I have been acquainted with several experiences both in my own family and with others about getting special help with genealogical research, so I was excited to see the stories that Anne had compiled. It seems to be almost a given fact that if you want to have some special spiritual experiences you just have to spend some time (maybe years) involved with doing work for our ancestors, but then recognizing the help when it comes.
I have always enjoyed reading stories like this and some of these stories were very touching and required me to keep some tissues near. It was also interesting to see how sometimes there are road blocks in the way because the time is not right, but that later the way is opened.
But this isn't only a book about genealogical research. I very much enjoyed the story about Daris Howard writing the musical "Lilacs in the Valley". He had strong impressions and communication about just how the story was to be written and performed. He mentions, "the most important thing I learned was that they are real people, not just names in a book or lists on a genealogy sheet." (p. 26)
Since this is a compiled record, there is a lot of variation in the style of writing. I found this somewhat disconcerting as I would go from one story to the next without any apparent connection or organization. John Counsel had three stories in the book, but I couldn't figure out why two of them were 51 pages separated from the first story. I skipped and read them together. It was also strange to see John Counsel say, "Two more of our stories appear in this book on pages sixty-five and seventy". Those words could only have come from the compiler of the book, not John Counsel.
I think this would have been a much better book if the stories had been edited and organized. Sometimes family details and extra information detracted from the main message of the book--that we can expect help with this work. I believe a better approach would have been to organize around themes (the type of help expected, how to prepare, etc.) and to use excerpts from the stories as examples of those themes.
I found it interesting and instructive to see how people even expected to receive help. Elizabeth tell us, "I have the habit of talking aloud to my ancestors at times. Of course one-sided conversations are the norm. 'William,' I said one day, as I realized I'd run out of ideas and patience, 'I can't connect you to your parents if I don't know where you are born! You must tell me where to find your record. Who were your parents?'" She then tells us that she was shocked to get an answer, "You find all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and then I will tell you." (p. 41) And sure enough, when she had done her part she found William's parents.
Another person tells how one night, "I prayed a very different kind of prayer--to see her face and learn more about her life. I prayed to know her. I realized this sounds crazy, but I just felt so close to her" The next day an unknown cousin calls to tell her that she had "pictures, a quilt made by Vira Ann, and tons of stories. Best of all she lived only one hundred miles away."(p. 79)
Sarah Street tells us, "I'd learned through previous experience that when the spirit came, I needed to be quiet and meditate because a message was always delivered. I took out my journal, which I'd been impressed to bring for note taking during conference, then sat and waited." (p. 89) She then tells about how her dead father spoke to her spirit and the beautiful results of that experience.
These stories are great and I am glad that Anne took the time to compile them together. They give all of us new hope that we can also have these types of experiences. The common thread seemed to be doing everything that we can do and then asking for help.