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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dealing with disinterest in genealogy revisited

Back in 2013, I wrote a very short blog post entitled, "Dealing with disinterest in genealogy." Now about four years later, it is time to return to this topic. I am writing about the personal experiences of many genealogists who find themselves surrounded by people who couldn't care less about discovering their kindred dead. Most of the writing on this subject is aimed at getting all of these apathetic people interested and I find very little attention paid to the genealogical researcher that has to maintain an active interest despite any support from family or friends. In some cases, the disinterest becomes active opposition.

Back in 2013, I was suggesting ways to get the rest of the world converted to doing their own family history. I haven't given up on trying to convert the world to doing family history, but now I am just as interested in what it takes for a researcher to keep going in the face of this apathy, rejection, and, in some cases, opposition. This sense of isolation may come despite being an active part of an active ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is easy for active members to find support for being involved in family history or genealogy from the scriptures as well as from numerous conference talks and even from church publications and websites. After all, the Church spends a great deal of time and money on temples and sponsors the world's largest family history organization, FamilySearch, as well has almost 5000 Family History Centers worldwide. From all this, you would think that your involvement in family history might be lauded or at least recognized.

Let me give you an example. One of my friends was recently released from serving as a Family History Church Service Missionary for more than fifteen years. At the same time, another member of her ward who was serving in a humanitarian capacity as a Church Service Missionary was also released. There was no mention made of my friend's family history service and I expect that few members of the ward even knew she had been serving for so many years. The second missionary, released at about the same time, was recognized in Sacrament Meeting and given a certificate of service. This is not an isolated occurrence. Church Service missionaries have a very low profile in their own wards and stakes. Even though I have been serving as a Church Service Missionary for years, I have been asked by my stake leaders if I would like to serve a Church Service Mission, while I was still already serving.

What can we do when we feel this isolation?

The first thing I would suggest is that you become involved in the greater genealogical community. Find your local genealogical society and join and attend their meetings and even give them your support. You will find a lot of people, who are not members of the LDS Church, who are absorbed in genealogical research. You may even find them ready to help you with your own research. As I have traveled around the U.S. and Canada presenting at genealogy conferences, I am constantly amazed at how wonderful and pleasant these society members are to me and anyone interested. I have had some very nice visits with genealogists of every possible background. This shared interest often opens doors to friendship.

Next, I would suggest that you volunteer to help in a local Family History Center or Library. You don't need to be a Church Service Missionary to volunteer and you will soon make a lot of friends with those coming to the Center. If you happen to volunteer in a Center that seems to be as deceased as your ancestors, then spend some time promoting the center and building it up. Constantly invite people you meet and know to come to the Center for help in finding their own ancestors. If you don't have a Family History Center nearby, try becoming involved with your local library or historical society. There are always opportunities.

Here is one "don't." Don't talk to people about your own genealogical research unless you are trading stories with another genealogist. Talk to people about their own families, not yours.

Get online with your genealogy. Start a family history oriented blog and promote it. Start a Facebook page about your family and research. Tweet about genealogy. You can find a lot of people with the same interest in genealogy online.

There are a lot of ways to get involved with genealogy on a social basis. You may have to look outside your family, ward and even your stake, but there are always opportunities to get involved with people.

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