As a family history consultant, you probably have the genealogy bug and want to infect others. But unlike the biological world, you may find a lot of resistant people around you. According to Elder Richard G. Scott, family history is a monumental work taking place on both sides of the veil. How do you get others to take a look and gain a love for family history?
In his presentation at the Brigham Young University Family History and Genealogy Conference in July, Mike Sandberg of Family Search said the first steps are: “Have a testimony, believe, become converted, and take action.” Once you are converted, you can better work with others—ideally one on one—to help them gain a love for family history. Don’t wait for people to come to you; prayerfully and proactively seek them out.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy suggests a non-traditional approach: “See yourself as someone who helps kindle the faith by which members do this work, not as a person who teaches skills” (L. Whitney Clayton, “Teach People, Not Lessons,” [FamilySearch blog post, Sep. 9, 2015]).
Usually desire comes when someone feels a connection to an ancestor through evidence of that person’s life. When people connect, they have tender, personal, often sacred experiences that fill them with love and empathy.
Sandberg recommends the following seven principles to help others search for their families.
- Prepare spiritually. Before looking at the computer, enlist divine guidance to help the person you are helping to find people who need their work done. Start your meetings together with prayer.
- Discover family goals. Have a conversation to determine what the person hopes to accomplish.
- Get access to their account so you can work as a helper. This requires their name, birth date, and the last five digits of their membership record number.
- Search their family tree before you meet. Prepare ahead to help them find immediate success. When you teach a small child to fish, you start with the basics. “Bait the hook” for them—have something ready before you meet to ensure success. Work line upon line, increasing their skill level as they progress.
- Prepare a personalized lesson. Create and deliver a detailed plan to help them accomplish their goals efficiently. Look for the green temples by names on their family tree for potential search areas. Listen to the spirit to know where to search. Meet multiple times to encourage and teach skills. Search through various sources for information.
- Point to the temple. Invite them to participate by taking names to the temple where possible and involving other family members. Get the work done; don’t just find and stockpile names. Doing the work for our ancestors helps develop a feeling of connection.
- Ask for referrals to spread the word. During your lesson, ask them who they could help to enjoy a similar experience.
Sandberg says to take the time to do it right and heed President Thomas S. Monson’s admonition: “Preparation precedes performance” (Thomas S. Monson, “Preparation Precedes Performance,” Ensign, Sep. 1993).