An Accidental Family History Ninja

FH Ninja


Before we talk about Ninjas, a few notes:

1) Many thanks to Elder Quentin Cook for the shout-out last week. During his closing address at Women’s Conference at BYU, he specifically mentioned my blog post, “I’m Sorry Elijah, But I Really Need to Get Some Sleep.”  It was a proudly humble moment.  Also, it was fun knowing that a bunch of my most attractive readers were busy messaging me on Facebook to tell me about it while Elder Cook was speaking to them. That is loyalty.

2) Thanks to the folks at FamilySearch who linked to the same article on their Facebook page. There are some really wonderful people busily doing the work of salvation over there. (Even though some of them are goofy. Ahem, Chris, Rob.)

3) I am aware that 5 of my last 6 posts have now been about Family History, but I promise that this is not evolving into a Family History blog. I will return to my normal inconsistent prattle after this post, but I will revisit the topic from time to time because it is important, and now a part of my life. I also appreciate the new friends that have come on board recently, and the many kind comments and the much sharing of my posts that has gone on.

4) Get ready for an exciting announcement on Friday morning! You are gonna love it!

Now, back to Accidental Family History Ninja.

Why “Accidental?”

I didn’t mean to get heavy into Family History, let alone be a spokesman for the cause. I was merely trying to find some names so I could take my kids to the temple to do some baptisms. That, and a side of obedience. It was not part of a big plan to become a serious genealogist.

It was a happy accident. Every step in the process, from discovery to ordinance has been a wonderful new adventure.

Why a Ninja?

My research has been done with ruthless efficiency under the cover of darkness. Late at night, while the family is sleeping nearby, I silently enter the FH world, and work to dispatch souls from prison…

Too dramatic?

I know there are lots of people who actually know what they are doing, and have made it a lifetime quest to acquire remarkable genealogical skills, and further the work. I applaud them – but I am not that guy. Between family, work, church, and other commitments, I do not have the time to work on this stuff as much as I would like. I plan on using some of the time I normally waste on Facebook, or watching TV, and finding time on long Sunday afternoons to continue my work, but life prohibits me from doing it as much as I would like.

I am more of a hit-and-run genealogist.

To help wrap up this two-week flurry of learning, I want to share a few thoughts about the Family History process.

1) Indexing. Some dear soul who indexed a marriage certificate broke the logjam that freed up my ancestors. Even those who have the good fortune of having completed lines can always do indexing. No one can honestly say their work is “all done,” because they can always do something. Indexing is also great if you only have a few minutes here and there. To do it, go here:

2)  Yes, I sprung for $20 to log into It helped, at a very cost-effective rate of $1.10 per soul (so far). Not a bad return for something so valuable.  Rumor has it that LDS folks will begin getting free access to Ancestry, and some of the larger sites later this summer. I’ll keep you posted. (

3) The Online Generation. It turns out I had already acquired some skills that proved to be very valuable in collecting FH data. Anyone who has spent a lot of time on a computer, and online, automatically has an advantage in this work. Why? Searching. If you are a master at finding what you need on Google, or another search engine, this stuff is already second nature. Also, the ability to juggle multiple browser pages and tabs makes it much more efficient. If you don’t know the technology, learn it. If you already know it, you will find this all remarkably easy.

I completely understand the Brethren’s call for our youth to get involved in the work – they were born into this technology, and already have the tools.

“It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.” (Elder David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn.”)

Last week I had a friend searching for a missing ancestor. Using nothing but Google, I was able to find his ancestor’s maiden name, as well as names of her parents and siblings.  Where? I found an old obituary from a newspaper in Texas. With that information, he was off to the races. By the next day, he was back to the 1700s. Ninja skills? Possibly. Knowing how to give Google a good workout? Probably.

4) Family Search. You know, it really is wonderful. From starting your tree to printing name submittals for the temple, it is smooth and remarkably intuitive. The changes they have made over the years have improved on it so much. Props to the people behind the tech. I especially love the “Possible Duplicates” search feature to help clean up duplicate records. It was been smooth as silk. The only “glitches” I seem to have are crashed with Safari, so I use Google Chrome.

5) The Spirit of Elijah. It is very real. In this short period of time I have felt it impacting my simple efforts. Twice last week I woke up in the morning with ideas of how to solve a logjam that immediately paid off. It is intensely spiritual, and intensely personal, as I mentioned in my post last Sunday, “It All Became Real.”

There you go – some insight from a FH newbie, inviting you to get on board. Even if it is Ninja-style in the dark of night, or 15 minutes of indexing while the baby takes a nap.

We can all do something, and the payoff is priceless.

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18:16)

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Check in Friday for a special announcement!

About the author


  1. Thank you! It’s amazing how helpful it is when you share just a little bit of hints and tips . . . and I know that if you can do it . . . anyone can 🙂 Kidding . . . kidding . . . But it always appears to be a difficult subject to break into. And now, I just may have to quote you, quoting Elder Bednar.


  2. I think the spirit of Elijah has struck the whole world. You see it every day in people around you who are interested in where they came from. I never used to see that in others. Now it’s so common. Even on television. Very cool.

  3. There are new FABULOUS features on FamSearch Family Tree: The QUICK ATTACH (attach one source to multiple people in a jiffy), and the INTERACTIVE printable Family Group Record and Pedigree Chart (printing doesn’t work too well using Firefox, though….you gotta figure it out.) And, more Features are on the way!

  4. It is true. The roll out for the free partner family history sites has begun. The invitation will arrive in your email account. Each invitation can be used ONCE and only for YOU…no cheaters….somehow the system knows if you are using your invitation or your neighbor’s who was so kind to share. Each person will need their own email account…meaning there will be no shared accounts to make this freebie work, per request of the partner sites. Invites are rolling out as the partner sites can accommodate user traffic…about 10,000 per week. And, be nice if you are having trouble registering and need to call Support. If you at ANY time used a free week or two in any of the sites, they consider you as a person who had an account with them at one time…be aware of that and check the right box! Enjoy!

  5. Thank you for this post. I’ve been doing family history work on and off for about 12 years, but because of very active genealogists on both sides of my family, mine and my husband’s, my work so far has been creating family histories and verifying that temple work has been done through the IGI. I love it, and I will continue doing so, but I haven’t yet found a name to take to the temple. I’m overjoyed that so much has been done, but there’s always a part of me that feels a little guilty that on a scale of good, better, best, the focal point is the temple and families for eternity and I know there are names out there I just haven’t found yet. Anyway, reading your post, I remembered that when I first started, I borrowed my grandmother’s physical records from a lifetime of work, transcribed them all into PAF, and uploaded the file to Family Search. It gives me a lot of hope to realize that perhaps someone has been able to use that information in their own search, or even that with the new Family Search system verifying temple ordinances will be so much more streamlined and perhaps the time will come I’ll find a name as well.

  6. Your research has been done with ruthless efficiency? How about surprise? Surprise and fear? Fear and surprise? and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope? No…maybe not that last one…

      1. Either way, it’s been done with profound finesse, I’m guessing. You should probably include it on a job application.
        Hey, good job, on the FH! My dad was so into it before he died, I have a 12 generation chart with very few holes in it. Your children will thank you!

  7. I feel I am technologically smart and am having trouble finding simple information just two generations old! However, in the process we did find out an uncle for my husband, that he knew, passed away a few years ago and I can input his information. We also found out this uncle had a sister that had passed away very young, that my EC didn’t know existed. But I am working tirelessly so that my children will have names to take on their trip in June. My one son, it’ll be his first! It would be so awesome. Thank you for your endeavors, as it has encouraged mine!

  8. The bug has bitten you and there is no cure! Just have to do it! There are a lot of ancestors out there for us to find. I am now doing “descendency” research and and finding hundreds of souls that are descendants of my ancestors. If you research only your direct line for 7 generations you end up with 127 people. If you chose one of the 32 couples in that 7th generation and assume each couple after that had 4 children (most had more than that), then there will be more that 10,000 descendants! But we have to do whatever we can in each of our “seasons”.

  9. My FH work is clearly going to be a work of filling in gaps and illustrating the whole person with journal entries, interviews, photos and life histories. I hope my grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to click on my name and those of my parents and grandparents and others and get a complete picture of who we all are/were. They’ll see not just names but people with lives, struggles, triumphs, questions and faith.

  10. I am a FH consultant and got my free AND and just last week, and got refunded my annual $299 some odd cents ancestry fee because it just renewed. Yayyyyyy! We don’t get fold3 free at home, but if you get free, you might want to consider fold3 if you can’t get into your local FHC to get it free. It’s worth it. So anyway, I got off track (normal for me) but and more are coming your way soon. Doing a grandma happy dance!

    1. Already on twitter @MMormonMan. You know Twitter has lost it’s cool factor when we are excited that 85 year-olds are using it!

  11. Thanks to your post, I looked at a stack of little pink and blue slips that I thought were complete and found out that 5 names still need work done. Thanks for the prodding!

  12. Your comments today make me feel so much better. I get frustrated with research and my lines are all “complete” but I have done a little indexing for several years now and I try to keep current on family dates and events of the living. Thanks for helping me feel I do contribute a little to this great cause.

    1. There are always inaccuracies, and family stories to fish for.

      You can also do reverse genealogy, which is searching out living distant relatives. You can branch down from brothers and sisters, in-laws, siblings of in-laws, etc. in your line and find living relatives who may be searching for information you have. It is amazing how many connections you can make, and how many people you can help, or can help you.

  13. Glad I’m not the only person who learned Safari was NOT the way to go. So obnoxious!!

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