RootsTech 2024: How to get your family excited about family history

‘They can help in some sort of way, and when they make a discovery, that excitement is contagious,’ says RootsTech 2024 presenter

The first time Taya Tobler felt truly connected to her grandmother was the day she shared her love of genealogy. She brought Tobler to her computer and excitedly shared all she was working on in FamilySearch, from connecting sources to finding record hints to merging duplicate records.

“I remember feeling excited and empowered and connected in some way for the first time to my grandma,” she said. “... That moment is probably the reason why I became a genealogist in the first place.”

Joined with Karlee Twiner at RootsTech 2024 on Feb. 29, Tobler testified that sharing love of family history is more than a pastime; it’s a way to connect. The duo — professional genealogists and co-founders of Family Tree Travels, which offers personalized heritage tours — shared with listeners how they can share their love for family history by getting family members excited about genealogy.

Gilles Francois and Lucia Fernandes look at a book with tribal lineage from the Middle East at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Love, share, invite

Like sharing the gospel, people can share the love of genealogy with their family in three simple steps: love, share, invite.

It all starts with love. “We must foster relationships and strengthen them with good communication, with support, with understanding, with good listening,” said Tobler. “As we do those things and we build a foundation of love, they’re going to feel connected to us. And they’re going to want to hear what we have to say.”

With loving one’s family members comes a desire to share with them the stories of where they come from. At the end of last year, Twiner bought a Christmas tree but had no ornaments. Instead, she found family photos to display on the branches. “I decided that this is probably going to be a tradition for me, even when I have my own kids,” said Twiner, “... so my kids will grow up knowing who their ancestors are and where they come from.”

Third comes the invitation. Tobler said, “Invite them to do it with you. Sometimes those invitations are powerful; they feel needed. They feel loved. They can help in some sort of way, and when they make a discovery, that excitement is contagious.”

People walk through the expo room at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Ways to get family members excited about genealogy

Twiner and Tobler shared several ways those interested in genealogy can share their excitement with family members:

  • Find out their interests, hobbies and passions. Tobler said, “We’ve got to build connections with them. This means that we’ve got to share with those we love in their joys and their excitement.”
  • Document the present. Keep a journal, take family photos, document family events, and interview or talk with family members.
  • Digitize photos. Find old photos, then upload and share them online.
  • Cherish food in your heritage. Learn to make dishes an ancestor would have made.
  • Watch home videos. Convert old VHS home videos to DVD, share them on various platforms and start taking some home videos now.
  • Tell stories. Twiner said, “If you don’t tell these stories, they end with you. And that can be a really sad realization.”
  • Reflect on and celebrate history. Remember the day an ancestor died or was born, and gather family to honor their life.
  • Visit your ancestral homelands. Tobler said, “Walking where they walked, seeing what they saw, eating the food they would eat, hearing the accent that they might have had back then — it’s something magical to get to go put yourself in their shoes.”
  • Start small. “I totally understand getting frazzled with genealogy,” said Twiner, “especially 30 years ago, when you didn’t have the online help. ... It can be overwhelming. But if you can show them how much easier it is nowadays, they might be like, ‘Yeah, I can go and do that.’”
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