Friday, June 13, 2014

Serendipity in Genealogy: The Name Was Plainly Displayed

imageThe Extraction Program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the forerunner to today’s FamilySearch Indexing. Thirty years ago an indexer (extractor) in Camp Verde, Arizona was working on christenings in a 500 year old Spanish parish record. In those days indexers worked from microfilm, using readers located in Church buildings and family history centers.

The indexer came across one particular name that was impossible to read. The date, February nineteenth, had been easy to read. The father and mother took more careful scrutiny. But the name of the child eluded the most careful examination. “The page was faded and yellowed, and jagged, uneven holes punctuated the spidery script.”

After the indexer went home for the night, she prayed for help. The following day the indexer was disappointed to find the name no more legible than the day before. Yet she returned to it throughout her indexing session, each time with no success. Having decided to give up after one last try, the indexer turned the microfilm to the page.

“As she turned the microfilm knob, the name almost leapt off the page. She stared unbelieving at the clearly formed letters.” She called aloud and several nearby indexers, aware of the issue, came and saw the name: Elena Gallegos.

When it came time to double check her work, she returned again to the page. Once again the name had dissolved into illegibility.

That is what we call “Serendipity in Genealogy.”


Rodriguez, Derin Head. “More Than Names.” Ensign, January 1987, 12-7.


  1. Great story! I have often asked for help from above, but haven't received any answers.

  2. On they have a new feature, help others with their research/explanations. Well last night I picked one entry at random and though I would try and help the person however I could. After some probing and digging I was able to help this researcher find what she had been looking for and break open her family research after years of fruitless searching. Sometimes it's not about OUR family tree, it's helping other researchers find their roots. Like the person said 'pay it forward'~~you'll never know when it will help or come back around to help you


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