Each individual is important. This work is important.
When Anne Leishman, of Bountiful, Utah, was a teenager, she was “a very shy, awkward girl,” she says. “One day I was having dinner at grandmother’s house, and she let me borrow a journal of my great-great-grandmother, Thea Waagen. She became one of my heroes.
“Thea was born in Minnesota to Norwegian immigrant parents. Her father died before she was born. She was raised by a minister until her mother remarried. Thea had long, curly, blonde hair like mine. The minister would take her out to pick strawberries, and she would eat them all before she got home.”
Getting to know her great-great-mother sparked an interest in family history that changed Anne’s life.
“When I came to BYU, I found the family history major. I knew immediately that was what I was supposed to do,” she says. “It has opened up so many doors for me to connect with people. Family is the most important thing. With family you can find strength to make it through hard times. I think that’s incredible.”
Anne graduated with a degree in family history and genealogy in 2015, the same year she got to teach at Rootstech, the LDS Church’s big genealogy technology conference in Salt Lake City.
“They asked me to do one of the filmed classes—it was a beginner research class on basic methodology,” Anne says. “So I taught 800 people, and the class was live-streamed to at least 10,000 people. That was really incredible for me to see how I went from someone who was so quiet growing up to being someone who had a voice and could share goodness and such an important part of the Lord's work. Even though it's something small, and I doubt it changed anyone's life in a drastic way, I realized I can make a difference.”
Anne also made a difference at BYU’s new myFamily History Youth Camp, held the last week of July in conjunction with the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy. In addition to she serving as head dorm counselor, she helped to plan the camp and its classes and activities, including a field trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. She also taught some of the classes.
“I hope the youth left with a fantastic understanding and the resources they need to be good family history consultants in their home wards,” she says. “A lot of them are already family history consultants. There are 15 boys; the rest [about 57] are girls. Almost all of them are from outside of Utah.”
Anne loves teaching and the youth, and is planning to go to graduate school to study curriculum development and instructional design. She wants to develop curricula for junior high and high school that will tie family history and genealogy into a regular history class.
“ Family history brings history alive in a way a textbook can’t,” she says. “During one of my BYU classes I was studying a pioneer family. I was trying to track one of the daughters, Edith, for probably two months, and was running out of places to find her. Finally one day I discovered a letter that had been transcribed by a descendant. This descendant said she found a velvet-lined box in her attic with two patriarchal blessings in it. On the back of one blessing, the woman's husband had written this note: “Sarah Lucinda Grundy was born August 8, 1846. Edith Grundy died September 7, 1846, at the age of 19 years and eight months and twenty-five days. This is my request, if I shall not live to do the work. I want some friend to do it for me. I want Edith sealed to me for all eternity and all the blessings of the priesthood conferred upon us, by some friend. This I ask of a friend. I shall keep the commandments of God. Isaac Grundy.”
To me that was so incredible. I had spent all this time searching for this woman, and I finally found my answer. She did get married and had a child. They both died at Winter Quarters. Each individual is important. This work is important.”