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

Friday, August 7, 2015

Teaching Family History

The admonition to Find, Take and Teach our family history is only complete when we focus on the teaching part of our activity. Teaching about family history has been going on for many, many years in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here are a couple of early examples:

Genealogical Society of Utah. Lessons in Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Geneaological Society of Utah, 1915.

Quoting from the very first page of this early lesson book:
Every well-informed, consistent Latter-day Saint should believe in genealogy as much as he believes in faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins ; and this belief should be manifested in works, the same as belief in baptism, tithing or any other gospel principle is shown to be genuine by its fulfillment in actual practice. This statement, that every Latter-day Saint should be a genealogist, may, at first thought, seem a little extreme. It will be necessary, therefore, to establish the proposition by briefly pointing out what the Latter-day Saints believe regarding the salvation of the human race.
Using the term "genealogist" has fallen out of favor in the Church. We now refer euphemistically to "family history." But the importance of teaching family history has not changed. Here is another example:

Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City. Seeking after Our Dead, Our Greatest Responsibility: A Course of Lessons for Study in Classes in Genealogy. [Salt Lake City]: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1928.
Quoting from the first page of this lesson manual:
The purpose of this series of lesson on methods of research in Genealogy is to bring before our people, so vitally interested in seeking after their dead, information that will guide them in their search, and afford an answer to the problems every research must consider, viz:
  1. Why we are seeking.
  2. What we are seeking
  3. Where we must seek.
  4. How we should seek.
Here is yet another example from our past:

Deseret Sunday School Union Board (Salt Lake City, Utah). Adventures in Research: Genealogical Training Class Sunday School Lessons. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Sunday School Union Board, 1943.

Quoting from this manual:
The purpose of this course is to present in the form interesting stories of successful genealogical searching, a comprehensive introduction to the method of ancestral research. 
In the preparation of these lessons the endeavor has been to harmonize the following objectives:
  1. To arouse in class members an active interest in research to ascertain their own ancestry, and administer temple ordinances for them.
  2. To provide as part of the lessons (as far as allotted space will permit) actual record material which members distant from a genealogical library may learn to manipulate, thus acquiring the necessary technical genealogical skill to cope with the problems to be encountered in their own line.
  3. To arrange for an actual working class, about every fourth week, when members will engage in record work and application of lessons.
  4. To present typical research problems from various parts of the United States and in different foreign countries, where most research must be carried on by our people, and show how these have been solved, and the steps followed.
  5. To indicate the fascinating life stories back of the names and dates and family records, and that even the seemingly commonplace persons are connected with important and often thrilling historical events.
  6. To show the intimate yet often unsuspected interrelationships between families, and to emphasize the fact that Latter-day Saints are representatives of many families and nations and of all ranks of society, and that church members hold kinship with the great characters of world history.
  7. To emphasize the fact that men and women of the world have been inspired to compile their own genealogies and those of notable people, and in so doing have compiled the genealogies of Latter-day Saints.
  8. To awaken the desire in the heart of each class member to know and appreciate his forefathers, and to officiate in their behalf in the templates.
It seems to me that the goals of teaching about family history have not changed all that much over the years. It is also interesting to see how many different methods have been tried to teach the members how to become in family history over the years. Even during my lifetime, we have seen several different approaches, from little or no teaching, to more intense attempts to get the membership involved. We may be ready for another change in curriculum in the not-to-distant future.


  1. FamilySearch has a digital copy of "Seeking After Our Dead" that I found after reading your post her. Scanning through the table of contents brought to this section that was just fascinating to read, now that we have Family Tree:

    LESSON 25


    PROBLEM.—-How May We Proceed in Research so as to Co­-operate Most Effectively With Others?

    References—l. Advantages of co-operation. "But why co-operate? Because that method of finding one's ancestors offers an appeal to everyone—both to the selfish and to the un­selfish searcher and there are no neutrals. Because all family groups are, after all, but parts of one larger family group, and as such are closely related. In fact every marriage links two families together, and not those two families alone, but all the progenitors and descendants of that couple. Now, there have been billions of marriages in the past, which means we must multiply the result of one union billions of times. It must now be fully apparent that every family is related to every other family, not casually, not merely once or twice, but over and over again. * * *

    “So intimate are these relationships of families that one cannot make a single connecting link for one family but it affects every other. Hence, with the results obtained by actual research before us, it is evident that there is no such thing as family pedigrees that are separate and distinct from every other family pedigree. Rather are these pedigrees units of a larger family group, of a far more comprehensive pedigree." (lbid.)

    A Method of Co-operation in Research. 1. Essentials of such a method.

    For any co-operative method of research to succeed, there must be an organization which will bring together genealogical data, classify and record this so that any fact may be readily found when it is wanted, and preserve these records made where they will be safe and accessible to all….

  2. Thanks for emphasizing the Teaching aspect of Find, Take, Teach. It is indeed a cyclical Imperative phrase.
    I know it lessens the effect, but I'd rather it read Lean, Find, Fix, Take, Teach! How can one correctly Find unless they learn the pitfalls of seeing a green temple icon and thinking it's o.k. to just reserve names. Fortunately, the impedances recently added to the reserving process regarding duplicates, 110 yr rule, data issues,... will force folks to Learn first.