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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Young Adults May Yet Save the Day in Family History

We have been having some really interesting and positive family history experiences with the young adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Provo area. I realize that there has been a movement for the past year of so to try and interest the youth in genealogy. Presently, we have about twelve of our grandchildren who are teenagers or close to being teenagers. All of them live lives full of school, homework, friends, piano and dance lessons, and other activities that manage to make their lives very busy. With few exceptions, I see most teens in this area in same category. They are already programmed to the limit. They have, for the most part, only very limited computer skills other than using mobile devices. They also have very limited research skills.

Now, I would contrast that state of affairs with the single members who are older and more mature. Men and women who have not married or who are divorced or widowed make up a significant portion of Church membership. See Handbook 2: Administering the Church. The Church divides these members into three distinct categories: those 18 to 31, those 31 to 45 and those who are older that 45. In the Provo area, there are many Young Single Adult Wards, made up entirely of students and others in the 18 to 31 year old range. There are also several older Single Adult Wards with the mid-range of ages. Our own Ward seems to fall, by default, into the older range.

Now, these younger and older single adult wards have been coming in large groups to the Brigham Young University Family History Library for training constantly during the time my wife and I have been serving there. We have had some extraordinary experiences with these wards. The members of the wards are focused, more mature, are willing to sacrifice some of their busy lives for family history and have the research skills and the ability to focus on the details of family history that make our experiences with them priceless and inspiring. Subsequently, some of these wards have among the highest percentages of participation in family history in our entire area.

One obvious advantage of these older groups here in Provo is that many of them are students at the two large universities in Utah Valley: Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.

Last night, we had an exceptionally inspiring class with more than thirty YSAs (Young Single Adults). This is not the same kind of experience we have when we teach classes of teenagers. Usually, in a teenage class we are spending the entire time trying to get them all logged in. There are one or two exceptions, but many of the teens spend the entire time trying to avoid focusing on the project of finding their ancestors. This seems to change when they have some older life experiences that allows them to have the perspective of the importance of the work. It also helps that many of the YSA and older groups have Temple recommends and go to the Temple regularly. They see the need for the research that needs to be done.

We are very happy to help all ages in discovering their family history, but we certainly have been having a lot more success lately with slightly older groups. Isn't there a message here somewhere?


  1. Thank you soooo much for these observations. I totally agree with you and my experience mirrors yours. I really hope someone behind the youth-push-slogan Find, Take, Teach reads this. Maybe by now they have learned what you describe and are making adjustments. I notice that my bishop has given up on calling Youth Consultants, and has now gone back to more mature individuals, for the very reasons you lay out here. Yup. You are so right!

  2. I have seen similar things in a one-size fits all class that focuses on the techniques and tools. With no advance preparation, it is typical to spend most of the time helping them create an account. However, we are having great success in teaching the youth in my ward by focusing on the one-on-one FInd-Take-Teach experiences taught at RootsTech. Some of the youth get excited and keep doing it after we meet, some want follow up, and others finish and go back to focus on school/dance/sports/jobs/etc. but that isn't unlike any other group of people. If we try to put youth through a large class, I would suspect it will often fail.

    In my experience, the class format taught in: "Begin at the Beginning: Helping Others to Love Family History" works pretty well with any age group but those who aren't afraid of technology, like our youth, often catch on the fastest. Watch the video here: