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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Acquiring a good foundation in family history

Quoting from Saint Augustine, "The higher your structure, the deeper must be its foundation." To many of us who begin building their family history do so without laying any foundation at all. They begin by clicking through an online database, such as's Family Tree, without a thought as to what they want to accomplish or how they are going to go about learning about their ancestors. I had this pointed out to me in class I helped teach this past week with several of the participants. After some instruction, we asked them to look at their Family Tree. Most of the class started to browse through a look at the entries. Some of the class members raised their hands and asked essentially the same question; what am I looking at?

Maybe what is most needed in advancing family history research and the submission of names for Temple ordinances is not so much why we do Temple ordinances as how we go about actually doing family history research. Here is one definition of family history research from the Research Wiki:
Family history research is the process of searching records to find information about your relatives and using those records to link individuals to earlier and later generations.
Doing family history is a process and it is a process that must be learned. It is not enough to be motivated, it is also necessary to have some specific training. Some of us acquire the basic training through our life experiences. I acquired my own background in computers, research, library use, languages, reference materials etc. long before I became interested in family history per se.  Some people need to acquire a few or all of those types of skills before they can feel comfortable researching their family history. If we ignore the need to acquire certain skills to do family history, we will ultimately find that people become frustrated and do not value either the activity of family history or its goals.

A good example of the type of information that is needed for doing family history research is the new presentation in the Learning Center called, "Family History Research Basics for Consultants." This type of presentation needs to be extended and used for everyone who starts out doing their family history. Paraphrasing what one of my friends said to me recently, we want the members to do their family history, but we focus on the end product and not the process. We want them to have the benefits of doing family history research but talk about advanced topics and do not emphasize enough the basics of starting out. Many members still need to learn how to sign into the program. They are a long way from doing productive research. Most of the people I teach and help do not know how to critically examine the information that is already in Family Tree. The new iconic help system is pointing people in the right direction, but they still need to be taught what the icons mean and what to do about the problems.

It is time to develop some really basic training and figure out a way to get more of the members, including the leaders, to take the time to look and learn.


  1. I am just puzzled as to why the FH department and the Leaders turned away from training and research. I watched it happen in the FH Library and felt pushed out when I continually mentioned the importance of these two. Just letting folks, on an open edit program, jump in with no training seems nuts. Some folks say
    Just trust the Lord. I can't imagine there would be time enough for one-on-one inspiration that would reveal what is needed to clean up some family lines. After reading "Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah", it is clear there have been controversies and contentions among and between genealogists and leaders since the beginning, with one approach tried here, then another one tried there. It is a testimony that this work has even succeeded as well as it has. Let's hope some sanity returns, and I am encouraged by the learning center presentation you cited on Research basics for consultants. Maybe the wind is shifting a little in the right direction again.

    1. Reading the book gives you a lot of patience with what is going on at any given time.