Last night, I went with my family to “A Celebration of Family History” in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City. I’ve been to many, many events in the Conference Center and this one ranks up there as one of my absolute favorites.
The two-hour event included films on family history research experiences, a talk by President Henry B. Eyring, music by the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the keynote address by author and historian David McCullough.
Throughout the entire evening, you could definitely feel the special feeling of excitement that comes with family history research. As it says in the last verse of the Old Testament of the prophet Elijah, “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6). That is the most wonderful part about family history research. You can literally feel your heart turning towards your ancestors as you search for who they were and what they were like. I’m sure all of the genealogists in that assembly hall last night could relate to that feeling!
David McCullough is a phenomenal speaker. I found it particularly interesting to listen to his experiences as both a researcher and author. He explained that he always chooses to write about things that he knows nothing about (initially). He loves researching and considers it like detective work to find out the minuscule details that makes historical figures really what they were. He spoke about his early years as a writer and gave details about his first book on the Johnstown Flood. He wrote this book back in the 1960s when he was an editor at a publishing house in Manhattan. He explained that he knew nothing about historical research back then (hard to believe that now!!) and learned “on-the-job” as he researched the topic at the 42nd Street Public library during his lunch breaks. He also spoke of his work on John Adams and how he feels that he got to know him personally as he read his diaries, letters, and other writings. Finally, he also spoke about his work on two new books: one on Charles Sumner and the other on Elihu Washburne. Both men wrote very detailed diaries and he has been able to glean incredible amounts of information about their lives and times by reading them.
One common thread of both his talk and President Eyring’s talk was the importance of journal writing as a way to record history. That is definitely something I want to improve upon in my own life. I go through stages where I’m very diligent in writing in my journal, and then I slack. I need to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t need to be a lengthy entry–if I just write a short paragraph every day that will suffice.
I have always had a special place in my heart for family history research and now after attending this event, I am energized more than ever to push forward with my endeavors. I even have some ideas for articles, activities, etc. that I’d like to write on the subject to help encourage other people to embark on their genealogical quests as well.
Now, off I must go to both research & write. Many thanks to the folks who put on last night’s inspirational event! 🙂