Helping others with family history came naturally

by Teresa Tebbs Dewey

elaine woodford

Elaine Woodford likes to help people learn about their family history. She grew up in social-service care in the Manchester and Lancashire areas and learned about the Church when she was a young mother at age 23. 

She said, “I thought out loud to myself, there has to be more to life than this. The very next day the missionaries knocked my door, asking if I knew the purpose of life, where I came from, why was I here, and where was I going. I was eager to know more, and three weeks later I was baptised.”

A year later the ward began a family history programme and encouraged everyone to find the first five generations of their family.

“I don't think I really learned how to do it; it just came naturally to me,” Elaine said. “I loved investigating and finding out about people. I so enjoyed helping people with their research that the bishop asked me to host a family-history fireside for beginners. That helped me to get some order into my research.”

Elaine started her research at the Coseley England Archives in the West Midlands area. While there she was working with the microfilm readers and noticed that the man sitting next to her kept muttering. She decided to help.

“He had looked through the whole reel for an ancestor and didn’t find him,” she said. “I looked and found him straight away at the very top of a page. From that time on, I helped him every Thursday for years. We found some of his ancestry going back to the 1400s.”

Today, Elaine continues to share her knack for finding missing information for others. Six years ago, her husband was transferred to Frankfurt, Germany. In her new ward she met a fellow Brit, Michelle Robertson, and began helping her research her family history.

Michelle’s mother was only 16 when her father died. She was told that he had been struck and killed by an Army lorry, but the family had no official information to confirm the story. Elaine was able to find some answers for Michelle.

Knowing the date and place of death, she thought there might be a newspaper article about the event, so she emailed the National Archives Scotland and asked if they could help. Archive employees found three articles. The first reported a serious Army-pedestrian lorry accident; the second reported the pedestrian’s death; and the third expressed the family’s thanks for all the support given to them. This information confirmed what the family had been told years ago and enriched Michelle’s family history.

“Elaine helps people wherever she can, and not for reward or recognition,” Michelle said. “Whether it is giving of time, resources, or skills; if people need it, she’ll provide it.” 

When Elaine is not working on her own family, she is working with others. She says modestly, “I like helping others with genealogy work.”