Watching “Bones” and Family History Indexing

As I went through indexing 80 names from the 1940 census tonight, I experienced the importance of what I was doing in a similar way that the show “Bones” tries to portray. I’ve been watching a lot of “Bones,” initially hooked because of the amusing character relationships and discovering how and why someone died just from their bones has many parallels to how Uncle Chen diagnoses patients through Qi.

In relation to family history indexing, on “Bones,” the human side of what Dr. Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) does is give the dead back their identity when corpses are too degraded or dismembered to identify someone. Also, her work gives victims’ families something concrete to complete the story of their loved one instead of going on wondering and not knowing.

Wading through 120 names today, 80 tonight, carefully inspecting the handwriting of real people in US in 1940, their age, their race, where they lived, and names of family members, I feel much like Dr. Brennan in reviving all these people’s identities. Though I don’t know how to analyze handwriting, it is obvious the each person’s handwriting is different, reminding me that these are real people. They had unique personalities, and maybe ailments or hardships that caused them to write the way they do. Some were widowed at a younger age, some older. But just that mark on a census form stories, feelings, and emotions of when a husband or a wife lost their spouse. Seeing married couples from different parts of the country makes me wonder what their story was. What brought them to wherever they settled, how they met, and how the rest of their lives turned out.

By taking the time to look at these names as real people, some which may still be alive, and remembering their lives and the mortal existence we all share, I felt a strong connection with these spirits. It doesn’t matter whether they are still on this earth or have moved beyond the veil. Regardless of whether they were good people or bad people, we’re all of the same family. No one gets left behind. By looking at these records and knowing these people were here just like I am now, it makes temple work that much more personal. That these people would receive the blessings and ordinances of the temple, but also as a connection for more ancestors that went before as well as their descendants alive today.

It’s an interesting feeling that some a big and potentially monotonous undertaking of indexing batches and batches of names can also be so personal. We really are individual spirits and, with true love and care, no one gets lost in the crowd.


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