The generations on either side of me link me to my past and my future. My view of family history involves revealing the roots and the branches.

Throughout this blog you will find perspectives related to the doctrines of temple and family history work from revealed revelation given to living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS - Mormon).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Get What You Focus On

This post is part of a blog link up - check out the other contributor posts here:

Family history is part of my daily life; just like brushing my teeth. As I thought about how that came to be, I realized that "you get what you focus on". Which lead me to think of this photo above. This was at the finish line of my 10th half marathon in just 3 years! I walked all of them! And apparently did the last 4 of them with a broken metatarsal; which then has became my excuse for the past 4 years. I started racing when my daughter was 3 years old and my son was 3 months old and I was working full-time. I was a very busy parent.

During the time I was walking races, I prioritized my time for a weekly two hour group class, daily/nightly walks, and long weekend group walks.  In the weeks leading up to the first race each Spring/Summer the intensity and the duration of the walks increased. As I've been healing from breaking and re-breaking my foot that last year of racing, I've thought about how I ever had the time to do all that walking. While healing, other things have filled in that time and walking races was no longer a priority. And that brings me back to this month's topic.

Tip 1: If something is important to you, you have to make it a priority in your life and in your schedule. 
If family history is important to you, then prioritize your time now to include it in your daily/weekly life.

Sometimes it is not about wanting to make it a priority, but about being overwhelmed by all there is to potentially do with family history. Are you overwhelmed by new technology, DNA options, processes to learn, the vast number of ancestors to research or cousins to discover? Is there too much to share with descendants that you don't know where to start? Too may reunions or family gatherings to plan or attend? Are you awake around the clock trying to figure it all out?

Tip 2: Get it all out! Make a "To Do" list or what I like to call a "Brain Dump".

Write it all down. All the ideas of things you'd like to do with family history. Things which have interested you or things you feel you just need to do. Write down what YOU want to do. My first list was 5 pages long! I had items that could be done in 5 minutes and other items that would take years to accomplish.

Tip 3: Organize your list and start ONE thing.

Some ways to organize/categorize your list could include:

  • High, Medium, Low priorities
  • Past, Present, Future
  • People: Deceased or Living
  • Memories: Photos, Stories, Documents, Audio, Video
  • Family Events: Reunions, Birthdays, Anniversaries
  • Education: Technology, Topics, Conferences

I find that if all my thoughts are written down and organized I can then prioritize my time to work on just one "To Do". And then when it is done I move on to something else. This way I am not overwhelmed by everything and I am able to accomplish something.

“We should understand that in the work of redeeming the dead there are many tasks to be performed, and that all members should participate by prayerfully selecting those ways that fit their personal circumstances at a particular time. This should be done under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord … Our effort is not to compel everyone to do everything, but to encourage everyone to do something.”
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Family History: ‘In Wisdom and in Order’”, Ensign, June 1989.

As I thought more on this topic, I realized that I know other busy parents who have also prioritized time for family history and temple work. I asked two of them, who are examples to me, to share their tips and ideas on what they do to make it work for them.

Sarah Poe is my younger sister and she has 3 little boys under the age of 4. Here are Sarah's tips:

  • Start with yourself. Save photos, documents and keepsakes about yourself, spouse and kids. Keep a journal for your posterity. Don't we all wish we had more journals of our ancestors?
  • Tell family stories to your kids. I remember how impressed I was when one time a group of us were sleeping out on the trampoline and Seth (our brother) told us (his and Jenny's (our sister) kids and me) about Llewellyn Harris (our 3rd great-grandfather) as we fell asleep.
  • Randomly record your memories of your life or ancestor's lives (or any family member) as you recall them. Some people keep paper, pen and a jar handy, or what I do is write memories to a blog. I use a blog, so that I can tag and organize the posts later and I keep it private, just for my use. I like the feature that allows me to "email a post" to the blog, so I use my phone and quickly "text to the blog email address" when I remember something. is good for that too. They act as memory collection repositories.
  • Prioritize your online time. If you are busy parent, but find you have a chance to get online, use it to scroll through potential records of your ancestors instead of scrolling through social media posts.
  • When you do have time to research your ancestor online, keep a research log (simple spreadsheet or notebook) so you don't retrace your research tracks, in other words, you don't want to do the same research each time because you forgot you already did it. If you only have a chance to research every once in awhile, you don't want to waste time repeating work.
  • Get a babysitter and go on a date to the local Family History Center with your spouse. Or take turns with your spouse watching the kids so your spouse can have a break to do a little family history research.
  • For members of the LDS Church - Never be too busy that you can't go to the temple regularly to perform proxy work for your deceased ancestors.
  • This is one I don't actually do, but I need to do better. Get adequate sleep and don't stay up late working on your family history. If you are well rested you will be healthy and better able to "be there" for your family now and in the future. If you stay up late researching, your brain slows down and you don't work efficiently, so you're actually wasting time. For nursing mothers, getting online in the middle of the night during nursing sessions is a perk!
  • Turn on a movie for your kids every now and then and use that time to research family history.
  • Take your kids to the cemetery with you as you look for headstones for your own research or for FindAGrave. Just be prepared to replace the pinwheels that your children will inevitably pull out of the ground.

Julie Judd is my 3rd cousin and she has 4 now young adult children. Here are Julie's tips:

"Begin with the end in mind." - Stephen Covey
There is no right or wrong end.

  • If the end is to upload family photos in your possession into FamilySearch, take a few minutes every Sunday to scan (as easy as a scanner app) or upload photos into your phone's camera roll. Then they are there waiting throughout the week when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or an appointment to be uploaded into FamilySearch Memories.
  • If the end is to write your personal history, take advantage of implementing the FamilySearch Questions #52Stories into family night. Everyone writes for 5-10 minutes answering the question ... a quick paragraph. In one year, everyone has written 52 paragraphs!
  • If the end is to research an ancestor. Use those moments you find during the day to complete quick Google searches. If you think you don't have a few moments, ask yourself how many times a day you check Facebook, Instagram, etc. Replace one of those times with a Google search. A screenshot of information discovered puts the information in your phone's camera roll to be accessed when you have another moment to add it to FamilySearch.
  • If your end is indexing, slip 10 minutes (or a set number of records) of indexing into your scripture study. When you are finished studying, then index.
  • Utilize Sundays. Spend a little time Sunday setting up your family history project for the rest of the week while you are on the go!
  • I wrote my great grandfather's history (32 pages) using Dropbox to access information when I was away from home and writing it in Notes on my phone. On Sundays, I would take what I had written and add it to the document on my computer.
  • Favorite Apps for Family History
    • Storage and access of docs away from home: Dropbox
    • Scanner: ScannerPro
    • Photo Journaling: Instagram, Collect, Project Life, Chatbooks
      • The Collect app is like a journal. You add a photo and journal it. I love it! I add all my photos for the week on Sunday. You then export cards, which I add those to my Project Life. Keeps my "scrapbooking" of everyday moments up to date in a simple way!
  • With older kids we don't have FHE (Family Home Evening) ... in a traditional sense. We have Family History Evening! Rule: 1 hour at the table doing anything you want that is family history related. This includes journaling the week. We have snacks and visit and make it fun.

I love their tips and ideas! I want to try some of their suggestions. Because family history is important to us, we have found ways to prioritize time for it in our busy days/weeks. I know you too can create time for family history and temple work. It will bless you and your children in untold ways.



  1. You get what you focus on! Well said. It looks like you have some awesome examples in your family members, Amy. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  2. Thank you! I love your walking story!

  3. Wow! You gave us a three-in-one post. There are so many wonderful ideas here.


  4. Excellent post. I am not LDS. My family history is more than a hobby, it is a legacy for those generations behind me. Enjoy your blog.