How to begin family history research

There are two attitudes that keep Church members from doing family history research. One is the fear that it will take so much training to ever get started. People feel overwhelmed. The second is the feeling that because they have a lot of relatives in the Church that their family history has all been done. The following are simple projects that anyone in the Church can do to get started:

Prepare an accurate family group sheet for your immediate family and for all of your descendants if you have children. Be sure that all the recent births, marriages and deaths are recorded accurately. If you are not married, start with a family group sheet for yourself as a child.- Be sure your immediate family and your descendants are properly recorded in the Ancestral File. Although most of these people are living, the information should still be accurately sent into Church headquarters. A ward or stake family history consultant can help you get started.

Check with your own ward clerk to see if your Church membership records are accurate. Mistakes do occur.

Join your family organization, if there is one, and send in money to help them with their research. If a large group of people coordinate their funds and research efforts, the results are more likely to be effective.

Go back one more generation, once these first four steps have been finished. Is your parents' and siblings' information correct? Is there anyone on this sheet who has died without completing all temple ordinances? Is this family correctly recorded in the Ancestral File?

Keep repeating these steps with each generation. Local family history centers have people trained to help you. Don't overlook people in your extended family. If you look at one family at a time, the job is not as overwhelming as it might appear at first glance. - Loretta Evans, Idaho Falls, Idaho

What we did:

Write down all you know

When I joined the Church in 1970, my mother gave me copies of the family history. I then added what I knew and began collecting information from other living relatives. The following to me are very easy ways to get started:

Write down all that you know.

Collect data from all living relatives.

Organize your data to keep it workable.

Do research to fill in the blanks. Research is interesting and is a lot of fun. - Theila M. Shetler, Elfingham, Ill.

Pray for guidance

Ask the Lord for guidance. Prayer should also be involved in each subsequent step.

Meet with your ward family history consultant.

Begin filling out family group sheets and pedigree charts using your memory and the documents and papers in your home.

Contact other members of your family who may have more information.

Visit your stake family history center. Be aware that not everyone serving in the center is a highly trained family history researcher. Don't give up if your first experience is not up to your expectations. Go back and try a different librarian.

Organize your family papers. A neat and organized family history is easier to work with and will save you hours of unnecessary work in the future.

Take a beginner's family history class. - Mike Van Hoff, Clarkston, Wash.

Attend conferences

Answers to questions such as what types of records are needed and their availability are just some of the important reasons for attending conferences, such as the Utah Genealogical Association Family History conference to be held in Salt Lake City, April 9-11.

From the pedigree chart which gives the basic, direct-line "skeleton" of one's family tree (usually starting with yourself and moving backward in time), to the family group record which lists all the information and documentation about the family, today's family historian has many aids for making this fascinating pastime easier, more successful and more rewarding than ever.

With "fill-in-the-blanks" forms and computer-aided research, ancestors are found faster and organized in attractive and enjoyable displays. - Karen Clifford, vice president of Utah Genealogical Association, Salt Lake City, Utah

Well-defined goals

Don't think you can do all the work at one time. Establish well-defined goals, like completing four-generation group sheets and complete the temple work for them.

Remember our history needs to be recorded. Involve members of your family who are not members of the Church.

Start! If you don't have time to write your own personal history, begin collecting materials in one place.

Give gifts of family histories, personal histories and special photos and four-generation group sheets with pictures.

Take advantage of times in your life when you may have some free time.

Realize God doesn't give a commandment without providing a way to complete it.

Submit, with the help of your family, the names of those ready for temple work. Plan beforehand a visit to a temple and involve the youth in the baptisms. - Alessandra Choairy Coelho Myrrha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Collecting in one box

I began by collecting everything in one box. Then I reviewed my pedigree charts and prayerfully decided on which family to start with. That's when my spiritual experiences began. In the middle of the night, I would awaken, thinking about my second great-grandmother, Nancy Jane McCrite, and her family. I would get up, ponder and pray about how to find more information about her family, always writing down any ideas that came to me.

The amazing thing is you don't have to be a genealogist to have success, only a good desire to link your families together. The Lord and the promptings of the Holy Ghost will do the rest. - Janiel Duce, Snohomish, Wash.

Family reunions

Although I have done some family history over the last 30 years, I have discovered a great way to collect family history. I and some of my siblings have organized a first-time ever family reunion and as part of that reunion I am collecting all information from my father's family. Each branch has been asked to submit, as completely as possible, information on each of the descendants in their line. I have tried for many years to collect this information but have not had any success until we started planning this reunion.

It is also interesting that I have found a few relatives who are members of the Church. I joined the Church in 1960, and I thought I was the only member in my family. - Mary Funkhouser Hart, Mulino, Ore.

How to checklist:

1 Verify own records; fill out family group sheets, pedigree charts.

2 Go to next generation; pick a line, continue back from there.

3 Seek guidance; attend family history classes; pray for help, set defined goals.

4 Contact living relatives; join family organization, attend family reunions.


April 4 "How to use general conference messages to solve personal, family problems."

April 18 "How to teach children to be honest."

April 25 "How to plan an inexpensive family vacation."

May 2 "How to help a loved one addicted to prescription drugs."

May 9 "How to remain enthusiastic about motherhood."

May 16 "How to help young people avoid movies of questionable content."

May 23 "How to become more involved in political, community and government affairs."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to supplement your regular income," "How to rear children in light and truth," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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