A year ago I was asked to serve as a family history consultant in our ward. My bishop asked me to focus my attention on making family history a meaningful experience for our youth.
I started working with our 11 years olds who were about to leave Primary and go into the Young Men’s and Young Women’s program. I wanted to help them find their own family names that they could bring to the temple once they turned 12.
At first I thought this wouldn’t be that difficult because I know how much the young people enjoy working with technology. So, I started by teaching some classes to the youth during their week night mutual activities. I quickly found that this approach did not work. It took all night to create accounts for each person in the class. I also learned that most of the parents and grandparents of these young people were still alive. In most cases, these kids couldn’t remember names of their ancestors back far enough to find a deceased ancestor so they didn’t have success using the FamilySearch database. Because of that, the experience was not very meaningful.
My next step was to work with the youth individually in their homes with their parents. With mom and dad present, we were able to:
- Set up an account quickly and easily for the child.
- Use the information that their parents remembered about their grandparents who had died so we were able to connect up the “dead people”.
- Show them pictures and share stories if someone had added them to an ancestor’s page.
- Played some fun family history oriented games with the family.
- Make and enjoy family history treats using old family recipes.
I also got permission from the bishop to create a lesson plan for a 2 week course which I taught during the Sunday School hour to the entire family of each young man and young woman. I asked their parents to bring whatever electronic devises they had to connect to the internet. If they didn’t have enough I brought some “extras” that I had around my house.
I first scheduled the 11 year olds, their older siblings and their parents for 2 consecutive weeks. My goal was to help the family support their 11 year old in finding a name to take to the temple. In our ward, when a young boy or girl turns 12 they typically recited an Article of Faith in front of the congregation. I asked our bishop to give them the opportunity to instead, share a story about an ancestor they found and prepared to take to the temple.
So far, we’ve seen a 100% success rate with each one of our youth finding at least 1 name using descendant research techniques. The kids get so excited when they see that green temple icons on their line! In addition to names, dates and places, we often find some additional information about the person to make them real (occupation, where they lived, what was happening to them around that time, etc.) We now have regularly scheduled temple trips where our ward youth get to print out their cards and take their own family names to the temple.
During our class, we brainstorm ideas about connecting our family using social media. We go to the Relative Finder website and join a group created for our ward. This allows them to see if any of them are related to someone else in our ward. It is fun to hear the youth calling each other “Cousin!” in the hall.
The key to making family history meaningful to young people is to make it fun and engaging. There is so much you can do to expose them to the history their ancestors lived; to show them old family photos they may never have seen and to do things that helps them understand what life was like for their ancestor. It’s activities like this that helps our youth have their hearts turned to their ancestors.
Below is a copy of a handout I use when I work with the young people of our ward/stake. It shows some of the alternate family history activities they can get involved with instead of or in addition to researching a family line or clearing names for the temple.
This article was submitted by Taylor H. Giles who serves as a Family History Consultant in his ward.