Youth discover rewards of family history while searching for ancestors

Woody Gruninger, 16, serves as a specialist in the Magrath Alberta Stake Family History Center. He said he got involved in family history last summer when he was bored and didn't have anything else to do.

His family has the Personal Ancestral File program for home computers, and he decided to see how the program worked. He was hooked. He began working on it practically night and day, typing in his own family names.Woody has been focusing on his Hungarian ancestry and has extracted more than 6,000 names.

Woody, who has been called to help train others in the stake Family History Center, is one of several youth in the Magrath Stake who work with eagerness and excitement on family history.

What does it take to inspire this kind of focus when homework, baseball, basketball and other activities compete for the young people's attention? The answer: Priesthood leaders working in partnership with committed ward and stake workers.

In the Magrath 3rd Ward, for example, families are invited individually into the family history center once a week. Ward family history consultant Vi Miller said the family will have an opening prayer and song. Then she talks about the importance of temples and family history research.

To raise more awareness about family history, the Raymond 4th Ward decided to plan a sacrament meeting dedicated to the subject. Youth involved in the program spoke on the testimony they have gained in doing the work.

Dick Larsen, stake family record extraction director, said the motivation behind getting started in family history seems to be, in almost every case, a sense of duty.

"Youth may go to the family history center to put in their hour of service because they think, `If I say yes this once, then the leaders will be off my case, and I can get it over with.' Once they are there and they become involved in the work, they receive a gift according to their faith. The gift is a feeling from the Holy Ghost that manifests itself in a feeling of urgency. It is like a push."

Diane Tollestrup, stake family history worker, has had many years of experience in working with youth. She had been in the Young Women organization for more than eight years. The youth have grown to love and respect her. So, when she asked some of the youth to come and extract names from the microfilm and type them into the Personal Ancestral File for the stake's "Redeem a Parish" program, very few could say no.

The young men have particularly shown an interest in doing the work.

"I try to get a group of young men to come at a time on Tuesday so they can switch between `tossing a few hoops' and doing family history," she said.

Getting Primary children to come and work on names can really help them begin to understand about temples. Steele Hirsche decided he wanted to be able to take his own ancestral names to the temple for baptisms by the time he turned 12. With his family's help he was able to achieve this goal. Shortly after receiving his recommend, his family went to the temple to do baptisms for eight males and nine females.

Sister Tollestrup said: "In most cases, I only have to show the kids once how to do something with the computer program and they've got it. The older youth then take the responsibility for training the Primary-aged kids."

One young woman gained a strong testimony of temple and family history work while working the Redeem a Parish project. Corine Demas became involved in extracting names as a Laurel project. She said she had finished typing in her data and sat down to wait. She felt prompted to go back and check the data she had typed in. She had the impression of two girls in her mind. When she checked her entries she found two girls' names that had been missed. Corine said she felt a strong feeling of gratitude and joy as she added those names to the file. She was later confirmed for these two girls in the temple and felt the Spirit bear witness to her of their gratitude and acceptance of the gospel.

Once the youth have completed their extractions and baptisms, the adults of the wards complete the work by supporting ward temple nights. The ward can gain a feeling of unity by traveling together on the bus to attend the temple.

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