Experience helps, but it's not always necessary
You don’t have to be experienced to have amazing experiences in family history research. RayDean Hill, who taught classes on pedigree analysis and Scottish church records at the 2013 BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference, shared the following:
“I’d grown up knowing all my grandparents. When the first of my four grandparents died, it was my grandmother on my mom’s side. I was very pregnant with my third child. It broke my heart that this child that I was about to give birth to would never know the grandma that I had loved so much. So that’s how I got started in family history. I figured I needed to preserve her memory for my children. So I just started working in PAF 2.31, wishing that somehow they could get the family history catalog available on my computer. Then they came out with the CD, and now it’s online.
“Alfred Ingham was the first ancestor that I had done any significant research on. Turns out that he had not been sealed to his wife. I was able to search and find their marriage records. We were able to take them to the temple on their wedding date, their anniversary.
“In preparation for that, that morning as I was praying I found myself saying, ‘I would love to see Grandma Margaret—Grandma Margaret Dawe.’ It just kind of caught me off guard, and I thought, ‘I don’t need to ask for that—why would I ask for that?’ And I prayed for it again, and it just really surprised me—because I felt like I was seeking for signs, or whatever.
“So we were going to the temple with my aunt, and she said, ‘Oh, look what I just barely got from my aunt!’ Her great-aunt had sent her a family book, and there were all sorts of stories and things about this family in the book.
“As I flipped through the pages, I turned a page and there was a picture of Alfred and Margaret. And so I got to see her, right before we went in to have them sealed on their anniversary. That was the first temple work that I had ever prepared the names for and did the work for.”
Also early in her research, RayDean was looking for the Dean family in Hyde, Cheshire, England, before the censuses became available online.
“I was looking for this family in the census. The enumerators wrote down the 1841 census information using pencil on light blue paper, so it didn’t microfilm very well at all. On the microfilm copies, most of the pages looked blank. But every once in a while you’d see a little shadow of a name, or a little shadow of some kind of information that was written down, and I thought, ‘Maybe they’re one of these little shadow names, so I’ve got to look. I’ve got to check everywhere I might, just in case.’
“So I was scrolling through and scrolling through, looking at blank pages go by, and really getting quite bored. And pretty soon I needed to get home to my family. I wanted to see approximately how much of the census was left, how much I needed to search through. So I scrolled through some, stopped, and it wasn’t the end of Hyde, so I scrolled through a little bit more and stopped—and there on the page, clear as a bell, was my family that I was looking for. Most of the pages had been blank, but there they were.”
She explained, “Now that the records are being digitized, they are able to use different kinds of lighting to help that writing show up. So now they have the 1841 census available digitally, and they’re as legible as any of the others.”