Developing a Love for Family History

Family History Work

Three generations of family history buffs started with a father’s love for history. 

“Once you get started you can't stop. You just keep going and going!” are the words Memory Smith used to describe her efforts of contributing more than 15,000 of her ancestors' names to FamilySearch.

78-year-old Memory Smith grew up in Pretoria, northeast of Johannesburg, South Africa, where, during her childhood, she saw her father collecting his ancestors’ information, and ‘Afrikana’ antiques.

Memory’s father was approached by the Town Council of Potgietersrus to exhibit his cultural artefacts from the Voortrekker and Basotho people, at an old school building that had been turned into a museum. The Arend Dieperink Museum, which was named after Memory’s father, also housed a compilation of his photographs and ancestry.

Unbeknown to Memory’s father, he had teased his daughter into a significant and lifelong interest in compiling a family history.

Almost 16,000 ancestors’ names later, the mother of three, grandmother of  six, and great-grandmother of two is still as excited as can be about doing more family history work.

Bearing her witness to the truthfulness of Family History, Smith spoke candidly about some of her personal experiences and family stories.

“I have had several sacred experiences, the most significant being how common the date 17 February was. It was on 17 February that my father was baptized in 1932, that my son was born in 1963, and that my father passed away in 1986,”

Memory started her research in 1985, when notebooks, pages of pedigree charts, and group records were the conventional record-keeping method.

While patience is one of the keys to success, Memory attests patience is one of the keys to success in all avenues of life, and most especially in Family History.

“I had been struggling to get my maternal grandfather’s records for years. And it was only after 10 years of thorough research and hard work that I could add his records to FamilySearch,” she revealed.

Memory also said her love and knowledge of her ancestors deepened as she spent time researching them.

Despite having submitted over 15,000 of her ancestors' names, Memory still feels she has a long way to go and encourages those who haven’t started, to get going.

“Start by writing down information about your present family and work your way back to your grandparents and their children and then move on to your great grandparents and their children and so forth,” she said. “Ask family members for the names of those who have passed, where they lived, and their birth and death date.”

Memory currently spends hours adding information from notebooks, pages of pedigree charts, and group records onto FamilySearch.

Having laid a firm groundwork, her children Stephen James Smith, Louise Smith, and Lizanne Ellis, are keeping the family history ball rolling. Stephen is a Ward and Family History Leader in Cape Town, Louise is a Ward Historian in Centurion, Pretoria, and Lizanne Is a Ward Temple and Family History Consultant in Auckland, New Zealand.

Memory went on to articulate how accessible Family History has become.

“It’s now at the tip of our fingers. Whether on cell phones or computers, it’s an invaluable blessing from our Heavenly Father. The gathering is indeed in progress, as we have been encouraged more recently by President Russell M. Nelson,” she concluded.

Family history is discovering, gathering, and preserving information and stories about family members who passed on, as well as taking their names to the temple to perform saving ordinances.

FamilySearch is a free service available to everyone regardless of their tradition, culture, or religious affiliation. can be accessed on the website and mobile app.