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800 youth in northern California participate in ‘indexathon’ for 1950 U.S. Census


Nearly 800 youth from northern California recently participated in an “indexathon” to help with the 1950 U.S. Census project

Youth logged over 1,200 hours of service using the FamilySearch Get Involved app — a new tool in which volunteers help correct records indexed by artificial intelligence. 

The indexathon — a cross between a marathon and indexing — was held over two Saturdays, April 23 and May 7, on a sports field in Yuba City adjacent to the soon-to-be completed Feather River California Temple. Youth ages 14-18 from 11 stakes participated.

“We were looking for ways to build spiritual momentum for the open house, dedication and eventual opening for the Feather River temple — especially in our young men and women,” said Elder Dow R. Wilson, Area Seventy. 

With the temple as the backdrop, the event provided an opportunity for youth to serve, have a personal experience with the temple, interact with missionaries, and socialize during outdoor activities and a dance. 

“The Spirit of Elijah was strongly present and hundreds of thousands of names were indexed,” Elder Wilson said. “We are all excited now to go through the temple for ourselves and our ancestors.”

Youth involvement

Lilly Caldwell, 18, of the Lincoln California Stake, was one of the stake youth temple and family history consultants who planned the event. She helped teach ward temple and family history consultants various ways to index, including the Get Involved app, so they could index as many names as possible during the indexathon. 

Read more: FamilySearch’s new Get Involved app allows you to do simple family history tasks in seconds

A highlight of the event for Caldwell was meeting new people and talking about where their family comes from. 

“Family is something that every single person has in common, no matter where you come from or what background you have,” she said. “The endless missionary opportunities that you have in family history is something that I’ve learned so much.”

Jace Christofferson, 18, of the Anderson California Stake said he enjoyed learning more about the Feather River temple. At one station, service missionaries overseeing the construction shared renderings and stories of the temple. 

“That was really cool to be able to see exactly what was being done and be able to actually be there [near] the temple,” he said. 

Youth listen to a presentation about the soon-to-be-completed Feather River California Temple during an area youth indexathon in Yuba City, California. The event was held on April 23 and May 7, 2022, adjacent to the temple site.

Youth listen to a presentation about the soon-to-be-completed Feather River California Temple during an area youth indexathon in Yuba City, California. The event was held on April 23 and May 7, 2022, adjacent to the temple site.

Credit: Rylan Murphy

Christofferson, who is also a youth temple and family history consultant, helped teach his fellow youth how to use BYU Record Linking Lab’s Map App. This tool takes records from the 1950 census and links them with possible matching records on FamilySearch. 

“It was really cool just to see how many records we were able to get done with that many people,” Christofferson said of the indexathon. “Every time a new group came through, it was really cool to be able to see how everyone working together was able to produce something so great.”

Debbie Justesen, an area temple and family history adviser and service missionary who helped coordinate the event, said the hope is that the youth consultants will now teach the adults in their wards how to use these tools. 

“I’m such a believer in what President [Russell M.] Nelson has called them to do,” Justesen said of the youth’s role in the gathering of Israel. “And I tell them all the time, ‘Your prophet has asked you to do this. This is your job and we want to support you and help you to fulfill that.’ … And in my mind, they are making a difference.”

Justesen said she and her husband, Dave, felt joy as they watched youth serve and socialize together during the indexathon. 

“We recognized that the youth of California had some of the strictest lockdown requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “We wanted the youth to be able to gather in large numbers once again to socialize and have fun. We also wanted them to feel the spiritual strength that comes from gathering and doing good together. Overall, we feel we reached that goal and received great feedback from youth, parents, ward and stake leaders.”

Missionary involvement

Some 60 full-time missionaries from the California Roseville Mission helped with the indexathon. They led groups through the stations, engaged in conversations with youth about serving missions, and interacted with the youth’s friends of other faiths. 

Sister Emily Westercamp of the California Roseville Mission helps youth during an area youth indexathon in Yuba City, California. The event was held on April 23 and May 7, 2022, and more than 800 youth participated.

Sister Emily Westercamp of the California Roseville Mission helps youth during an area youth indexathon in Yuba City, California. The event was held on April 23 and May 7, 2022, and more than 800 youth participated.

Credit: Rylan Murphy

Sister Sloane Gibson and Sister Emily Westercamp were two of the missionaries who attended. 

“The whole event, in total, showed that family history work can be fun, indexing can be fun,” Sister Gibson said. “Especially with us being [close to] the temple grounds, I think it gave everyone the full picture of what we were doing, that we were helping our family, our friends, whoever it may be, come closer to God, come closer to Jesus Christ.”

Sister Westercamp added: “I just loved the whole focus of how it unites the three different components of missionary work, family history work, and the temple, and it really shows that it’s all one thing. We’re just trying to help people and serve people.”

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