Stories and Leaves: A Ward Family History Tree
Today’s post is by Devon from A Patient Genealogist. If you have an idea to share in a guest post, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what you’re doing to share, teach, and encourage others in family history!
When we focus on stories of the heart, we turn people willingly to family history. Ask someone to tell you a story about a father, grandmother, or aunt and many will have no problem thinking of something. A teenager can remember the funny story of how her grandmother greeted patrons to their family restaurant. A 30-something can remember a motivational story about his grandmother and how she would rise above the adversities of life in the south during segregation and the impact it had on his desire to achieve greatness. A 50-something can remember the beautiful handiwork of her aunt and a deep desire to have a sample of such work for their own home. And an 80-something can remember a grandfather who told stories from their family’s involvement in the Civil War or both World Wars.
FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood encouraged us to be heart doctors by seeking after the stories of our families. In our ward, we were doing just that through the use of FamilySearch.org Memories section, the My Family Booklet, and a tree on the bulletin board of our meetinghouse wall.
The My Family Booklet gives ample visual real estate to the stories of our ancestors.
With FamilySearch.org we can add a photo, a document, a story, or an audio file and attach it to one or more family members as the item pertains. A group photo can be attached to everyone in that image, bring that person to life and tears to the eyes those who miss them.
We can even add sources that provide evidence and details about our ancestors lives. We can ensure we’re helping to create a record worthy of all acceptation.
So, our ward challenged members to either complete the My Family booklet or use the FamilySearch website to capture and preserve their memories or add sources about their ancestors.
Here’s our tree at the beginning of this program – bare and desperately wanting to spring into life. To add leaves and flowers to our ward tree, members are invited to do the following:
For a leaf:
• Add 5 Memories (photo, document, story, or audio clip)
• Add 5 sources to FamilySearch.org
For a flower:
• Complete the My Family Booklet.
Thus far, we have had a lot of involvement from priesthood leaders, including our bishop who did all three! We have had young Primary age children ask their parents to help them add memories to the tree. The young men have been taught how to add sources to the tree. Our youth family history consultants have been taught to add memories to the tree and say it’s, “like Facebook for dead people!” Many ward members, reluctant to participate in family history, are finding joy in adding their memories of their Nanas to this project.
Throughout the year, we’ve seen young men working on their trees and finding names to take to the temple. As such, we added the option for ward members to add a flower to the tree if they take a family name to the temple. Adult members have added their temple name flowers to the tree as well.
This tree is self reported. Unfortunately, there is no report easily available on a monthly basis to see the growth of sources and memories our ward adds to FamilySearch. Thus, we simply invite and encourage members to participate. It’s entirely possible that more members are participating, but not adding their leaves to the tree. I know I under report my contributions.
This bulletin board sits outside of the bishop’s office and has motivated many to participate just by being there.
After a year, our tree has blossomed and we’re continuing to add more leaves and flowers. And our high priest group leader wants the project to continue for another year to see if we could make the tree more full. Just this week, I helped a sister add five more memories to her tree and she’s nearly done with her booklet!
Some administration tips:
• Supplies: The tree is a laminated bulletin board tree from a teacher’s supply store. The leaves and flowers were cut using a clip-art found on the internet and a dye-cut machine that a ward member cut out of card stock. Put this document next to the tree: Help Us Grow Our Tree
• Introduce what FamilySearch can do to ward members: We used a 5th Sunday joint Priesthood and Relief Society meeting to demonstrate in real time how to add a photo, a story, and a document a volunteer’s tree. To this volunteer’s surprise, no photos or stories were in the memories section for most of their ‘long-time’ church member family.
• Easy Access to Leaves and Flowers: The Family History Consultant and High Priest Group leader had the flowers and leaves for a time period. This seemed to work for the first few weeks and folks excitedly asked for them. After a time, that dwindled. Then, for a few weeks, we passed the flowers and leaves around in a manila envelope during third hour (and Primary 2nd hour) meetings. This works for a few more weeks but then dropped off. After a few weeks, the leaves and flowers were posted on the bulletin board wall for easy access.
• Don’t Forget the Primary: Be sure to work with Primary Leaders to find a way to share this invitation to the adults and kids in Primary. You might be surprised how motivating this project can be for the kids, especially if the Primary President can find time for the children to show and tell what they’ve done on FamilySearch quarterly. The children love to do the work so that they will have the chance of showing something the next time a computer comes to Primary!
• Remind members through the year: This project is ongoing but needs reminders in creative ways. Work with auxiliaries to plan events or challenges or use in conjunction with a 2nd hour Family History class to keep the momentum going. “Pizza and Posterity” is a great activity for the young men and young women, where they get pizza after adding 5 items to the tree. Under the direction of the high priest group leader, use the power of ward social media accounts to celebrate those who add to the tree.
My daughter, pictured here, saw that other Primary children were adding memories to FamilySearch. She has also seen me working on our family tree. She asked if she could add something to the tree to get a leaf.
We sat down to work on adding memories and she quickly moved me out of the way to control the computer. As long as I supplied the material (stories, names, and photos), she happily added the information into the tree. She couldn’t wait to go to church to add her leaves to the ward tree! She is proof that if a primary child can add to the family tree, anyone can add more meaning to their tree. And who knows, together you will discover more name to take the the temple.
If you’re looking for a simple and fun challenge to encourage members to capture those amazing stories of their ancestors and preserve them for the future, perhaps this project is the ticket. It’s visual. It’s simple to understand. It’s adaptable for any skill level.
Don’t let members of your ward say their work “has all been done” because there is always one story, one source, and one photo or document that is not on the tree. And they can feel the blessings of family history in their lives by starting small. By small and simple things do great things come to pass. (paraphrasing Alma 37:6).
Devon Noel Lee is a family historian, scrapbooker, author, and blogger all while raising five home schooled children. Texas is home where she graduated from Texas A&M but she has lived in Iowa, New York, and South Carolina. She has over 20 years of experience in genealogical research and has maintained the blog A Patient Genealogist since 2009. She currently serves as a family history consultant in her ward, has helped to organize two local family history conferences and taught at numerous others. Check out Devon’s blog: A Patient Genealogist and her Facebook Page.