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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

We teach people not classes

Most of the Family History Consultants I have talked to over the years have told me they had been called to teach a "Family History Class." I have learned a hard lesson during my long life. We can only teach people, not classes. Family History is highly individual in nature. We teach people one at a time in an appropriate setting. Classes can be instructed and shown, but teaching comes to the individual. The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts states, at page 20,
Consultants take the initiative to reach out to members, especially those who are not comfortable using technology, by:
  • Helping a few individuals or families at a time to work on their own family history so they can perform temple ordinances for their deceased relatives. The most effective place to do this is in members’ homes. The ward council could determine specific individuals or families for the consultant to work with. The high priests group leader assigns these families to the consultant. 
  • Answering family history questions from ward leaders and members. 
If a "class" is going to be held, the Guide counsels us to do the following:
Lessons are generally conducted as workshops in which members actually complete their own family history work, either on the computer or on paper. Where feasible, class participants should have access to computers. Many meetinghouses are currently being equipped with wireless Internet connections.
This is how teaching family history is best accomplished. I teach a lot of classes, but I am most careful to teach people, individually, whenever possible.

If you are called as a Ward Family History Consultant, you should be contacting Ward members directly and offering to help them find their ancestors. Let's suppose that you were called but no one bothered to tell you what you were supposed to do or how to go about being a Family History Consultant. The simplest way to "get trained" is to go online and carefully study the following guidelines, manuals and lessons that are aimed specifically at training Family History Consultants. You do not need to wait until the Bishop or the Sunday School or whomever "schedules a class." You do not need to have a dedicated space in the building for Family History. Notice what it says above, "The most effective place to do this is in members’ homes." All you have to do is start offering to help.

The first place I suggest going is to carefully read the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts. A PDF copy is on Read the entire Guide and study the scriptures quoted.

Next, go to and sign in and go through this entire section: Family History Topics. Pay particular attention to the section on Family History Callings. Carefully review all of the videos especially for Family History Consultants. There is a link here to the Leader's Guide. If you want to be an effective Family History Consultant and be able to help people go through all of the FamilySearch Tree Training in the FamilySearch Learning Center.

Now, for instructions on and how to do research, go to This new website will provide you with an excellent understanding of how to go about teaching family history and give you the tools to do so.

If you want to magnify your calling as a Family History Consultant, you will have to use your own initiative. You can call on your local Family History Center and others for help, but you need to take matters into your own hands and do your job. Don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. That may never happen. Get busy and do it.

If you are reading this blog post and know a family history consultant, you just might want to give them a copy of this post. It might help to know where the instructions are located.


  1. If I understand what the FamilySearch engineers and others are saying, the Leader's Guide and To Turn the Hearts are both out of date, and other materials are being worked on. One example is whether the Ward Council at the auspices of the High Priest group Leader conducts a quarterly meeting only on family history and comes up with a ward year plan with each auxiliary and quorum. I do not know of one ward that does this. Is it old advice? Probably.
    One way to hold an effective class is to use Leland Moon's sandbox fake database, where class members can perform all kinds of tricky action without the fear of messing up their own real program. Signing folk up the first time take a little while.
    Also using works well. Changes do not affect the real deal.
    What I take issue with is the lack of training for consultants on Family Tree. In many cases, I see consultants learning as they go, when valuable online training is available either on powerpoint, youtube videos, or on the Learning Center at Moon's FamilySearch Family Tree Curriculum. Yes, we teach people. But if we don't learn the "lessons" of what we should or should Not do on Family Tree, we can continue to create severe mess-ups.

    1. No, it is the Member's Guide and the Instructor's Guide that are both out of date and have been retired. "The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts" is not out of date and should still be used. What James Tanner has told is excellent, the best learning is done one on one. I would only hold a class if my priesthood leaders ask for one. Otherwise I would do exactly as James has recommended, just do it. First, ask your leaders if that is ok, to make sure they are aware of it. But once they are aware the field is white!!
      The discussion on the Ward Council in the Leaders Guide is discussing the ideal, and it is still the ideal. Whether wards do it or not is up top them, we do not want to be prescriptive.
      Milk and honey before meat. The sandbox is meat.

    2. Thanks Jim, good information. :-)