If you seek ways to connect young people and families to their ancestors, guest blogger Tanya Neider has developed a set of Google Forms that provides various learning activities. As a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS family history perspective shines through.
Tanya also participated in our Family History is for Everyone series so we could learn more about her, and I’ve included her answers at the end of this post.
Using Google Forms For Family History Activities
Through the clouds of COVID-19, a few silver linings were seen. New ways of connecting became critical for many, encouraging people of every age to learn how to engage online. In my world as a FamilySearch Missionary, I could see family history become more central in people’s lives as creative ways of inspiring others to find their ancestors bloomed. (see Family History Thrives During the Pandemic « Meridian Magazine)
During this time, our Primary President reached out to see if I could create a few family history activities that would be virtual-friendly. Earlier, I had been experimenting with Google Forms on a few other projects and thought about using it as my template. As I considered ideas, I determined creating three family history-themed activities with three different sections could lead to nine potential activities. The activities in mind would not be just for leaders to do with students; they could engage the families.
According to the Primary President, the families received these activities well. She also pointed out they could be used again in years to come. Recently, she even added to the Family History Fun Activity connected to the movie Coco.
With Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) so close together, she decided to build upon these two celebrations. Before doing the annual Trunk or Treat, our Ward gathered for a simple program followed by a potluck dinner. Each family was to bring a framed picture of a deceased relative to place upon the Ofrenda to honor their ancestors and a family recipe to create a Ward recipe book. After the indoor activities ended, ward members transformed into everything from fairy princesses to Star Wars Jedi and ghoulish creatures of every kind, then feasted on the sweet bounty brought forth by Halloween.
Enjoying an evening with our ward family, celebrating our ancestors and heritage by sharing our history, bounty, and blessing, brought connection. Building relationships with each other and those who have passed beyond the veil of this life can create the “welding link” between the dead and the living. Then, can God change lives on both sides of the veil.
These simple activities, created at a time when we could not meet, have led to great things. They can be used in Primary or integrated and expanded to include a family, ward, or stake. That is up to you!
Check out the Activities below by clicking on the highlighted title. If you would like a copy of these activities to use in your family, wards, or stakes, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org for a link and instructions.
Family History Activities
WELCOME! to Family History Fun – An activity for sharing your knowledge, love, and memories of your ancestors. Thank you for participating!
- What questions do you have about your ancestors? Who will you ask; so they do not fade away?
- Do you know who you are? How will you carry your ancestors in your heart? How will you save your ancestors?
- What songs and stories do you know about your ancestors and your family heritage? Who will you ask to share your family’s stories?
The Savior and Family History: WELCOME! to The Savior and Family History! – Experience how the Savior shares a love for you and your ancestors. Thank you for participating!
- What did Jesus do for you and your ancestors?
- Do you think the Savior loved our ancestors, too?
- How can you help your ancestors live with Jesus and your family forever?
WELCOME! to The Covenant Path and Family History – An activity for learning and sharing how to help your ancestors as you stay on the Covenant Path. Thank you for joining the journey!
- What questions do you have about baptism? What happens to ancestors who were not baptized before they died?
- What questions do you have about how to follow Jesus? When trying to be like Jesus you may have questions like – How do I follow Jesus? What are Jesus’ commandments and where do I find them?
- What questions do you have about the temple? You may wonder what we do in the temple and why we go there. How does staying on the Covenant Path lead us to the temple?
Each section includes activities. Also, at the end of the three main sections is an activity page for participants to explore.
-Tanya Neider, November 2023
Family History is for Everyone Spotlight
How did you get started in family history? Do you remember an initial “spark” or incident that inspired you? Did you have any experiences as a child/teen in school or at home that helped you be more inclined toward family history?
Genealogy, attending family reunions (that thrill of seeing my cousins!), and learning to remember dates, especially birth and death dates, seemed to be part of our upbringing. It was not something taught; it just was. Also, our vacations tended to be visiting relatives, attending family reunions, and going to courthouses. So, I always felt inclined to do genealogy. Perhaps these were the first steps to open my eyes to all of the aspects of family history.
At age twelve, I took my first real genealogy trip with my mom. We drove through the hills of southern West Virginia, where she was born and raised. Anytime we saw a mailbox with a family name, she pulled over, hollered over the fence to those on the porch, and visited. If no one were outside, she’d knock on the door. We also stopped at every visible graveyard (the few we spotted were mostly on people’s lands) to see if any relatives were among the buried. Then, on to a few courthouses to search through the huge books for family names.
My mother gave me several surnames to look for, and when I spotted one, I was to record the name, date, book, and page. The first time I shouted out, “I found one!” she came running over to check it out. Seeing the joy these things brought to my mother and being able to help my mom, along with the excitement of finding names, may have been the kindling that started the blaze.
What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research?
Genealogy seems to be part of my heritage. My grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts & uncles all seemed to discuss their findings as they joined together to find & discover our ancestors in documents, courthouses and archives. Out of all those who influenced my desire to do genealogy research, my mother most definitely tops the list! I have always wanted to be like my mother – get married, have children, love people, and do genealogy.
My extended Henderson/Ferguson family is right up there, too. They have kept the tradition of family reunions for many, many decades. These reunions have kept us connected through our love for our ancestors and give us an opportunity to share many aspects of our family history from recipes to finding family cemeteries.
What personality traits, hobbies, or professional pursuits have helped you in your genealogy research?
My tenacious nature has to be number one. Caring for my father as his health and physical abilities declined brought out my tenacious determination to figure out the how and five W questions, which helped to hone my skills.
Working in the school system aided my ability to learn and use multiple programs on a computer.
My FamilySearch mission gave me the tools to expand my knowledge of computer programs and opened my horizons in how to obtain genealogy help online, particularly in Facebook groups. It also gave me a platform to help others and to receive help.
After a few years of serving on my mission, I became the mission trainer. This gave me the skills to teach others, step by step, how to interface their computers with the mission’s programs, a needed skill to help others do genealogy and use online programs for research. I also developed relationships with laymen and professional genealogists worldwide through Facebook groups. This opened the door to records I could not find myself!
Coaching sports gave me an understanding of how to work with those who desired to learn. This has extended to the idea of “coaching” others who want to learn to do their own genealogy.
By working with and for others, I am learning to research in different areas of the world and passing on that knowledge to others.
I have had the privilege of planning family reunions. This included creating activities, and games, and organizing many hands to implement the things planned. Learning how to organize these things with family members, using their talents and abilities, has helped me see what aspects of family history they love to do. This has broadened the scope of family members sharing, and has helped them to gain confidence in contributing to our history effort, which has led to knowledge, documents, pictures, artifacts, and more, that I would have never found without them. As the saying goes, 2 brains are better than one. I have found many relatives working together are better than a few.
Why do you do genealogy? Why do you think it’s important?
My father was a prominent syndicated columnist. Growing up, I could see he and most others felt his work, which was significant, outshined my mother’s work of caring for the nine children and many grandchildren, not to mention her “hobby” of doing genealogy, which was of lesser importance.
On the eve of my father’s life, being bedridden, he had much time to reflect upon all aspects of his mortality. One day, while I tended to his needs, he said the following with great humility; “I believe your mother’s mission was greater than mine. Her work was more important.”
I do genealogy because it is part of me, part of my heritage, and gathering Israel is the greatest work we can do on the earth today.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history?
I love the hunt. I rejoice in finding those who have been lost, especially babies who had been forgotten because they died young. Also, having family members and others from beyond the veil of this life “visit” or come when I need them. I often feel their presence. It is quite comforting and somewhat intriguing, especially those I have never met and need me to find them.
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey?
Well, I do see a few toes in the family history pond. For example, my son asked me to write down my life story. A few of my children asked me to record and write down my family’s stories (siblings and parent stories). When I told my children I was planning to give their father’s box of genealogy to one of his siblings, one of my daughters asked what it contained. As we both went through it and she saw many original pictures, she declared we needed to keep it. So, I suppose not all hope is lost.
What are your research interests?
Family history research has many facets, such as accumulating and tracking family DNA, collecting photographs, recipes, genealogy, and artifacts.
From DNA, I have helped others find their biological families and have helped me make connections to my own. I have not studied all the ins and outs of DNA. The older I get, the harder it is for me to grasp and memorize anything I do not do every day. But I do love the idea of DNA trees.
I am hoping to discover the identity of my MIL’s grandmother’s parents. Priscilla Mary Occhini (1878–1965) KLDK-89P was born in Italy. She was placed on a “Foundling Wheel”. Priscilla told her family the “doctor” at the “hospital” was the person who named her.
I can’t wait until genealogy search engines such as FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Ancestry show DNA matches in their “Research Help” and searches.
My research interest is usually the place I am doing research for someone else. At the moment, it is the United Kingdom and in particular, Scotland.
How do you preserve your family history?
Capture it, Share it, Write it, Re-tell it, Post it, etc.
Since FamilySearch and Ancestry are in the business of preservation, I upload most of my findings on one or both of them. I also create and download trees to my computer onto Family Tree Maker (and other programs). Then I back up everything on a hard drive and in iCloud. I also create gedcom files for whoever wants them. It is much better for many people to have the information than one.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
Besides keeping a journal for many years, writing pieces of my personal history, going to reunions, sending GEDcom files to others, and such, I love telling family stories and showing pictures.
I especially love to explain to my grandchildren who are in the photos and what they are doing. I usually take the time to explain the lineage from them to the person, people, or place.
Telling stories about what I did when I was young seems to be a favorite. Some are quite silly, and some speak of my testimony of the Savior and His gospel.
What would you do if you had all the time in the world to spend on family history?
Help others find their ancestors, travel to see my ancestors’ homelands, get my electronic files in order, write a book full of stories and findings, continue to teach others as long as my brain power and memory allow, attend the temple more often, and continue to develop and create activities.
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
Stories about Burley Ellison were few, but the one I remember was that he was the person who first brought the name Olivia (my mother’s name!) into the family.
Being wounded in the Civil War, he was cared for by an angelic nurse named Olivia. When he returned home to his family, Burley told them about this angelic soul. He and his wife named their last daughter Arminta Olivia.
Knowing this story, I decided to investigate a little. I found Burley served in the Civil War as what modern people would call a sniper. He was a sharpshooter in the Confederate Army and served in the Regiment of the 30th Battalion, Virginia Sharpshooters.
I’m not certain that is my best discovery, but I remember feeling connected to him after doing my own research.
Who is your most interesting ancestor?
Hands down, my most interesting ancestor was my ggggggreat-uncle Jonas Berndtsson Lambert the Corsair born in 1665 (FS #9QRL-F9S). My father used to say we were pirates, a saying handed down through the years. He was right! We are pirates!