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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Family History Consultant or Mentor?

The core issue faced by any newly called or already seasoned Family History Consultant is how to translate the concept of gathering family history information and recording it in a way that can be used for submission of Temple Ordinances, into a usable and practical local plan of operation. Here are several questions with my own answers based on my experience during the past 8 years or so of active participation as a Family History Consultant.

What is the first thing I would do as a newly called Family History Consultant?
This is an easy question. I would take all the training I could find online and in classes at local Family History Centers. I would make sure that I understood the basics of Indexing, submitting records to the Temple for ordinances and the mechanics of getting online to use and This does not mean that I need to become an expert genealogist, but I think that a Family History Consultant should, at the very least, be able to help anyone get online to submit names to the Temple or do research.

I would also assess the needs of my own Ward. Do we have a lot of new members or those whose families have never been researched? Or the opposite true, do most of the members have long histories of ancestors in the Church? This makes a difference in the way I approach the Ward. Wards with new members or with little genealogical experience might benefit from series of classes. But Wards with more seasoned members will benefit most from mentoring.

What about holding classes for the members of the Ward?
We have a computer center in our Ward, but it is not a FamilySearch Center. It is just some computers in a classroom. We have taught series after series of classes but few, if any, of the class participants have gone on to do any family history research. Finally, we decided to simply act as mentors and consultants. We meet every Sunday in the Family History Room and make the computers available for use by the Ward members. We help anyone who comes in with their family history research or find a way to answer their questions. At first, we had no one coming to the class and we sat there and talked to each other about what to do. After a while, the members of our Ward finally figured out that we were serious about providing help and so they began to come to the class. Now, we have standing room only almost every Sunday. We have members of our Ward that are actively taking the ancestors to the Temple and doing research. Of course, we cannot answer all of their questions, but we give them direction to the online resources such as to find the answers.

What if your Ward Building does not have computers?
Most of the Ward buildings in the Church now have access to WiFi. If your Ward does not have a computer room, then create one by having volunteers bring laptop computers to Church each Sunday for the class. If the WiFi becomes "jammed" because of overuse by other members, ask the Ward leaders to encourage members to limit their cellphone and tablet use to classes and only when necessary. It may also be possible to get addition WiFi coverage if there is a need.

What if you are not a genealogist and have little or no background in research?
The first way to get around this problem is to follow my initial suggestions of becoming familiar with the mechanics of getting online and submitting names. Next, I would suggest involving those active in your local FamilySearch Center. There are over 4,600 FamilySearch Centers around the world and there should be someone who has research experience involved in the Center. Perhaps, instead of a class on Sunday, you have a regular day during the week when the members of your Ward can to to the FamilySearch Center and receive help. The idea here is consistency in helping.

These are some of the ways we have been successful in getting members of our Ward to become interested in and doing family history. In future posts, I will give some additional ideas we have had about Indexing, research and other topics.

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