Friday, April 15, 2016

Serendipity: Big on Genealogy

Cover of the History of Davis County, IowaMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—Mormons—are known to be “big on genealogy.” So when a Florida family had to dispose of their deceased parent’s genealogy books, they naturally thought of the Mormon neighbor. However, not all Mormons are “big on genealogy.” So the neighbor hauled the small stack of books in to the local FamilySearch Family History Center at a Church meetinghouse. Kirk Lovenbury, thanked the woman, and then set the books aside while he continued working on another project.

About an hour later another woman showed up. She had never been to one of the Church’s meetinghouses before, but thought the Mormons might be able to help her with her genealogy. She outlined her ancestry back to a rural Iowa county where her research was stuck. As she spoke, Kirk kept saying to himself, “Where have I heard that name before?” Then it hit him: the new stack of books.

The fourth book down was a history of the visitor’s Iowa county. It not only gave information about her ancestors, but it outlined their ancestors back to colonial times.

You have to understand that most FamilySearch Family History Centers have very small book collections. Even more rare is a Florida center with books about small Iowa counties. Even rarer still is a woman coming to a center an hour after the book she needs in particular has been donated to the center.

“A miracle had taken place right there in front of me,” Kirk says.

We call that, Serendipity in Genealogy.


Used with Kirk’s permission. First published in Kirk P. Lovenbury, “Family History Moments,” LDS Church News (28 November 2015); online publication ( : accessed 4 March 2016).


  1. My biggest Serendipity in Genealogy was finding my Revolutionary War patriot's tombstone in the dirt cellar of the house of one of his grandson's...4 counties away from where he was buried! I had been unable to find his grave, even after finding a church history that said where it should be. The house is Civil War era, went on the market, I became obsessed with it, and when I figured out I couldn't buy it, made an appointment with the realtor to get inside to take pictures. The realtor forgot the appointment, didn't show, and the 3rd time walking around the outside of the house and passing the cellar doors a little voice in my head said "try one of the doors". I did, it opened, and the tombstone was lying on the dirt at the bottom of the steps! It was in 2 pieces with a large hole in the middle. I carefully dusted the red dirt off, found other flaking pieces, assembled it and realized what I had. I went home, called the realtor (this was in the 90's before everyone had a cell phone) told him what I'd found (he knew it was there), told him I wanted it (he got permission from the family who had NO idea how it got there) and a few days later I was loading it up in our van. This made me do more research on the church where he should have been buried, and I discovered that the church got permission to "remove" the old cemetery to build an educational wing in the early 1960's. I still don't know how his tombstone ended up where it did, but if I didn't "just happen" to take my mother past the house to show it to her on a Saturday drive, to find out that it "just happened" to be empty and for sale, I never would have found that stone.

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    1. Dear Unknown,
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