Researching Family History: Giving thanks to God for rescuing me through my ancestors

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

What the Lord did to save me from being hit by a train at a very young age. My mother's history says I was 2 years old when I came up missing from the house while she and Dad were in the genealogy library trying to rescue my ancestors.

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Mom and Dad quickly went into a room where they knelt in prayer. Then they hurriedly left the genealogy library where they had been doing research about our ancestors. They were very disturbed by the phone call they had just received from my brother, Larry.

Mom wrote in her history, “I thought (Russell) had passed away … but he was not in his bed or in the house. We rushed home to discover that he had slipped out of the house (walking down the Bamberger Railroad tracks) and that his grand-uncle Ernest Bangerter saved him from an oncoming train. I was so relieved to see him home.“ History of Geraldine Annice Blair Bangerter." Dec. 11, 1987.

Mom's history says I was 2 years old, but I think I was closer to 4 when this happened in the mid-1950s.

The old Bamberger Railroad tracks divided the land between my grand-uncle's and grandfather's properties. It lay between the present-day towns of Bountiful and Centerville. I remember wanting to see one of these marvelous sleek train engines from beneath.

My mom's father was a railroad engineer. He often would discuss changes and upgrades in the engines with my father and my family. Furthermore, my father's grandfather, Niklaus Bangerter, was a master at mechanics. He owned and operated the first thrashing machine in the Salt Lake Valley.

I thought, in my childhood innocence, I would lay myself down between rails and get a good view of the working machinery of a new engine … in motion. Had Uncle Ernest not known where I was, I would have gotten an upside view of the other side of the veil. I believe I would not have survived the ordeal.

Uncle Ernest saw me walking on the railroad tracks while I was looking for a place to lay down. Then he saw the train heading toward me. He sprang into running and pulled me off the tracks just moments before it reached the place where I was at. It was a close call.

A few years ago, Mom told me she remembered this experience. I asked her if she remembered more than what she wrote in her history. She told me that because of the genealogy work they were doing at the library looking for our ancestors, my brother's call to alert them caused them to turn to Heavenly Father … fast. It was a foregone conclusion that they would not make it back home in time, so they took the only option left, which was to pray for the Lord's intervention, but they subjected themselves to his will.

It is interesting to note that everyone was in the right place at the right time in this case. Each person could only do so much.

President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, has stated: “Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has equal power to do something to the living.” In this great work we do saving our ancestors, isn't it interesting how it affects family on both sides of the veil?

The ancestors came and rescued me out of this dangerous situation through my brother's call (family) to my parents (family), my grand-uncle then living at the time (my ancestor) and the prayers and pleadings of my parents (family). Talk about rescue! The timing in these events could not have been more precise. Relatives and loved ones have always had a powerful impact on me. I feel safe when I sense the Lord is near and my ancestors are watching out for me and my loved ones.

One lesson this experience taught me is to go to the Lord in prayer, even if it is only a prayer in the heart. Learning this from my parents has stuck with me throughout the years.

I express my love and gratitude to our Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, for their marvelous hand of protection and guidance. In turn, we seek our ancestors' names and information to rescue them and set them free. More importantly, the great Atonement done in our behalf by Jesus Christ has become even more powerful when I look back on my life and see where he rescued me. This extends to my loved ones and ancestors. He has been there to pull us out when trouble has reared its ugly head.

Just try it sometime — offer a prayer to Heavenly Father thanking him for all his love and mercy. Perhaps you may not want to ask for anything and if you don't, see what happens by simply thanking him.

As the hymn goes, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done ... Hymns, p. 241.

Genealogy graduate Russell Bangerter is president of Ancestral Connections Inc. at ancestralconnect.com. He is a professional genealogist, author and speaker and adviser to Treasured Souls to Keep, at treasuredsoulstokeep.com.

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