Family history callings: Hidden gems to assist members

“In just the past five years the number of people participating in family history has tripled,” said Rodney DeGiulio, senior vice president over FamilySearch records, during a RootsTech 2017 class for Church members involved in family history work.

“Temple and family history work are a family responsiblity,” he said. “Gathering and sealing multigenerational families invokes family connections on both sides of the veil.”

Brother DeGiulio’s presentation was based on helping temple and family history consultants find success in bringing the blessings of God to as many of His children as possible. His topic, “Family History in Your Leadership Calling: A Hidden Gem to Aid Your Ministry,” focused on four main parts.

The first part is for temple and family history consultants to understand the significance of their callings, he said. “The recent change in the name is a refocusing to the primary responsibility of helping members gather their families into the Tree and into the temple through temple ordinances. Emphasis is placed on assisting individuals and families on a personalized basis.”

Individuals and couples in family history callings don’t need to be experienced genealogists or researchers, he said. These individuals should be warm and friendly people and committed to the principles of the gospel and have an appreciation for the importance of families and the temple.

He then introduced Sue and John Laing, stake temple and family history consultants serving in the Salt Lake City Utah Stake. In a question-and-answer format, Brother and Sister Laing shared some of their knowledge and experiences with the audience based on more than four years of experience.

“When I found out about the new focus for family history consultants in providing personalized help I was horrified,” said Sister Laing. “I spent the first while weeping because I felt so overwhelmed.”

In an effort to help bishops get their ward council leadership involved in family history work, the Laings achieved success by holding a meeting twice a year in which representatives from all auxiliaries attended, including the bishop and his counselors. At this meeting they discussed family history goals for the stake, did training and discussed challenges.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of submitters and even seen some new indexers come on board,” said Brother Laing. “In an effort to reach our stake goals set late in the year, we had family history consultants meeting one-on-one with individuals during Sunday School or at members’ homes.”

When asked by Brother DeGiulio what one of the most important lessons learned was, Sister Laing said, “We found that having family history goals set by the stake presidency coupled with their full support helped us both at the stake and ward levels to be part of something bigger than one person.”

The second part to aid temple and family history consultants is the new family history leadership guide found in the Gospel Library app. Brother DeGiulio said this tool will help those with family history callings at all levels and can be printed out if needed.

Using an approach themed around water, he said the guide is designed for “wading, swimming or diving into the content.” The app includes training materials, searchable topics, links to additional content and a chart of current family history callings in the stake.

The third aid for temple and family history consultants is a new family history leadership report. “What can priesthood leaders do to help more members participate?” asked Brother DeGiulio. “We went out and surveyed hundreds of priesthood leaders all over the world and asked them what they needed to help hasten the work of family history in their area. I am pleased to announce the availability of a new report that can be accessed by all priesthood leaders.”

The new report shows the number of members in the stake submitting names on a yearly basis and the percentage of members with the first four generations of ancestors completed in the FamilyTree program. It also measures the number of members logging into FamilySearch, number of members participating in family history activities and year-to-date submitters for each unit in the stake.

The fourth aid for family history work is the consultant planner available on FamilySearch.org under the help others/get help menu, said Brother DeGiulio. It gives consultants the current level of family history activity in their ward and stake. It helps consultants research and find ancestors for specific members by accessing available records (currently more than 1 billion).

Consultants can also use the tool to prepare 30-minute personalized lessons when meeting with members in addition to recording all of the notes and progress made during visits, he said. With permission, consultants can even access specific family history information for members they work with to help move the work along.

Brother DeGiulio said, “Elder Cook called this period of time ‘the most blessed time of this dispensation.’ The Lord is hastening His work and the tools and capabilities available are being poured out to us through His Spirit.”

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