According to Wikipedia, “Ancestry.com LLC is a privately-held online company based in Lehi, Utah. The largest for-profit genealogy in the world, it operates a network of genealogical, historical records, and genetic genealogy websites. As of November 2018, the company claimed to provide access to approximately 10 billion historical records, to have 3 million paying subscribers, and to have sold 14 million DNA kits to customers.”
Earlier this year, I took the opportunity to “Explore the world's largest online family history resource – FREE for 14 days.” My husband and I grabbed our family tree information and furiously took advantage of the 14 days during which we could research our family for free. Mind you, we already had extensive records of his family, and we’ve even visited the town in Northern Ireland from which the Sampsons came to America in 1760. We had this information thanks to a determined woman who pursued the Sampson line and wrote a book in 1914 with only the help of conversations with living relatives, visiting courthouses to search records, and corresponding by letter with people across the ocean.
There is something fun and fulfilling about knowing one’s heritage. (Family research was one of those great homeschool projects that I just never got around to pursuing.) It can be fascinating to discover that your relatives and your husband’s relatives lived on the same street decades ago. And history takes on a new significance when you learn your direct ancestors fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and are buried a stone’s throw from your house. As a Reformed Presbyterian, it was also amazing to read that our relatives left their home church in the 1830s over the worship wars taking place regarding organs and hymnals. The worship wars are not new!
Yet, one must consider the drawbacks of this kind of research. I quickly realized that there is no end to the little green leaf “hints” that appear daily on your family tree. One click follows the next – a new census report, a new birth or death certificate, a message from a potential relative. How much time should I spend on this, and where does it end? As a family member said, “Well, we’re all related to Adam.” Exactly! We decided that a two-week trial was good enough for us, because it is better to invest more time in the present than in the past.
And as I reflect upon this service, there are leaf hints that will never, ever be recorded on my family tree. Oh sure, maybe you can find a record of my baptism, but you’ll never find the people who made sure my parent’s baptismal vows were fulfilled. You can find the record of my marriage license, but you’ll never find the names of those who have helped my marriage honor the Lord. You can find all the addresses where I’ve lived, but you'll never find a record of how the Lord worked in my life while I lived there.
No DNA test will ever identify my brothers and sisters in Christ. My DNA might show a strong connection to Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Germany, but the blood of Christ is the true indicator of my ethnicity. While I do have brothers and sisters in Ireland, Scotland, and Germany, I also have them in India, Japan, Australia, China, Singapore, Korea, Malawi, Canada, South Sudan and Mongolia. And at the tree of life, I will meet my relatives from every other tribe and language and people! The leaves on that tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).
So, while you might take some time to look at the past, don’t forget to pour yourself into the lives of those with whom you interact today, especially those of the family of faith (Gal. 6:10).
Remember the words of our Lord when he said,
"'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'" (Matthew 12:48-50).