Genealogy, family history, pedigree chart, family group sheet—these are all familiar terms to those who do family history. For most of the rest of us, they can be very intimidating—from a form with lines that looks like it requires a bunch of data we don’t know to sources that we definitely don’t know.
So how do we make family history fun for people? Here are some ideas that I’ve found that have helped me as I’ve worked with individuals or groups of people or that I have heard of others doing. Maybe some of them can prompt ideas for you to help “pep up” your ward or stake’s family history efforts.
Let’s start with the idea that family history has to be fun and have a real value or people won’t stick with it. The hard research that most people encounter after they get all the easy-to-find records doesn’t seem nearly as overwhelming if they have already developed a love for their ancestors. So how does someone make it fun and provide value?
Start with the Story
Recently, the young women of my ward were asked to come to an activity with their favorite picture of a grandparent and to be prepared to tell why that was their favorite picture. We all gathered in one of the leader’s homes, prepared with laptops, iPads, and smartphones. The young women each got up and showed the pictures of their grandparents and told the stories to about their grandparents to the rest of the group. Afterward, we took a picture of the picture, had them go to Family Tree and add the photo and story, and then linked them to the grandparent in Family Tree.
The activity was scheduled for one hour. At the end of two hours, many of the young women were still looking at all the names they found in their trees. One young woman even found a family name for whom some sealings were needed and commented that she was going to go home, take the Family Ordinance Record (FOR—she didn’t know what a FOR was—just that it was a paper to take to the temple to do the sealing), give it to her parents, and tell them she would babysit if they promised to go to the temple the very next day and do the sealing work for that person. Now, that’s bringing the spirit of Elijah alive! And for that young woman, doing that service was very real and very important. Others found ancestors and relationships they didn’t know about, and several discovered they were related to others in our ward.
Thinking about the Here and Now
I’ve heard of wards using a program where they have the youth videotape a story about their families, which is used as a foundation for the same type of exercise that we did in my ward. Imagine telling a story about your family that can then be put into words in Family Tree!
We recently held a Relief Society activity in which several sisters came with stories and pictures to share. We focused on the spirit of Elijah and the importance of family. We then talked about what can happen to those precious photos that they had with them and instilled in them a desire to put their photos and the stories about their photos into a place where they can be held forever (FamilySearch.org).
Because of the variety in ages of the audience, there were many types of response. One older sister asked, “You mean when my kids throw these pictures away after I die, people can still know who this was and why they were important to me?” A younger sister was concerned about the fact that she wasn’t prepared if she had to evacuate her home. She said that if all of us had to leave our homes, at least our important photos would be spared if they were already stored on FamilySearch.
Fun (telling the stories) and value (long-term preservation) are two great ways to help pep up your family history program. Add a lot of love, concern, and one-on-one help, and you will have a family history program that thrives and offers many opportunities for people to share the blessings of the temple with their families.