough at the Conference Center during the week of the National Genealogical Society conference last month heard, LDS people do genealogy as part of our doctrine, and it is a crucial part of our beliefs. So stories about it should be an integral part of our literature.

Reading stories of how God is not only in the details of genealogy and temple work, but also of how the people most directly benefitting from it on the other side are also in the details is an exciting thing, especially for someone who has struggled with genealogical blind alleys and ancestors who just don’t seem to want to be found.

I have heard that the ENSIGN receives far more submissions for the section that is now called “Latter-day Saint Voices” (and used to be called “Mormon Journal” if I remember correctly) than they can publish in their pages. A good portion of them surely must be genealogical miracle stories. Certainly the CHURCH NEWS includes one on the back page every so often. Marilyn Brown and Lee Nelson, in their book, requested similar stories for future collections, and yet, so far as I can tell, their book, FAMILIES LOST AND FOUND is the only one. Couldn’t more of these stories be collected and published? I’d love to see a volume of SUNSHINE FOR THE LDS GENEALOGIST’S SOUL or two, or three or four.

These stories are not what have been called “missionary” stories, except in that they may encourage people to become involved with genealogy. But stories about others’ miracles are not what get people involved in genealogy–success of their own in the research is what usually hooks new genealogists.

These kinds of stories are more of the “home” variety, that support and encourage and share experiences with those already involved, already hooked. And for those who have experienced their own little miracles in genealogy research, they are a fun way to see what else can happen to help the work along.

So this is a call, at the very least, for more collections and publications of these stories, and if publishing more of them is not viable at this time, a request for information about where such stories can be found. Surely someone has a genealogy miracle blog somewhere? It’s a part of Mormon literature that I submit needs more encouragement itself.

About Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Author of six professionally published short stories; moderator of two online writing workshop forums for Orson Scott Card (The Hatrack River Writers Workshop and the Nauvoo Workshop for LDS Writers); part-time computer genealogist; AML Review Archive editor and AML website flunky; mother of three and grandmother of five, so far (plus slave of a polydactyl, part-lynx-point snowshoe Siamese cat); Salt Lake Temple ordinance worker; lover of reading, knitting, and dark chocolate.
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7 Responses to Genealogy Stories as Mormon Literature

  1. Th. says:


    My goodness. I think I just had a breakthrough for an in-development project. Because you are exactly right. These stories [i]should[/i] be part of our literature.

  2. The whole second half of [i]The Path of Dreams[/i] is a "genealogy miracle story." It’s even sorta, kinda true.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    So here’s my story: My mother’s stepfather (not LDS) was a horrifically abusive man in all categories of abuse, including sexual, and just an all-around amoral man. He and my grandmother divorced when my mother was already a married woman. When no one in the family would take him in as an old man, he accepted Christ (yeah right) so the evangelical son took him. After he died, I asked my grandmother for information about him, figuring if anyone needed temple work done for him, he did, though I didn’t really explain any of that. She offered their marriage certificate which she kept in a lock box in her apartment. When she opened the box, her face fell. She told me she didn’t understand, that she’d looked inside the box just a few days back, that this didn’t make any sense. She then pulled out her marriage certificate. The words "Marriage Certificate" were readable across the top but the rest of the document had turned black. Entirely, completely black. All of the other documents she kept therein were in perfect order, but the marriage certificate had, in so short a time, seemingly charred. She lives on the beach and I went onto her balcony and held the paper up to the sun. Not a single mark could I read. Completely black. I ceased to think about doing his work. (Now how’s that for creepy?)

  4. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Thanks, Lisa. That’s a great story.

    I have begun to think that my great-grandfather doesn’t want to be found. Every single one of his son’s children have died now, and each of them that I knew promised to find him and get some kind of help to us on his ancestry. Years have passed, though, and still nothing (and because of a DNA test my uncle did before he died, we have reason to believe that he changed his last name, so we don’t really even know who we are as his descendants).

    There are other stories, though, that are more hopeful.

    I went though an unindexed microfilm of court records and discovered a daughter no one knew about in the family of one of my ancestors. When I checked other records, I found out why we’d missed her–the way her name was written in her marriage record was easily mistaken for a different name, for one thing. So we did her temple work and sealed her to her parents as well as to her husband and children. And then I found out that she had hanged herself when she was in her sixties, and it had taken over 150 years before she was ready to be found.

    I met a distant cousin whose mother had corresponded years ago with my grandmother when she was reaching out to distant relatives, and the circumstances of that reunion were pretty miraculuous all by themselves. We kept in touch a little (cards at Christmas, etc), but one fall I started thinking about her a lot. So I decided to call the nursing home where she’d been living for the past few years. They told me that she’d died the year before–in the fall. I had sent a Christmas card, but it had not been returned, so I’d had no idea. I obtained the obituary with more information, and it had been a year. So I was baptized and went throught the temple for her, and then my parents, and my aunt and uncle, and my husband, all of whom had met her, went to the temple together to seal her to her parents and to her husband. My mother said that even if she didn’t accept the work, she would probably be thrilled that we would want her to belong to the family (she had no children), but I think my grandmother and her mother had been working on her and she was more than ready.

  5. Melinda W. says:

    Just the two stories in the comments make me think someone ought to collect genealogy stories. Those are fascinating.

    My own story proves the truth of this statement: [quote]But stories about others’ miracles are not what get people involved in genealogy–success of their own in the research is what usually hooks new genealogists.[/quote]

    I asked family about my own family history, and got a gedcom file of 38,000 names, with most lines researched back to the 1700s and across the ocean. Then I asked about my husband’s family history, and got a gedcom file of 22,000 names. Yeah, I gave up before I even looked at it. With 60,000 people already found, I couldn’t imagine there would be any "success" for me at all. Maybe if I went to Europe and found parish records from the 1600s, but that’s not likely to happen.

    But I’d love to read about someone else’s experiences.

  6. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    I could have sworn that I posted a reply to you, Melinda W., in which I encouraged you to learn the stories of your ancestors. Finding names and dates and places is only part of the work. We all need to get to know those who belong to us, and that’s why genealogy is also called "family history."

    Besides, that daughter I found belonged to a family that everyone believed had already been completed. Just because someone has "done the work" doesn’t mean they found everyone. I do computer genealogy for a few people as a part-time job, and I have a client for whom I found four siblings to his great-grandmother that no one knew about. They had all died while very young, and I stumbled across their names in a cemetery record.

    You may surprise yourself, but even if you don’t find any missing persons in your genealogy, you should still study those names and dates and places, and read their histories. Those stories are part of Mormon literature as well.

  7. This is a fascinating post and blog. I’m always happy to hear other people’s feelings regarding miracles and genealogy. You might be interested to know I have a book on this subject coming out in October.

    The book is titled "True Miracles with Genealogy" and there is a website at and a Facebook Group at!/group.php?gid=120203651362859&ref=ts with many followers already.

    "True Miracles with Genealogy" is full of stories from around the world relating to help received from beyond the veil while searching for ancestors.

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