When Bill Cardwell experienced difficulties in life, he found peace in researching family history.
He began by accumulating what others had done. He eventually started working with his brother to see what they could add, searching for temple ordinances that needed to be completed.
When Bill was in high school, he wanted to go on a mission because his older brother did. He tended to want to do everything his brother did. But Bill eventually rebelled. Instead of following his brother into the mission field, he joined the navy. During the four years he served, he took up smoking and drinking.
After his navy stint, he lived with his brother. By that time they had little in common. One Monday night, Bill came home planning to watch football and have a beer. His brother had friends over for family home evening. That’s when Bill met his first wife.
They dated, married in 1974, and bought a home in Granger (now West Valley City), Utah. Four children followed between 1975 and 1981.
In 1981, Bill’s wife asked for a divorce. He tried to save the marriage, but it didn’t work out. To stay close to the gospel, Bill began devoting himself to genealogy research. Every Friday, he traveled to the Family History Library, near Temple Square. He took notes, transcribed them at home, transferred them to his computer, and printed them. He created a lot of paperwork.
Bill says, “Researching family history sustained me by keeping my mind active. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. I know I found some things through the guidance of the Spirit. Sometimes I had chills down my back, and I could feel the Spirit guiding me. When that happened, I knew I had to keep going. I had to put the family together by continuing my research.”
There were many complications. Family names changed; MacCardwell, Cardell, and Hollis had common people, dates, and locations. “My third-great-grandfather joined the Church in England. I found records of him baptizing other members of his family and finally the records of them coming to the United States in the 1870s and settling in the 21st and Immigration Wards. Their children moved on to the northwestern states and to Canada.”
Bill says studying family history sustained him during difficult years and continues to sustain him today. He says, “It was the mystery that sustained, and it still hasn’t been completely solved.”
Bill is now working on putting all the information he gathered over the years on FamilySearch.org. He’s scanning marriage records and obituaries—he has over 900 obituaries. He’s entering data he has cleaned up and is anxious to begin uploading photographs.
The new features at FamilySearch.org suit Bill very well. He says, “Now I can go in and clean up the records. I can correct names and dates, when before that was impossible.” One example of the need for his cleaning efforts was a woman who appeared to be married to her son. “The son’s and father’s names were the same. Correcting the birth dates cleared that up.”
When asked why he is so adamant about genealogy, Bill explains, “I want to leave a legacy for my kids. At the age of 42, I had to start over again, coming out of a difficult divorce with almost nothing. I don’t have a lot to pass on, but I can provide a family legacy.”
Bill is excited about entering his information into FamilySearch.org because, he says, “Once it’s done, it doesn’t have to be done again. Now I have a lot of confidence in the work that has been done and the ordinances that need to be done.”
Bill taught himself how to use the new FamilySearch features just by using them. Now that he’s comfortable, he’s looking forward to digitally preserving important documents online and shredding all the other paper he accumulated over the years. He says, “Once it’s all on the Church’s computer files, I’m confident about getting rid of all that paper.”
In the immediate future, Bill plans to finalize the scanning and entries so people can see his information.
Bill Cardwell says, “I still have days when I shut the computer off, but I can’t shut my mind off. Sometimes that’s good because that’s when I get ideas on how to find someone. That’s when I find revelation.”