Census Records: Episode 208 <<

Darius's Story: It Just Showed Up

Although he'd long been interested in family history, a trip to the Family History Library wasn't on Darius Gray's to-do list. Whenever someone would ask if he wanted to go, they were met with a polite, "Thank you, no." That was until a friend invited him to join her for a research jaunt. This time, for some unknown reason, the answer was yes. Living in Utah, Darius has easy access to this incredible genealogical resource, but because he's African-American, he wasn't optimistic about finding much there.

Having accepted the invitation, he called his mother to verify a few family facts, including his deceased father's birth date. During the conversation, she casually mentioned that she had something he might want -- a paper written in his father's hand. His interest soared when he learned that the paper contained a list of all his father's siblings and their birth dates, as well as the birth and death dates of his parents! Darius couldn't imagine why his mother hadn't shared this treasure before, so he asked her where it came from. She had no idea and said it had just showed up a week or two earlier.

With this unexpected windfall of information, Darius ventured to the library with the intent of learning more about his father's family. A couple of helpful people at the information desk told him how to get started, but after many tedious, unproductive hours of scouring microfilm, he had found nothing. Patience had never been his most apparent quality, and he was getting fed up with this whole research idea.

As a last resort, he pushed himself away from the microfilm viewer and offered up a silent prayer: "God, if I'm supposed to be doing this, if you want me to find something, it's got to be soon or I'm outta here!"

After his silent prayer, Darius returned to the viewer. In one last attempt, he pushed the button to advance the film and waited. When the machine stopped, he glanced at the page. To his absolute amazement, there in front of him was the 1880 census entry for his grandfather's family. For the second time, the information he was seeking had "just showed up."

Darius remembers clearly the emotion of the moment when he found that census record. He cried with joy, relief, and gratitude. Words can't really describe the feeling that comes when the link is made to your family and its history. In the beginning Darius hadn't held out much hope, but the message was clear: He was doing what he was supposed to be doing.