In his October 2011 General Conference talk, Elder Bednar encouraged the youth to get involved in Family History. He said, “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends.” (The Hearts of Children Shall Turn)
During my high school years, my mother would take me to the family history library. She would put me in front of a microfilm reader with a list of names to look for. I tried not to fall asleep or get sick to my stomach as the film scrolled by. If I was lucky after five hours, I might find one name or a family.
Due to advancements in technology and information sharing, there’s so much more available now. When we were first married and had kids, I researched one of my family lines back to the first three land owners of Canada. As more children came and grew, I researched Denmark, taught family history as a volunteer at the Ogden Institute for five years, and now teach at genealogical conferences, blog, write articles, and act as president of the genealogy branch in my city, while I continue to do my own family history research.
Maybe my children were too young, or it was the wrong time to get them started, but after hearing about and reviewing the Youth and Family History website that Elder Bednar mentioned in the last general conference, I knew this site would get my high school children excited about family history. Now was the time, I decided.
Sunday afternoon I sat down with my two young-women-age daughters. Before beginning, the website states that you need to create an LDS Account. The girls had already created their LDS Account user names at an YW activity where they entered their values in the Personal Progress website. We started by watching Elder Bednar’s three minute movie.
The website has step-by-step instructions on how to find an ancestor who needs temple work, how to find the necessary information and make it temple ready, and finally how to go to the temple to do the work. Each step has a young woman (“Jessie”) on the video showing and explaining how to use the websites and prepare the names.
The first step is to watch the instruction video for Step One on the Youth and Family History website. Then go to new.familysearch.org site, look through the ancestors listed (if any), and find someone who needs to have some temple work done. By the end of the video, the girls were in the new.familysearch.org website, looking at their family record on their own laptops.
For the Young Women’s value experience, they needed four generations. There were only three visible, so we learned how to expand the names we had. We took names from my genealogy materials to continue the lines. I heard things like “cool” and “wow” as we learned together how to do all of this. As I connected my ancestors, their line also opened up.
They started recognizing names. One daughter saw the ancestor where one of her uncles and a cousin got their names. They found some fun names like two “Ebenezers” and noticed that first names were used over and over within a family line. They also discovered that their dad was born a few months after his parents were sealed in the temple. He attended the temple in his mother’s womb! Most importantly, we found people who need temple work done for them. We will work on these names during Step Two.
A few hours later, my daughter Rachel told me she had finally found the only Rachel in her ancestry. Our Rachel was named after her grandmother Rochelle. She looked through hundreds of names on the lines of her four grandparents going back to the sixteenth century, clicking the arrows to see the next generations and expanding each ancestor — but only found one Rachel. This Rachel Edwards was born at the end of the sixteenth century and married in 1607 England. We traced the lines back to find out she was an ancestor to Rachel’s great-grandmother, who died when Rachel was 10 and whom she knew very well.
The following morning I found an e-mail from my daughter sent at 10:35 pm. She had followed Rachel Edwards’ husband’s line back farther to a couple of princesses and a King of Wales. I did not know about these ancestors as I had not found them myself, but the new.familysearch.org website connects your line with those of common ancestors and adds their information to yours.
The website gave me a great way to show them their family tree, and they completed a Young Women value at the same time while having fun. The girls can’t wait to try again — next week we will move on to Step Two: Discover a Family Record. This will involve researching the people we found that needed temple work so we can submit the work for the temple.
The Youth and Family History website is a great site for youth and their parents or their leaders to learn together. Elder Bednar said to the youth, “You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work.” (The Hearts of Children Shall Turn)
It’s easy to get started. To find the Youth and Family History website, from LDS.org, go to Menu > Family > Youth. Then click the Youth and Family History link in the Youth Menu. Or go directly to the Youth and Family History site here.