Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are aware of the admonition to seek out our kindred dead through genealogical research and provide temple ordinances for them. Elder John A. Widstoe wrote: “Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in the affairs of life…..Help comes to us from the other side as we give help to those who have passed beyond the veil ( Elder John A. Widstoe 10/34 Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine).
Unfortunately, many members do not quite know how to begin, and therefore postpone family history research until “later.” This was the case with Wendy Hayes, who in her patriarchal blessing was admonished to seek out her ancestors. If she would do so, her blessing promised, 'doors would be opened.'
Twenty years passed, and Wendy had done very little family history research. She was happily married to Ian Wrench and was busy raising a family and fulfilling her other Church responsibilities.
Then one day the phone rang. An unfamiliar voice said, “I’m Yvonne Hayes Kemp. You probably don’t remember me, but you were the flower girl at my wedding when you were just four or five. I’m the daughter of George Benjamin Hayes, who was the brother of Joseph George Hayes, your grandfather.”
Wendy knew enough of her family history to recognize her paternal grandfather’s name. She also had a black and white photo of herself as a child in a wedding party, but she had never known who the family was. Her heart jumped. The phone call sparked an interest in meeting these long-lost relatives, and Wendy and Ian made plans to visit Aunt Yvonne and her husband John on their farm near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape.
During that trip they visited the family farm and a cemetery in the area, where many of the tombstones had family names. Wendy further discovered that a member of another family had married into the Hayes family back in the 1800s. This relative had compiled a family history and published it. Wendy returned home with several pages copied from the book, which included stories of the arrival of her ancestors to South Africa in 1820 and also detailed the genealogy of the Hayes family for the past 150 years.
Wendy and Ian found the stories about her family fascinating, and they felt a great desire to do the temple work for those ancestors. The doors had opened wide, and Ian and Wendy entered with joy. They began making visits to the Johannesburg Temple to do the family members’ work, just as Wendy had been charged to do in her patriarchal blessing.
They went even further, visiting the National Archives in Cape Town to verify the information in the family history book and to search for more information on the Hayes family. It was as if they were on an exciting detective hunt, turning up death notices, wills, and family connections. They learned about the LDS Familysearch website and methodically checked their way through the extended family names listed on the site. They were even able to fill in many gaps, adding to the information available.
In one instance they found a record of twin girls who had apparently died as infants. However, when Ian was browsing a death notice index, he was struck with the name of one of the twins, who actually had died when she was nearly 11 years old, in 1899, not 1889 as previously recorded. They completed the young girl’s ordinances during a visit to the temple, having listened to the help from beyond the veil.