My wife and I were recently called as Ward Missionaries and Family History Consultants. The purpose of this hybrid calling is to focus on Family History and use that as a tool to assist with Missionary Work. We are both really excited about this calling and the opportunity we will have to focus more on our own family history research and in finding our ancestors who need to have their temple work done and teaching others how they can be a part of this great work.
I will probably be posting more and more about family history research, sharing my experiences and what I am finding as I continue my family history. Here are my first few thoughts on Teaching Family History in the Ward.
What is Family History?
Elder Allan F. Packer, Family History Is More Than Just Genealogy, RootsTech 2013
“Genealogy is an important subset of family history. Family history includes genealogy but is much broader in scope and time. It is not limited to the past, but includes the present and the future. Family history is the history of a family past, present, and future.
Create your history as you live in the present, discover the past by learning of the stories of your ancestors, and shape the future by sharing your stories.”
Family History is, quite literally, a history of families. We learn about our families: who they were, how they lived, what their relationships were. The Church has in the last several years been pushing Family History as opposed to Genealogy. We are not just looking for names and dates, we are looking for people, for family members. And we want to know about their lives — who they were between the birth date and the death date. We do not just ‘take names’ to the temple, we take people. We perform sacred ordinances for our family members. The names that we look for and find when doing family history research are our ancestors, they came before us and we have a responsibility to learn of them.
The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clear — “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.“ – The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Families existed before we were born onto this earth and our families will exist eternally after our time here has ended. Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all will be resurrected and all will have the opportunity of accepting the Gospel of Christ and repenting of their sins and receiving a place in the Celestial Kingdom of our God.
Families can be sealed together through the restored priesthood of God, and our deceased ancestors can receive the same saving ordinances of baptism, confirmation, temple endowment and sealing of spouses and children. This is why we do this work. We help our families accept the gospel of Christ and accept the same redeeming ordinances that we enjoy.
“I hope to see us dissolve the artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and genealogical work, because it is the same great redemptive work!”
President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity—Stand We in Jeopardy?” Ensign, Jan. 1977
I heard it explained once to someone who was not a member of our church that we are inviting our deceased ancestors to a great eternal family reunion. They are not obligated to accept the invitation, but we have the responsibility of inviting them, of performing the saving temple ordinances so that we can all be sealed together as a family.
At RootsTech 2015 in February, Elder Quentin L. Cook introduced the Church’s new emphasis for Family History with the following motto — “Find, Take, Teach”
FIND: Use the FamilySearch website or the My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet to find the names of one or more of your ancestors or their descendants.
TAKE: Take these names to the temple or share them with others so they can take them to the temple (when possible, do this as a family).
TEACH: Teach your family, and then teach others to do the same thing.
Find – Start with yourself. Add your parents and grandparents. FamilySearch.org has a lot of information already on deceased ancestors, you should be able to fairly quickly connect to a deceased ancestor. If you are missing information, ask family members or search historical records to find the information you need.
Take: From FamilySearch.org there is a Temple tab which will show those individuals in your family tree that need temple ordinances. You can reserve these ordinances and print a sheet which you take to the temple, where the name cards will be printed.
Teach: Teach your family this process, and then teach your friends and neighbors. There is a lot of interest in the world in family and family history. We have amazing resources available to us that we can share with our friends and neighbors.
Family History research is sometimes daunting and overwhelming for many members of the Church. Recent converts or those individuals from convert families may feel there is too much work to do and they don’t know where to start. Those who come from families that have been members of the Church for several generations may feel that all of their family history work has already been done and they don’t know where to start. Some members may be uncomfortable with computers and internet technology that seem to be taking over the world of family history research. Others may well be familiar with computers, but do not know which of the many family history and genealogy software and sites to use. It can all certainly be overwhelming.
I start with counsel from October 2015 General Conference from Pres. Uchtdorf
Start where you are.
“My second suggestion is: start where you are.
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.” Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying. I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord. “ Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “It Works Wonderfully”, October 2015
We just need to start where we are, with what we have and move forward. The Church has many great tools and resources designed to help everyone start and continue with their family history research. BYU has a class on Family History and they outline the Five Step Research Process.
BYU Five-step Research Process
Step 1. Fill out a Pedigree Chart or log into FamilySearch.org and start setting up your tree. Fill in as much information as you currently know. As you enter information, try to verify it with documents and records (such as birth, marriage, or death records) to prove the correct information. Save these sources and cite them in your family tree.
Step 2. Find the gaps in your information, determine what you want to know. Fill out a research log to keep track of your research so that you do not need to duplicate your efforts. Clearly write what you are looking for, where you are looking for it, and what you found.
Step 3. Determine what records will get you the information you are looking for.
- Are you looking for a birth, marriage, death date or place? The name of sibling or parent? What records would have that information?
- What is a primary record vs. a secondary record?
- A primary record was created at the time and place of the event. Ex. A marriage certificate is a primary record for the marriage date and place. Consider who created the record and why and how they obtained the information contained in the record.
- A secondary record is created at some later date. Ex. A census is not a primary record, but can provide useful information in locating the correct primary record. A death certificate is a primary record for the death date and place, but is a secondary record for the birth of that individual – it was entered after the fact and may not be accurate.
Step 4. Obtain the records
- Where is this record to be found? Online? Family History Library on microfilm? State, County, City Office?
- Cost of obtaining record? Copies? Do you want the actual record or just the information from it? Maybe you record the information and cite the source now, and later decide to pay to have the actual record. Always record where you found the information so you can find it later if needed and so others can duplicate your research.
- How will you store the record? Is it digital or need to be scanned and uploaded? Do you have a box or file folder?
Step 5. Use the information
- Enter information into FamilySearch.org
- Submit the information to the temple for the work to be done
- Write your family history, share this information with your family and share the research process to help inspire them.
BYU 5-Step Research Process
- Step 1: Identify What You Know About Your Family
This step includes filling out a pedigree chart and family group records with what you already know about your family, gathering additional information from home sources and relatives, and organizing your records for easy access.
- Step 2: Decide What You Want to Learn About Your Family
This step involves selecting a specific ancestor about whom you would like to know more, determining what you would like to know about that ancestor, and preparing a research log (https://familyhistorylab.byu.edu/sites/familyhistorylab.byu.edu/files/researchlog.pdf).
- Step 3: Select Records to Search
This step involves identifying the category of record you need to search in order to find out what you would like to know. This record category might be a compiled record, an original record, or a reference source. The step then involves identifying the specific record to be searched next, and describing it in your research log.
- Step 4: Obtain and Search the Record
This step involves obtaining the record from the Family History Library, or another repository, searching it, and recording the results of the search on your log. You may also make an extract or photocopy of that information.
- Step 5: Use the Information
This step includes submitting names for temple ordinances, submitting information to Pedigree Resource File, posting information on the Internet, writing family histories, and other uses of the information.