Meet my friend Helen Dell. Isn't she beautiful.
Helen is a faithful member of the church, the only member in her family, our Branch Primary President at 71 years of age, a former nurse/midwife, never married, loves animals and communicates with them, a cancer survivor, struggles with heart problems and diabetes, has a memory as sharp as a tack, and is just an overall charming woman. I love her dearly.
We had been on mission for about six months and we were preparing to go to the temple as a branch. President Wheeler asked me if I could help some of the members with Family Search so as to take family names with us when we went. As with most church callings, one accepts and then just tries to figure out what it is the Lord expects you to do. About all I knew of the Family Search Program was how to log on and make a fan chart. I began to learn. And fast. Helen approached me and asked if I would help her with her work. I agreed and we began meeting every Wednesday. Helen had served as a Family History missionary, but with the changes in the computer program she had not kept up with the latest. Together we began to figure things out. I would go to her house each week and we would work from a set of photocopied papers that she had in a binder. The folder was very well laid out with names, birth years, some marriage years, death years but no particular days. After many weeks of working with these papers I finally said to Helen, "Where did you get these papers from?" Without a word, she got up from her chair and left the room. When she came back in she handed me a 500 page book entitled "The Dell Family Chronicles" published in 1979 by Margareate Jeal. I was astonished! This book had dates, histories, pictures, charts, drawings, and more!
Well, the rest is history. Or should I say Family History. We were maniacs. I love puzzles and this was one big huge missing piece of the puzzle that leads to more puzzles and on and on. The Dell Family was part of the 1820 Settlers that sailed from England with the promise of free land. I was a woman possessed. I told President Wheeler that I would like to be released from all my other callings so as to just work on this project. He laughed. I spent every spare minute I could working on her line. Sometimes with Helen and sometimes not. Unfortunately, Helen was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to go to the temple in 2014. She has recouped and this year……read on!
We were able to take 425 ordinances to the temple!!!
These three cute young men from a ward in Cape Town helped us with male baptisms. I was able to do some of the baptisms for the women. I will bring the rest of the ordinance cards to America and work on them from there.
The church has a wonderful Family Search library on the Temple Complex. Elder and Sister Jarvi answered a slew of questions for me. It was so fun to read the wills from all of Helen's family and to clear up some major discrepancies.
I have photocopied the Dell Family Chronicles Book to take back with me to America. I feel like I am an honorary member of her family. I think I know more about her ancestors than I do my own. I must fix that. Working on Family history in South Africa is like working with a clean slate. I could work for days to find one name on my line whereas here, since nothing has been done it is all new territory! There are many, many reasons that the Lord put me in South Africa. One of those reasons I know for a surety is to help this good woman connect her family for Time and for all Eternity. Serving in this church is an honor. Having so much fun in a calling is pure joy!