During the past few weeks, we have spent many hours demonstrating FamilySearch.org Family Tree to members of our Ward. The experience has been nothing less than phenomenal. I must admit that I was lukewarm towards the idea of emphasizing photos and stories in conjunction with Family Tree. Not that I am opposed to either, but it seemed to me that there was no obvious way for people to transition from contributing photos and stories to becoming interested in genealogy as such. However, as time passed, I began to see the real value of the photos and stories and now as documents have also been added, I can see that this is an extremely valuable contribution to the overall genealogical effort.
But as I viewed the reaction of probably around 150 people, most of whom had never seen the photos section of Family Tree previously, I am now more than convinced of the utility of photos and stories, I am now a full-fledged convert and an enthusiastic supporter of the entire idea. As we showed family after family the Family Tree Photos, Stories and Documents, the reaction of those who had never seen the programs previously was uniformly a very positive experience. Most of the new viewers were absolutely amazed at the number of photos and their first reaction was to ask who put all of these photos online? But, the key here was that we were showing the users their own photos directly on the computer and not simply explaining them in a classroom setting. I am absolutely sure that had we made exactly the same presentation in a classroom setting or during a large meeting that the positive reaction of the individuals would never have occurred.
The reaction to the photos, stories and documents occurred primarily because the viewers were seeing their own family photos, stories and documents. In a few cases when the viewers found no photos had been submitted to Family Tree, viewing my photos on another computer was not nearly so effective. I am now firmly convinced that the key to extending the use of FamilySearch Family Tree lies in showing each individual his or her own file online. In addition, I believe it is a motivating factor for people who do not have photos in the program to see that other people have photos.
I believe that there are a variety of ways by which all of the members in a particular Ward or Branch could be contacted. We found it to be helpful to contact them while they were visiting the Ward for another activity. We conducted this activity in full cooperation with out Bishop and High Priest's Group Leader. Although we have other Family History Consultants in the Ward, the other Consultants were happy to let me and my wife do all the demonstrations.
What remains to be seen, is whether or not this initial exposure to the programs will result in any added interest in either Indexing or adding family information to Family Tree. I do expect that the exposure will motivate some of the members of the Ward to add their own photos and stories to the programs. If they do take the time to investigate their family tree they may very well become more involved. Only time will tell.