While recently serving as records preservation specialists in the Barcelona Spain Mission, Elder Dan Hull and Sister Martha Hull met Noe Saludes, a man from a small village in Leon, Spain.
Saludes learned that many in the village were likely related to his family, and Elder and Sister Hull taught him how to conduct and record interviews and take photos.
“He spent two weeks last summer during vacation interviewing everyone he could in the small village,” Elder Hull said. “From those interviews he found hundreds of new family members — cousins, lost uncles and aunts. Two cousins gave him genealogies that went back to the 1500-1600s which really expanded his family lines.”
Elder and Sister Hull continue to hold a weekly family history class over Zoom, now teaching from Salt Lake City to Spain. Two weeks ago, they met virtually with a family in Barcelona — with some family members tuning in from England and Colombia. The family originally came to Spain from Colombia and wanted to know how to find their family lines in Colombia.
“All of these things were easy for us to do because they were part of our life back home,” Elder Hull said of the family history research. “Following the Lord’s examples of reaching out and not hiding our light under a bushel, we had tremendous experiences that enriched our lives and mission.”
Elder and Sister Hull are now service missionaries with the Family History Department training team. Their experiences are some of many who have served or are currently serving family history missions.
FamilySearch recently updated two resources for those with an interest in family history and desire to serve — the Family History Mission Opportunities webpage and the FamilySearch Volunteer Opportunities webpage.
“If you have that desire and willingness to serve, we’ll teach you. We’ll find a place for you. There is something for everyone,” said Terianne Morgan, global manager of senior missionary services in the Family History Department.
The Family History Mission Opportunities webpage includes information about full-time missions and service missions focused on family history.
Full-time missionaries typically serve 40 or more hours per week and usually live away from home. They can serve as an area support family history specialist — providing support to a family history area manager or library/center director working with local members — or as a records preservation specialist — scanning family history books, capturing images of historical records or preparing records for publication.
There are also full-time Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking opportunities to serve remotely from home, Morgan said.
Service missionaries live at home, work eight to 40 hours per week, and serve in their local area for six to 24 months. Opportunities include answering patrons’ questions, supporting FamilySearch communities, improving the Research Wiki, working on web-based or software development projects, translating documents and preparing records.
“We could not do this work without them, and the hastening of the work is taking place,” Morgan said of family history missionaries and the records they are finding.
“Because of our missionaries and volunteer support, we’re able to get them indexed and published and captured and digitized, and teach people about this wonderful work of gathering Israel.”
Elder Andy Fox and Sister Susan Fox, who recently served as records preservation specialists in the Montana Billings Mission, worked at a public library on a scanning project for the Lewis and Clark County and Montana State Genealogical Societies.
“We were blessed to be able to have our daughter with Down syndrome, Jana, join us on our mission,” Elder Fox said. “We were concerned about how Jana might fit in and what she might be able to do. In addition to helping with the project, Jana was able to volunteer at the library with the regular library staff.”
One of the collections they helped scan was the Helen Sweet collection, which contained more than 150 notebooks of original research about Sweet’s New England family.
“There are over 40,000 images in this collection and it is now published (not yet indexed) on FamilySearch for researchers across the world to have access to,” Elder Fox said. “We think this collection was one of the crown jewels of the materials furnished and scanned.”
Francisco Gomez, a FamilySearch manager in the South America South Area, credits service missionaries for the success in his area. “I have accomplished 100-fold times more things now with the missionaries than I ever could do in the 17 years I have been a manager in the department,” he said.
Many of the service missionaries Gomez has worked with reported learning valuable skills that prepared them for future jobs.
Sister Patricia Mendoza from Perú, for example, said her family history service mission taught her how to be more self-reliant and how to use technology more effectively, including Microsoft Office and Zoom. She also learned “to be more empathetic with the people around me and to offer more love and smiles,” she said.
For anyone with a desire to serve but not enough time to commit to a full-time mission or service mission, the FamilySearch Volunteer Opportunities webpage includes a variety of ways to contribute.
Activities include indexing historical records, improving FamilySearch place-names, testing FamilySearch products, growing the Family Tree, answering genealogy research questions, translating FamilySearch content and more.
“The purpose is really just giving people opportunities to serve meaningfully, whether or not they have a few minutes or a few hours every week,” said Mitch Wasden, FamilySearch marketing manager.
These volunteer opportunities are designed for people of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels — and for members and nonmembers alike — with more opportunities being added in the future, he said.
Dorotea Young currently volunteers as a translator for FamilySearch. “I love the Spanish language and am so happy that I have an opportunity to continue to use it by doing volunteer translating,” she said. “Being able to provide this service at my age of 81 years gives greater purpose to my life and helps me continue to learn and improve.”
FamilySearch media relations manager Paul Nauta added, “If you have a special interest that you think you can offer as a volunteer or missionary, let us know.
“It’s very well possible that even if it’s not currently listed as a need or option, we could use your gift and your contribution, and we are really good at finding an opportunity for you to share that gift,” Nauta said.
Those interested can fill out the contact form here.