I was reading my Ensign this month and came to an article called, “Temples, Taproots, and Family Trees” by Rosemary Wixom, the former General Primary President.

Now, I love Rosemary Wixom, and not just because she was a great General Primary President (during the time I served as Primary President twice). I love her because she was my mission mom, otherwise known as my Mission President’s wife. This woman cried with me at our kitchen table in our apartment, supported me as I served as a missionary, and otherwise loved me at times when I was far from my own mother. 

She is an amazing woman. But it is not only because I have a personal relationship with her that I loved this article attributed to her. It is also a really good article. It came from a presentation she gave at RootsTech in 2016, and talked about the importance of not just doing our family history for the sake of recording names and dates but also to know about the people themselves.

Family stories

I’m currently working on a project that imagines and records people’s stories, specifically women and women I’ve known or who have influenced or come before me, so her article really hit home. In the article, Sister Wixom states,

“When my grandchildren see the names of their ancestors on a printed page or on a computer screen, I want them to see more than just a name. I want them to see real people who dealt with many of the same challenges we experience today.”

I think this idea of humanizing the names of our ancestors is so powerful. We share so much with these individuals, not only our names but our DNA, our very genes. We might look like them, act like them, and have the same traits and characteristics. We may very well share similar mental or physical health problems as well.

Mental health history

Sister Wixom addresses this idea. She says, “Would knowing how a grandmother dealt with symptoms of depression help a young mother today with the same symptoms?”

I would answer, “Yes.” It might not solve the problem, but I think it helps to know that we are not alone. It helps to know that we need not feel a stigma when it comes to mental illness. These trials of life become more manageable when we start to see how many others struggle with similar challenges, and especially when we know that our own family members have been there as well.

But how?

Knowing and sharing our stories begins with each one of us. The stories of ancestors long past might very well be lost to us, so it’s up to each one of us to make sure that the stories that remain are preserved and passed down. Sister Wixom gives many ideas on how we can record and share these stories. I feel the importance of asking and recording the memories of grandparents or whoever happens to be the “oldest” in our living family trees. Ask what grandparents or aunts or uncles they remember. Write these stories down.

Don’t be afraid to ask about health conditions, either. It’s my pet project to promote “health” family histories to aid in diagnoses for the current and future generations.

As we share and learn more about our ancestors, we will feel better able to handle the challenges we currently face. Their lives can still bless us today. As Sister Wixom stated,

“How do we make ancestors real? We tell their stories. Too much courage, faith, and real-life challenges went into their lives for us to let their examples dissolve like faded ink on paper.”

Have you done much family history? How has it helped you?