Sunday, January 24, 2016

Family History: Finding Lulu

During the period of time I was nursing my daughter, I got a little sick of surfing Facebook. I found myself craving something more meaningful to spend what amounted to a significant number of hours of my life each day. Eventually, I pulled up the LDS Church's Family Search website on my smart tablet, and started doing family history while my baby ate.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that our ancestors who have died will have the opportunity to chose to accept work we do for them in holy temples. Among that work is baptism, and the sealing of families for eternities, allowing them to remain a family unit even after death.

I'd never taken the name of someone I'd found to the temple before and I wanted to do it. But as I looked, I couldn't find anyone that still needed work. My direct lines seemed filled in, linked generation to generation by temple work done by someone else.

I was okay with just attaching sources for a while, reading the stories, and getting to know my ancestors better. But one day I decided to pray for help. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find the name of someone who needed their work done, someone who wanted their work done.

Not long after, I learned to use the descendants view, which allowed me to research my cousin's lines. I found a unique situation. It appeared that the sister of one of my great, great-something grandfathers had married a widower, John, had one child with him, and then divorced and remarried within less than five years. Her temple work and most of his had been done, but as I looked through the census records, I found a thirteen-year-old girl listed as living with them during the one census record year they were married.

Lulu.

She was recorded as John's daughter and none of her work had been done. Later years of census records listed her living with her aging father, as though she was caring for him. I found her death records, but no spouse or children were listed anywhere. She had never married.

Soon after, I went to the temple to do her baptism. The temple was packed. The wait was long. But as I sat there, I became aware of how long Lulu had been waiting already. I felt as though she was content to wait a few more hours.

I can't explain it, but I knew Lulu was happy. I felt her joy in the very soul of my being.

Baptism was only the first step, and as I went back to do the next part, I continued to feel Lulu's presence. As I sat in the temple listening to the blessings being pronounced on me in behalf of Lulu, I had the impression that something had been unlocked.

Compelled by a strong urgency, I came home and pulled back up Lulu's name. I'd always wondered what happened to her mother and if Lulu had any siblings, but I hadn't been able to find anything concrete, and sort of decided I'd done all I could. That day, I knew finding Lulu wasn't enough. She wanted me to find her family, too.

In one afternoon, I was led from piece to piece, until I found Lulu's mom, Lulu's school teacher sister, Gracie, and her four other siblings, all who died less than a year into their lives. Gracie never married either. There were no descendants, no children who might one day think, I wonder about great grandma so and so. I wonder what happened to her brothers and sisters. My heart went out to each of them, as if they were my own family; as if Lulu, Gracie, and their mother, Emma, were my own grandmothers somehow.

In the time since then, all the temple work for Lulu's immediate family has been done and they've been sealed for time and all eternity. I've found other names that I've taken to the temple, but she and her family have special meaning. Lulu is forever connected to me in my heart and mind.

From Lulu, I learned that everything happens for a reason. Maybe, as thirteen-year-old girl, her father remarrying was hard. When the marriage ended so soon, maybe she wondered why she had to go through it at all. But there, on that one census record was her name, over a hundred years later, leading me to her.

I learned from Lulu and her family that God cares about each of his children. Each. One. He knows them. He remembers them. And he has a plan to reach them all. Not one is lost to him.

"Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful
The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. 
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
-Psalms 116:5-8,15

If Lulu is not lost, if her mother can be found, if God can lead me to Gracie, who was living with an aunt with a totally different last name in a different state the year John and Lulu were living with his new wife, then God can find me.

God knows me, no matter where I am. God knows you, no matter where you are.

And finding Lulu taught me that.


If you are interested in learning more about family history or temple work, check out these links: