When I was 12, a generous family history consultant in my LDS ward in Seattle helped me copy the pictures of my ancestors to add to a little booklet I was making for a young women’s project. Her name is Nancy Kirkpatrick. Her passion and support was one of the keys to our family getting started in genealogy!
Last week I got in touch with Nancy again, in a serendipitous way. I had started writing this post and asked my mom if she had Nancy’s contact information. The next morning, I got an email that Nancy had subscribed to our blog! I emailed her and asked about her ideas on ispiring others in family history. She shared so many good tips that we’re going to turn it into a guest post in a couple weeks.
One thing I will share from Nancy right now is this great thought: “I believe that helping people to “feel family history,” not just view it as one more thing they need to do, lights the initial flame of inspiration that helps many to get started and remain committed to it.”
Nancy isn’t the only family history consultant who has inspired me. My grandmother was asked to be a family history consultant while she was a student at Brigham Young University in 1954.
She wrote, “I was called to serve on the Genealogy Committee of the Branch. My assignment was to visit certain apartments and teach them about genealogy work. I liked doing that.”
The knowledge she gained in this role made her very attractive to her future husband. When they started dating and going everywhere together, she invited him to a family history training. She wrote, “We took a trip to SLC to the family history center on a bus provided by the school. I talked to him about family history and the calling I had in the branch.”
She said she would consider it. He didn’t waste any time and brought a ring over the next day! My grandparents were married in 1955.
Throughout their lives, they researched their ancestors together and shared stories about what they learned with their ten children and many grandchildren. She and Grandpa later served as family history missionaries at the BYU library in 2006-2007.
Nancy Kirkpatrick, my grandparents and so many other family history consultants have inspired others with their love of family history. Their job is to encourage people to start researching their family history, help them set up a free FamilySearch.org account, and help find ancestors who need temple ordinances to be joined to their families eternally.
The “To Turn the Hearts Guide” says,
Consultants are skilled teachers who work and communicate well with others. While consultants need not be experts in family history research, they should be comfortable using the resources at FamilySearch.org and helping others use them. These FamilySearch resources include family pedigrees, historical records, and the FamilySearch indexing program.
Family history consultants are essential to successful family history work. They help individuals and families experience the joy of doing family history.
Helping people experience the joy of family history is a difficult job. For the past three years, I’ve been serving in my ward as a family history consultant. I’m passionate about family history and the joy it brings, but not everyone feels this way! Many people are apprehensive, feel inadequate, or lack the time and interest.
Despite this, I’ve learned that family history offers something for everyone to enjoy. I’m fascinated by the reasons others love family history and how they were inspired to start. That’s why we started our “Family History is for Everyone” spotlight series. Genealogists are so enthusiastic about what they do, and I want to know why. As I’ve asked people what the spark was that got them started, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to inspire others to get started. Here’s what I found out:
4 Tips for Inspiring Others in Family History
1. Show Passion
When other people see how passionate you are about family history, they will want to try. Seeing you light up with excitement over a discovery you’ve made or a project you’ve completed can be that initial push they need. In one of our Family History is for Everyone spotlights, McKinley shared, “My sister-in-law was way into family history. She mentioned it multiple times and you could tell she had such passion to it. It was this spark that I saw in her that first got me interested.”
2. Ask Them to Share Stories
Stories are important because they remind us of the bonds we feel with grandparents and other loved ones. This feeling of love and connection with family members is motivational.
Ask, “what were your grandparents like? What stories from your family’s past inspire you? Are there any legends in your family that you don’t think could really be true?” Checking into the validity of family lore is a great way to start. I doubted that my 3rd great grandmother took on her sister’s identity when she immigrated to America, so I researched for two years to find out the truth! (She didn’t. The family member who made up this story just couldn’t find the right records.)
Phil shared how his father’s desire to know more about their family history was the impetus for him to begin researching.
Joey shared, “At the time [that I started researching], I lived away from family. I missed relatives that had passed on and wished they were able to be a part of my children’s lives.” Joey also discovered that her grandmother had written letters to distant relatives and compiled family records. Joey said, “I feel close to my grandmother by continuing her legacy.”
Devon shared how her ward encourages members to add family stories to FamilySearch with a bulletin board tree. Her daughter wanted to try it when she saw what others were doing.
3. Help Them Discover For Themselves
It’s tempting to show someone how awesome family history is by researching their family for them. But the best way to help another person really get excited is to let them discover for themselves. Once they make an initial discovery, they will want to find out more.
Those who enjoy problem solving and analysis will love this. That’s what hooked one of our spotlights, Spencer: “I immediately became very interested in finding records and sources for my ancestors because most of my ancestors were already listed but they had very little information confirming the facts of their life. I see going through databases for records to be an interesting challenge because there are so many ways to view the problem.”
For some, one-on-one time at the computer is essential. Encourage them to start with grandparents or people they knew. Help them look at source documents carefully, analyze them, and take notes about what they find. It’s important to help them develop skills they can repeat on their own. Encouraging them to write tips, goals and findings in a notebook along the way is a good way to do this.
4. Offer Consistent Help and Support
Offering consistent opportunities for ward members to get help works in my experience my mother’s experience. Our ward’s Sunday School class and weeknight class give people a chance to come and get the help they need and be around others who are actively researching.
Corinne said, “For such a long time I have had such a desire to do family history. … Unfortunately every time I have looked at it, I felt so overwhelmed and so under skilled that I just would not start. I still feel that way but since I have taken Diana’s family history class and have spent some hours with her at the family history center, I am no longer petrified, just intimidated by the massive amount of knowledge and work there is to learn and to be done.” For some, knowing about the daffodil principle and doing family history work “one ancestor at a time” can help them not feel so overwhelmed.
Try these 4 tips the next time you’re helping someone get started in family history and let us know what worked the best. Everyone is different! Each person’s unique learning style will require a different approach. But one thing I think is universal – as Nancy said, it’s most important to help others “feel their family history.” Once they have that feeling of love and connectedness to family, they’ll want to continue researching.
Do you know a great family history consultant? Share this post with them!
What tips have you learned from your experiences as a family history consultant or family history teacher? Comment below or join our new Facebook group to share ideas. For more tips to inspire others to begin family history and genealogy research, stay tuned for next week’s post, “Inspiring Family Members in Genealogy.”
New Facebook Group
How do you inspire others to experience the joy of family history? Let’s share ideas. I created a new Facebook group called “Inspiring Others in Family History” for anyone who wants to join the conversation. I am not an expert, but I hope that by everyone sharing we can all be enlightened. Whether we want to teach family history to our own children, family members, friends, or fellow church-goers, it helps to be learn about what’s really working for others.
Family History Consultant Page
There are many helps and resources available for LDS family history consultants online. I compiled some of my favorites on this page: Resources for Family History Consultants. What are your favorite resources? Let me know so I can add them to the page. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family History is For Everyone Spotlights
To read more of our Family History is for Everyone spotlights, click here. If you know someone who is passionate about family history, we’d love to include them in our next spotlight. Contact email@example.com.