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Hi I'm Heather

I loved history in school, so it was a natural thing for me to become a genealogist. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

Like many Americans, my ancestors came from many countries-Scotland, Sweden, England, Canada, Hessen, Switzerland, Flanders, Austria, and more. I have many interests, but my family-those who came before me and my children and their descendants-mean everything to me. My ancestors are part of who I am. I was born in a Mennonite colony, for example, and those beliefs are part of my personal philosophy and outlook on life. My Swedish great-grandparents bequeathed strength and solidarity and a concern for one's community to our family. My Scots ancestors' Highland courage helped them persevere through hard, lonely, early years in Quebec. I preserve their stories for my children and grandchildren because if we forget where we have been it is hard to know where we should be going. Something of our ancestors lives in our hearts. Understanding that something gives us a deep and satisfying sense of identity as we live out our own lives.

Why I am a Mormon

When the missionaries taught my parents and me things I had learned in Sunday School suddenly began to make sense. Bible stories had been just nice fables before, but now they acquired deep spiritual meaning. God had been a distant being I could never comprehend, but now I knew who He truly is. Christ's atonement took on personal meaning. I understood why it is necessary to obey God's laws and bring my life into conformity with His plan for me. Dos and don'ts became sacred obligations, not just convenient traditions. The Word of Wisdom was especially important to me. It made so much sense. Abstaining from harmful substances turned our family's life around. I wished that our entire extended family could loose themselves from their addictions to alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. My health took a turn for the better when my parents quit smoking, and we were all happier without liquor and coffee in our home. When we joined the church our friends and neighbors turned against us. Their sullen suspicion was a marked contrast to the warmth and acceptance our family found in the little congregation we had been baptized into. Even though I had much to learn and unlearn before I could be called a real Mormon, my new friends and teachers in the church kindly overlooked my failings and gently helped me develop better habits. This tolerance and patience only reaffirmed that I had found my eternal home. The Book of Mormon held so many treasures for my curious child's mind. It made clear the role of Jesus Christ. It opened up the Old Testament and laid bare the meaning of the words of ancient prophets. The Book of Mormon made so much sense. There was simply no doubting it. Everything in it fit together with what the Old and New Testaments say about Christ. Reading it along with the Bible was like putting puzzle pieces together to create a beautiful picture. It answered so many questions.

How I live my faith

As a child I had little patience or interest in younger children. My callings in the church help me realize how delightful and precious children are. As I teach classes of little ones they are constantly teaching me and softening my heart. My interest in genealogy enables me to help many people inside and outside the church. I belong to genealogical societies and teach classes in all levels of research. I help staff a local family history center and am writing articles and a book on family history. Attending conferences and webinars helps me keep up with the fast pace of Internet genealogy, which in turn allows me to help others who are still learning to use computers. Many genealogists are older adults who have yet to master computers. When I help seniors learn how to use email or create an Internet family history it opens up a new world to them. Suddenly they can email or even socially network their grandchildren, share photos, and other wonderful things. My calling as an indexer means I spend many hours each month dissecting old records and organizing their information into searchable databases which our church uploads to FamilySearch.org so that researchers the world over can access these records for free. When I studied languages in school I never dreamed I would use those skills to help create vast Internet resources. Having been a shoe leather and stubby pencil genealogist for decades before the advent of the Internet I can appreciate what a savings in time and money it is for people to do genealogical research online. Research that used to consume years and thousands of dollars can now be done for free at home in minutes. Having 2 sons in Afghanistan makes me very sensitive to world issues. I pray, as our prophet asks us, for the world to become a better place. I care deeply about local issues and participate accordingly in initiatives and elections in my community. My genealogical research gives me a perspective on history I share with others.

Can you tell me about Mormon customs: how you dress for church, what holidays you celebrate, etc.?

Everywhere I've lived members attend church in clean, modest clothing that shows respect for our Father in Heaven and for one another. When somebody asked my young daughter why women wear dresses to our meetings she answered, "Because we are all princesses"-or daughters of Father in Heaven. We dress nicely because we want to be nice people-not showing off or "clothes make the man" type folks, just people who care about ourselves and others. Members wear modest apparel of their own culture. I love to see Tongan sisters in beautiful flowered dresses, women from Nigeria or Ghana in lovely headdresses and robes, and German women who wear their Trachten. Holidays are the same-the church encourages members to celebrate those holidays and customs in keeping with the gospel of Jesus Christ, who loves all people and their varying ways of honoring Him. We make dishes native to our family's ancestry at Christmas and Easter, but we also fry Mennonite crullers and funnel cakes for other occasions like the 4th of July. I love the reflective nature of Hanukkah amidst the clamor of Christmas and light candles to remind me of the ancient temple. We often have family celebrations when our babies are given their names and when children are baptized at 8 years-reunions and family parties. Sunday is a holy day. We refrain from worldly things, keep meals simple, spend time serving others and studying the gospel. We arrange our lives to allow others the same privilege. Show more Show less