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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

5 Ways to Begin at the Beginning of Family History

It is easy for someone new to and all the partner programs to become quickly overwhelmed with starting out doing family history. In their enthusiasm, many of the more experienced family historians want to "dump the entire load" on the beginner as quickly as possible. In doing this we need to remember the scripture from Mosiah 4:27:
27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run  faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
As King Benjamin points out "it is expedient that he (we) should be diligent..." This certainly applies to family history. In the recent past, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been challenged repeatedly to "do their family history." But we also need to remember what President Spencer W. Kimball said in General Conference in April of 1978. He said,
I feel the same sense of urgency about temple work for the dead as I do about the missionary work for the living, since they are basically one and the same. I have told my brethren of the General Authorities that this work for the dead is constantly on my mind.
The key word here is "work." We cannot convert the living or the dead without doing the work that is necessary to accomplish that goal. So keeping in mind that doing our family history is work and also keeping in mind King Benjamin's caution, I think we need to remember these five things when we start out to "do our family history." Too many family history instructors want to make us all run before we have even learned to walk.

No. 1: Sign into and remember your login and password

I can say from spending more than ten years working with patrons and members of the Church in wards, stakes and in their homes, the one biggest obstacle to getting started in family history is that many, many of the members have never registered for (or any of the other LDS websites) and if they have, they have forgotten their login and password. There may be statistics showing the dramatic increase in the use of the website, but the majority of the members of every Ward I work with are completely unfamiliar with the program. This applies to Stake Presidents, High Councilors, High Priests Group Leaders, Bishops and most of the other members. If you cannot remember logins and passwords, write them down and keep the record in a place you can remember.

No. 2: Look at the Family Tree

I am constantly amazed at the number of members of the Church I encounter who have never looked at the Family Tree program on I sat down with two Ward members yesterday and neither one of them had every even looked at the Family Tree before. When I say look at the Family Tree, I mean click on the link to the Family Tree and start exploring what is there. If you find yourself being the only person listed, then it is clear you have never seen the Family Tree at all. Start by entering in your parents and grandparents. You may have to search for them if they are dead, but you will need to add them in if they are living.

No. 3 Watch the instructional videos on getting started with your family history

Too many of the people that I work with as patrons in the BYU Family History Library and that I worked with at the Mesa FamilySearch Library wanted to run (i.e. take a name to the Temple) before they even understood what and FamilySearch itself were all about. You life will be a lot smoother in this regard if you will just take the time to watch a few of the many instructional videos that are available. Here are the links to places where you might want to start:
No. 4 Get to know your ancestors

38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
The only way I know how to find out if my "fathers" have planted the promises made to them in my own heart is by turning my own heart to my fathers or ancestral family. This will not happen until I get to know who they are, where they lived and the struggles they faced during their life on earth. Taking a "name" to the Temple without doing the work necessary to turn your own heart does not, in an of itself, accomplish this purpose. We must become actively involved in the process of salvation for the dead. We can do this by learning about the people already in Family Tree or by adding them in ourselves. We cannot do this casually or on a one-time basis, we need to spend the time, do the work and come to know our family. When we do this, there will come a point in your learning when your heart will begin to turn and you will understand what the Angel Moroni was saying to Joseph Smith. Take some time just to look at Family Tree and click on all the menus. See how the program works and look carefully at the entries in your own family. Are they accurate? Do they make sense? Do you need to add a photo, document or story? Take time to look at the sources if any are listed. Become interested in your ancestors as people that you need to get to know.

No. 5 Persist in learning about your family

Remember the scripture in Ecclesiastes 9:11
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
 We all find ourselves at different levels of time and opportunity to become involved in family history. It is not something that happens in day. It is work over an extended period of time. I love this quote from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. From Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), U.S. president. Broadside distributed to agents of the New York Life Insurance Company (1932).
If I were going to suggest more ways to overcome our collective inertia in this work, I would suggest taking classes, watching more online instruction and using the help menus for all of the programs. If we are called to lead, let us lead. If we are called to follow, let us follow. But in either case, let us do the work.

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