Today I am happy to share a guest post by John Finlay (my husband). His scriptural analogy explains the roadblocks that prevent people from fully engaging with their family history.
Family history and genealogy is like a beautiful promised land, “flowing with milk and honey.” It is full of delicious “fruits” that we will find as we come to learn about our relatives and ourselves. For many people, getting into Family History is much like the Israelites entering the promised land.
While the Israelites were camped outside the land of Canaan waiting to invade, they sent twelve spies to “see the land, what it is… whether it be good or bad.. and bring of the fruit of the land” (Numbers 13:18-20). These spies explored the land and found that it was bounteous and beautiful. After forty days, they returned and reported that “it flow[ed] with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27) and that it was full of “grapes,… pomegranates, and… figs” (Numbers 13:23). They also reported that “the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great and moreover we saw [giants]” (Numbers 13:28).
The promised land of genealogy is much like the promised land of the Israelites. There are many fruits in the land. There are great-great grandparents waiting to be discovered. There are lines to be connected. There are long lost cousins to meet. There are stories to be shared and memories to be made. However, as you explore the land of genealogy, you will also find the “brick walls” of missing ancestors that seem impossible to discover. You will find the seemingly insurmountable “giants” of unfamiliar things to learn: such as microfilm, proof standards, and an ever-changing technological landscape. You may even find the “giants” of FamilySearch known as “IOUS’s” (individuals of unusual size).
The Israelites responded to their “fruits” and “giants” in different ways. Caleb, one of the Israelite spies, was full of faith and excited to go. He “said, let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). However, the other spies “brought up an evil report of the land… saying… [it] is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants… and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:32-33). They were afraid that the land would chew them up and spit them out. They lacked confidence, seeing themselves as small and insignificant instead of as the warriors they could be. They feared the high walls and the giants that could squish them like grasshoppers.
As we approach the promised land of genealogy, we may enter like the Israelite spies, and explore for a few days. Some of us may respond like Caleb with faith and excitement. While others of us may see the brick “walls” and “giant” family trees and lose confidence and become afraid. For the Israelites, most of them let their fear overcome their faith. They revolted against Moses and the Lord “and they said one to another, let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). The Lord became angry with the people and they were forced instead to turn around and wander in the wilderness for forty years. Many people also turn away from their personal promised land of genealogy. They say, “I don’t have time right now” or “I’ll come back to it in 40 years after I’m retired” or “all of my family work is done.” Like the Israelites, they wander in the wilderness missing out on the “fruits” that they could be enjoying.The Israelites, after their sojourn in the wilderness, returned with faith and conquered the land. The Jordan River was stopped. The giants were beaten and the walls of Jericho “fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20) under the power of God. Obstacle after obstacle was overcome by their faith. They enjoyed the fruits and spoils of the land they conquered.
If we turn our backs on the wilderness and simply get started, we too can live in a promised land of family history. We don’t have to start by scaling large “walls” or walking up to fight the first “giant” we meet. We can start simply by learning about our family history one story, one picture, and one person at a time. As we begin to wade through the waters of our family tree, we will see our Jordan Rivers halt for us. We may feel as we march for days around the most obscure genealogical records that our efforts are wasted. But if we persevere, we will see the walls of our genealogical Jericho’s “[fall] down flat”. We are also not alone in our quest. Our living family members and even our own ancestors, will be there to help us overcome “giants” both in genealogy and in our everyday lives. With faith in the Lord and in his strength, we too can conquer our personal promised land of family history.
[This is a guest post written by John Finlay. John is passionate about using his technological talents to help people leave the wilderness and live in genealogical promised land. His most recent project is Little Family Tree, an app to help parents introduce young children to their Family History.]