Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Do Sunday School Classes about Genealogy really help?

I have had the same discussion with dozens of Family History Consultants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the efficacy of the classes taught in Sunday School to motivate members to begin researching their family history. Nearly in every case, the Family History Consultants express frustration that teaching the classes seems to have very little effect on the active participation of the members of the classes in the actual activity of seeking out their ancestors. It is clear to me that what is missing is the practical "how to" of beginning the work of becoming involved with and the Family Tree program.

In my own experience, I have helped with the "Family History Classes" in Sunday School for many years with the same lack of success. A couple of years ago, in our Ward, we decided to try something different. We have a small classroom with some computers that is not really a Family History Center and we decided to invite the members to the "classroom" every Sunday to receive one-on-one help with their research. It took a few weeks before we had anyone come to our "class" but slowly more and more people came. Presently, when we are there to help, we have Sundays when there is standing room only in the class. Extra chairs are full and we literally run out of space. We have actually spoken to the Bishop about adding another classroom where we could set up some laptop computers each Sunday.

What is the difference? The classes are motivational and are necessary for new members of the Church and those needing that type of instruction. But the standard classes do not give any instruction about how to find your ancestors or the mechanics of entering names in the Family Tree program or correcting entries. What is most needed is mentoring. That is, one-on-one help working through research issues and problems. In this, many Family History Consultants do not feel qualified to help and therefore avoid putting themselves in the position of providing that service.

This problem will not go away. As long as people are "called" to do Family History work and instruction, there will always be a need for them to learn their duty.
“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. 
“He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.” (D&C 107:99–100.)
But this is only part of the problem. The real issue is changing the way that Family History is taught and implemented in the Wards. If you carefully study the newest videos and talks coming from the leaders of the Church, you will realize that the message is to take Family History into the homes of the members and help them individually and as families to understand how to do the work, not just why to do the work. This model of Family History teaching is entirely different than that of the past.

In talking to one of my brother-in-laws recently who is a Ward Family History Consultant, he said that in their current round of classes, they incorporate several visits to their local FamilySearch Center as part of the class. If the Family History Consultant does not feel capable of teaching the practical aspects of Family History, then why no do like my brother-in-law and use the resources of the local FamilySearch Center?

This might be a way to get Family History moving in your Ward instead of having a part-time job teaching a Sunday School class once or twice a year.


  1. I found when I taught the class a few years back, and things have changed, that having people get results quickly, like a name ready for the temple in 3 weeks, caused the spark that sometimes was missing.

  2. I tried this yesterday during Sunday School time. One person had asked me on Saturday how to add a recently deceased grandparent to Family Tree and she wanted to know how to reserve the name for temple work. We sat on the couch in the foyer and we used my iPad to sign her in to FamilySearch. She added the name and we reserved it so she and her family can do the work. I also showed her how to find the new videos for learning how to use Family Tree.

    from >
    Get Help >
    Learning Center Video Courses >
    under New Courses - Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos >
    in the black box - View This Lesson >
    then choose from the set of lessons;
    Mouse Skills,
    Level One -- Beginning Family Tree,
    Level Two -- Intermediate Family Tree,
    Level Three -- Advanced Relationships

    By the time we had done that another person was watching and made a comment about wanting to do some family history and asked how to find Family Tree. She had not looked at it since the change from So I showed her what she needed to do and how to find the videos. I think this technique has great possibilities and could lead to invitations to the homes of people who would like more help.