Tracing My Roots And Finding My Heavenly Father

Tracing My Roots And Finding My Heavenly Father

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

I have ADHD, so my passions swing wildly. I may be enthusiastic about something until I am not. But I’ll return to this topic when something piques my interest. It has been this way with genealogy. I did a lot of genealogy research until I ended up in the hospital for nearly four months in 2021. When I returned to my hometown in the autumn of 2021, I had other things on my mind. During the months I was incapacitated, I had been paying for expensive services such as It costs more than several streaming services combined. So I canceled that subscription and haven’t looked back since. I reminded myself that there was always the Mormons’ free genealogical site if the genealogy bug bit me again.

Today, I returned to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website. I didn’t expect them to add a feature that lets people find connections between themselves and famous people. Through a long line of ancestors, I may call Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Truman O. Angell, the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, distant cousins. I am related to 24 presidents of the United States, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Winston Churchill. I am also the ninth cousin of Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll.

Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, T.S. Eliot, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, and other entertainers and artists are also distantly related to me. To my surprise, I was Rosa Parks’ thirteenth cousin once removed and Muhammad Ali’s ninth cousin three times removed. To avoid giving the impression that I am proud of everyone, I was disappointed to discover a distant kinship with Charles Darwin. There were more, such as an eleventh great-grandfather who arrived in America on the Mayflower. Still, I’ll stop here because my main point was that this discovery rekindled my interest in genealogy.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that some of you may need clarification about whether or not the data I’ve presented is accurate. Trust me; their research blew my mind as well. Yet because they believe in proxy baptism, Mormons keep detailed family trees. Mormons believe that baptism is important for salvation and that people who don’t get baptized during their own lives can still benefit from it through the actions of their children and grandchildren. Proxy baptism allows members of the Mormon Church who are still alive to be baptized on behalf of the deceased, understanding that the departed person can accept or reject that baptism in the next life.

But as attractive as it may be to find out you are a distant cousin to Bing Crosby or Robert Peary, it is a much more incredible feeling to know that you are the adopted child of God. Consider Romans 8.14-16.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (NASB).

God has adopted those who have obeyed the gospel. We contrast the spirit of slavery and fear felt by nonbelievers with the spirit of love and intimacy one can experience with God. Following our adoption, our spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children. Through obedience, we draw closer to God to the point where we can address Him with a term of endearment. 

Genealogy can be a fun hobby that teaches us about our family histories and connects us to famous people. But, as fascinating as it is to learn about our long-lost relatives, it is even more important to know that we are God’s adopted children. Obedience to the gospel opens the door to a closer relationship with God, where we can know Him as “Abba.” This relationship is far greater than any family connection discovered through genealogy, and it is a blessing that we can all share as Christians.

Brent Pollard
I Had No Idea What “Pollard” Meant!

I Had No Idea What “Pollard” Meant!

Neal Pollard

For years, I’ve told people the two things I knew about my surname—(a) It’s English and (b) it means “tree topper.” It gave me a little satisfaction to think of my solidly blue-collar roots.  Other research shows my ancestors to have been among the early inhabitants of this country, as one Robert Pollard, II, was born in Devon, England, in 1610 and died in King and Queen County, Virginia, in 1668. Anne Pollard was the first female to step foot on Boston’s shores (info from Maurice J. Pollard’s The History of the Pollard family in America, 1961). You’ll find Pollards in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War (Asa Pollard was “the first man to fall at Bunker Hill”), and the Civil War (Pollard Genealogy, Stephen Pollard, 1902, p. 3ff, via As pride swells, I drive by only to find earlier history.  The name is actually Irish, dating back to the 14th Century, and it was a “nickname for a person with a large or unusually shaped head.” Wow. Not that I don’t know that from trying on hats my whole life. In my case, try freakishly huge melon. I’m extra-Pollard!

So, I maintain a mixture of pride and humility as I trace my name back through history.  That is due to more than etymology.  If I look hard enough at genealogy, I’ll find some Pollards who make me proud and some that make me ashamed that we share the same last name.  Even in contemporary times with Pollards I know I’m related to, this will be the case.

Solomon wrote, “A good name is better than a good ointment” (Ecc. 7:1a).  He said, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Prov. 22:1a).  That gets more personal.  When people hear my name, they have distinct, specific thoughts about my character, my nature, and my reputation.  Over a lifetime, there have been people who have known me who may have a bad taste in their mouths when they say my name.  Occasionally, as I’ve dealt with people in customer service situations, my name might not be the sweetest on their lips.  When I think of my failure to be an example as a Christian before the world, going back to days when I was in school, my name did not always have a true association with the name of Christ.

What does your name mean? What does your name mean to the people you work with, go to school with, do business with, and live near?  What does your name mean to the people who know you best?  We wear the name of Christ, as Christians, and we must strive to honor that great name! He’s counting on us to promote His name through the way we wear our name and His name each day.