Are Your Ancestors Guiding You to Find Them?

Do your ancestors want to be found?

Serendipity happens to nearly everyone who is trying to connect to their ancestors.

As you search for your family roots and stories, it’s possible that you may make fortunate discoveries of significant information that you were not even looking for. In family history, we call this serendipity or intuition – the process of accidentally or coincidentally making meaningful family history discoveries while looking for entirely something else. Most people that do family history have a healthy respect for serendipity and feel that the search for their family roots is often guided in mysterious, unexplainable, miraculous ways.

Some may also call it coincidence, hunch, synchronicity, fortuitous luck, ESP, providence, inspiration or just a ‘miracle’. In any case, it happens to nearly everyone in one form or another who is trying to build their family tree and connect to their ancestors over a long-time. People have experienced this “guidance” as simple as facts popping into their head or as dramatically as an actual ancestral visitation from beyond the grave. This prodding may come in the form of inspiration, intuition, a dream, a thought that enters your mind, or just being in the right place at the right time. They usually have a similar story of an unlikely discovery falling into their lap, like a gift, which leaves them with a feeling of awe, as if their ancestors are helping with the search.

It’s almost as if your ancestors are standing behind you pushing you in the right direction. Your ancestors are alive and well in the after life and want to be found as much as you want to find them. Clearly, as we do this work there is unseen but definitive help from those who have passed on before us.

Read more in ‘Crash Course in Family History’ book starting on page 10 available from our store.

Examples of Serendipity


  • Running into a previously unknown cousin at a far-away cemetery, even though neither person had been there before as if the meeting had been planned.
  • Effortlessly discovering an ancestor’s grave that you shouldn’t have easily found.
  • Family photos and heirlooms that are reunited with their families under unexplainable circumstances.
  • Mysterious discoveries of books that seemingly magically open to exactly the right page for long sought-after information.
  • Having a book fall off the shelf and land on the floor to the page containing information you want.
  • Several unacquainted people showing up at a library in a city where none of them live, on the same day, at the same time each seeking the same common ancestor.


Ancestors Will Meet You Halfway

megan-smolenyak“We do indeed honor our ancestors when we search for them, and it seems, they return the favor. ... When one makes the effort to learn about the lives of ancestors, they will often meet you halfway.” Megan Smolenyak, In Search of Our Ancestors, 2000, Adams Media Corp.

Help From the Other Side
Inspirational Stories

Here are some inspirational stories that will warm your heart and illustrate the help provided from the other side of the veil of death in tracing your family roots. Also check out these books and Web sites for more stories.

Megan Smolenyak’s Books

honoringourancestors2 In-Search-of-our-Ancestors You can enjoy many inspirational stories in Megan Smolenyak’s books of how people have experienced amazing incidents in the search for their roots. She was struck by the number of stories about random acts of kindness, coincidence, intuition, and serendipity. She found herself inundated with stories of distant cousins “coincidentally” meeting while visiting the cemetery of their ancestors, and she learned of family photos, papers, and Bibles that were reunited with their original families under circumstances that boggle the mind.

Hank Jones’ Books

hank-jonesHenry (Hank) Z. Jones, Jr. has written two books concerning the positive influence of coincidence and serendipity in family history research. Over a hundred respected researchers discuss their experiences in light of synchronicity, intuition, and genetic memory. Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy and More Psychic Roots contains a collection of stories and experiences contributed by people the world over. As the author concludes: “I do believe that our ancestors have no wish to be forgotten: they want to be found.”

psychic-roots-book1 psychic-roots2

It was Found on the Gravestone

cemetery-photo6 “One of my cousins was trying to locate our great-grandmother's grave in the cemetery in Garden City, Kansas while on their way to Colorado for a vacation. After searching for quite a while, they were unable to locate it and decided to go on down the road. When they went to get into the car, they noticed their daughter had lost a shoe so they went back into the cemetery to find it. It was found – on the gravestone of our great-grandmother!” Mere coincidence? Charles E. Templer, RootsWeb Review, Vol. 9, No. 43.

The Last Remaining Evidence

After forty years, Edwin Cannon, Jr. decided to prune his old photographs from Germany. However, every time he planned to discard the photographs of a family – a mother and father and their small children – he was impressed to keep them, although he was at a loss as to why. He knew their surname was Berndt but could remember nothing more about them. He decided to give them to a friend, Thomas Monson, who was leaving shortly for Berlin. Amazingly, when Thomas Monson boarded the flight from Zurich, Switzerland to Berlin, one of his fellow passengers was Dieter Berndt who sat next to him. He told Dieter that he had some old photos of people named Berndt. He handed a photo to him and asked if he could identify those shown in the photographs.

As he looked at them carefully, he began to weep. He said, “Our family lived in Stettin during the war. My father was killed [and] when...the Russians mother took my sister and me and fled from the approaching enemy. Everything had to be left behind, including any photographs we had. I am the little boy pictured in these photographs and my sister is the little girl. The man and woman are our dear parents. Until today I’ve no photographs of our childhood...or of my father.” They had miraculously come into possession of the last remaining visual evidence of a couple who seemed to be calling from beyond the grave, saying to their children, “Remember us!” Was their meeting mere coincidence? Thomas S. Monson, CES Fireside, 11 January 2009

Something Kept Drawing Me Back

familysearch-homepage1 Dora Fisher had been searching all her life for more information about her father's youngest brother, believed by most to have been stillborn. An aunt told her she remembered her brother was born one evening about 1926 in Ontario, Canada. He died the following morning. But no one living knew his name. Dora relates that she was working with FamilySearch Indexing. “I would download a batch of 24 Ontario Death records, index them, and send them back. Then I would go do a load of laundry...but something kept drawing me back to the computer.” After about 10 batches the names of her grandparents jumped off the page. They were listed as parents of a deceased boy: John A. Taylor, Born: 20 Jan 1928, Died: 21 Jan 1928.

She said, “I scared the heck out of my husband. I threw my arms in the air and hollered, 'I found him!' Then I cried. ... It was one month to the day since his next oldest sister had passed away. I can just see the two of them up there, screaming: ‘Get back to that computer!’ If I had stopped earlier in the day, someone else would have gotten this batch, and I still wouldn't have the information.” Dora J. Fisher,

Not by Chance

“Having been brought up in an orphanage, I knew very little about my family...[but] I wanted to...learn about my ancestors. One day, as I was preparing to go on a business trip to Canton, Ohio, I...called an older half-sister and asked her if she knew our grandparents' names and where they had been buried. She gave me their names and told me that when she was a child she would visit them in a town in Ohio called Osnaburg.... I was amazed because this was only a few miles from where I would be going. I was very excited,...I said a prayer that I would be guided if there was anything for me to find. I found myself in front of a small cemetery.... I saw an elderly man coming toward me on the sidewalk. I walked up to him and told him about my search for the grandparents of Fanny and John Robert Gier. He directed me to a house in town.

When I went there, I found a woman in her 80s, Gurtie Baker.... When I said my maiden name was Irene Gier, she began to cry. She said she knew Uncle Bobby had remarried and had other children but that she never expected to see any of them. It turned out her mother and my father were brother and sister. I left the home with pictures...of my father, all his siblings and his mother and father. She also gave me all their birth and death dates and told me where my grandparents were buried. Throughout the visit, she said several times, ‘This didn't just happen by chance.’ I agree.” Irene Durham, 18 August 2007.

A Paper From Nowhere

Steve and Nancy Lealos made a trip to Delaware from their home in Alaska to spend two weeks researching Nancy's genealogy. They called and visited anyone and everyone with any information. They were at libraries, courthouses and other locations from the moment they opened until they closed. However, their hard work hit a dead end with Nancy's great-great grandfather and the time had come to go.

“While I was taking some last photographs on a lawn, I happened to see out of the corner of my eye an older piece of yellow legal paper on the ground. As I picked up the paper, I was absolutely stunned to realize that I had in my hand a handwritten document that was at least 50 years old, written in ink without a smudge on it, that listed Nancy's great-great grandfather, his parents, his wife's family and continuing back even further with parents, husbands, wives and children, with dates, places, etc.”

To add to the amazement, they could find no reason for the paper to be there. "No one knew about it, no one claimed it." On a lawn in Delaware a piece of paper had appeared out of nowhere with the information they were seeking. Just coincidence? Steve Lealos, 19 January 2008, p. 16.

I Felt Two Hands From Behind

cemetery-photo5 Hildo Flores of Piura, Peru traveled to the town of Zorritos in northern Peru to find the death dates and final resting place of his great-grandparents. He walked down every vault aisle and read every inscription in the cemetery. Still, nothing. He knelt and prayed, then repeated his thorough search pattern. For a third time, he was unable to find them and now it was getting late. He would have to leave without finding them. He turned toward the front gate, ready to leave the cemetery when something wondrous happened.

"Just as I took my first step, I felt two hands take hold of my head from behind and turn it towards a certain spot. My eyes rested on a small, dirty headstone.... I looked behind me to see who had grabbed my head, but no one was there. I walked to the headstone...and cleaned off the inscription." To his amazement, it was the very marker he was searching for! Hildo Rosillo Flores, Ensign, October 2007, 72

Your ancestors want to be found as much as you want to find them. A Crash Course in Family History illustrated guidebook will help you learn how to trace your own family roots and stories and connect to your ancestors.

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