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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Visiting Wards around the Church as a Genealogist

As I travel around the United States and this time, Canada, and attend genealogy conferences, usually the conferences are on Saturday and frequently, I get the opportunity to attend a Church meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the following day. I also travel to see family and for vacations and get the same opportunity. Over the past few years, as I have attended meetings, I have made a point to inquire about the status of genealogy in the various Wards I visit. I must say, it is very, very rare for me to find an active on-going genealogy program in any of the Wards I visit. Sometimes I talk to the Ward Family History Consultant. Sometimes I talk to the Bishop and/or High Priest Group Leader. In some Wards, I never do find anyone who knows about what is going on with the "genealogy program." Many of the comments made in this particular blog come from my interactions with these Wards I visit.

Here are some random observations from my visits:

  • Most of the time, I find that there is a "Family History Consultant." Usually, if I can find that person to talk to, they indicate that "right now they don't have a class going, but one is planned for the future." It is usually a challenge to find this person because no one seems to know who they are. 
  • Sometimes if I finally find a Family History Consultant, I am asked as to why I am in town. When I explain that there was a local genealogy conference, most of the time they are surprised and have never heard of the conference. In many cases, when the conference is sponsored by a local genealogical society or other organization, the local Ward members are unaware at all of this local genealogical organization. 
  • Most of the time when I talk to the Bishop or High Priest Group Leader about attending genealogy class, they indicate that they are in the process of calling a Family History Consultant or that they already had a class that year and another one has yet to be planned. 
  • Sometimes I am able to talk to the Director of the local Family History Center. These conversations are always interesting since the amount of activity of the centers are so varied. From time to time, the Directors vary in experience and motivation. Some have been directors for many years and appear worn out, others are newly called and are overwhelmed with their responsibilities. The degree of experience they have in doing genealogical research varies considerably. 
  • I have met several Family History Consultants who are "newly called" and most commonly they have not been given any specific instructions as to what they are to do other than start up a genealogy class. This contact has also extended to recently called High Counselors and other Ward Leaders. 
  • Every so often, the Ward Family History Consultant has a good idea about what is expected by feels like there is little support in the Ward for family history. 
  • I can remember two or three times over the past few years when the Ward was organized and actively engaged in family history. In these Wards, there is always good support from both the Bishop and the High Priest Group Leader.
These experiences and many others have convinced me that following the guidelines in the General Handbook of Instruction and the Guide to Temple and Family History will result in a successful Ward family history effort where new and old members of the Ward benefit from the participation in Temple activity. Ignoring the handbooks results in the much of the discouragement and lack of activity I have noted around the country. Wards that follow the manuals prosper. 

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