Saturday, November 26, 2016
A Strategy for Helping Those New to Family History
Engendering newly hatched genealogists or family historians seem to be the objective of many of the more prominent programs and advertising campaigns from some of the larger online genealogy websites, especially FamilySearch.org. The challenge is how to move these "fledglings" from their status in the nest to fully functional researchers who can make a real contribution to our collective and collaborative Family Tree. The overriding fear of the promoters seems to be that some of these fledglings will either starve or be pushed out of the nest. So what is our collective strategy for helping those new to family history? More importantly, what do we need to do to recruit more people, especially those who presently show no interest at all or are antagonistic to the whole idea of discovering our ancestors?
Over the years, it is my experience that classes and formal instruction are effective only after people have both a desire and an interest in doing family history research. Sitting through a class, especially when you have no real desire to be there, is largely a negative experience. So holding classes are no the solution to attracting new adherents. I am also of the opinion that sugar-coating the process of doing genealogical research is also not the solution.
When I decided to get a Masters Degree in Linguistics, I did not make my choice of study based on my idea that doing linguistics would be "fun" or "easy." I was attracted by the challenge and my own interest in languages. My interest was what motivated me to take my first linguistics class.
Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have heard something about "searching for their ancestors" or doing their genealogy. But this does not mean that they understand either the importance of the work or anything about the process of finding the names of their ancestors to take to the Temple. From my own experience, this is best accomplished by having a dedicated mentor (Family History Consultant) sit down one-on-one and help each member individually through the process. This interaction where the mentor/Family History Consultant has spiritually prepared to teach and has previously reviewed the member's portion of the Family Tree for some Temple opportunities is not only the most effective way to attract new adherents but is, in my opinion, the only effective was to increase participation.
Those wards and stakes where the leaders realize the importance of having a one-on-one experience with each member are the ones that are advancing most rapidly in increasing the members' participation in family history work.