When Diane Laytham went to RootsTech earlier this year, she noticed promotional material for myFamily History Youth Camp to be held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, July 25–29, 2016. Her mother, Roberta Allen Allred, an avid family genealogist, had left Diane the family history trust fund established by Roberta’s father, Elijah Allen. Diane desired to use the fund to generate interest in family history with the younger generation, so she emailed all of her cousins asking if there were any youth aged 14–18 in their families who would like to attend this camp courtesy of the trust fund.
The answer was 13 times “yes” from 9 young men and 4 young women who were all descendants of Elijah Allen, but some of whom had never met one another. These young men and young women joined 45 other youth in attending the second Annual myFamily History Youth Camp this year.
Youth arrived at BYU on Monday afternoon, attended a welcome party, and settled in for a week of activities. Tuesday began with a combined keynote session with the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, featuring Paul Cardall, an award-winning musician. Cardall shared his story about how he and his wife embarked on a spiritual journey searching for his wife’s ancestors, meeting her family members in Slovenia, and sharing his gift of music, first in a Catholic parish and then 6 months later in the local opera house. Around the same time, Cardall was approached by Elder David A. Bednar of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Bednar asked Cardall to compose music for lyrics he had written. The result of the simultaneous experiences in Cardall’s life resulted in the song One by One, which isavailable at lds.org.
After this inspirational keynote address, the youth attended instructional classes, workshops, and labs. Amy Schmuhl, one of the youth participants, reported, “My mom signed me up [for the youth camp], but I’m glad she did. I already found lots of ancestors, and it’s just the second day!”
On Wednesday, the youth traveled from Provo to Salt Lake City to participate in a scavenger hunt and research at the world-renowned Family History Library. This year’s camp director, Annie Merrell, commented, “The youth really like being actively engaged with each other. The case study activity really got them involved and helped them to understand how to use historical records to build the family story.” While in the city the youth also had the opportunity to explore their ancestors at the local Discovery Center and visit Temple Square.
In the evening, the youth previewed the movie The Cokeville Miracle in preparation for Thursday’s keynote address by one of its survivors.
Friday’s keynote address was given by the popular youth speaker John Bytheway, who encouraged the participants to keep a journal because “everybody has a story.” He encouraged youth to use technology as a tool, not a distraction. Bytheway quoted Elder Quentin L. Cook saying, “Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people” (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 46).
Throughout the conference, participants attended workshops introducing them to small databases; paleography, a skill that is so helpful when indexing and reading old records; popular and useful family history apps; and, instructions on following their ancestors’ trail on Google Earth.
Youth divided into teams to compete in AncestorsGo, an activity that required them to scan a batch of photos, index a batch of names, transcribe 20 headstones on Find-a-Grave, write a letter to a parent or a grandparent, and record a memory on the FamilySearch Memories app in record time. Youth participated in other activities, such as karaoke, bowling, and dances, including one combined dance with participants attending Especially For Youth.
One of the highlights of the camp was an opportunity for the youth to share their success that they experienced during the week. Grace Hancock of California said that when she heard about the myFamily History Youth Camp at BYU she “jumped at the chance.” She continued, “I wanted to know more about family history, how to do it, and how to get others excited about it.” Suzy Hall from Pleasant Grove, Utah, paid for the camp herself. She is currently serving as a ward family history consultant, and she wanted to learn more about how to do family history. Emily Harmon shared her reason for attending the camp by stating, “In Wyoming, you don’t have opportunities to be surrounded by youth with similar interests.”
When John Best, the program administrator, was asked why BYU hosts the myFamily History Youth Camp, he replied, “To build excitement, knowledge, and needed skills among the youth so they can return home and spread that enthusiasm [for family history].”
Ten percent of the participants from last year’s inaugural camp returned this year. Last year, the camp registration was $450, including 4 nights in BYU campus housing and meals for each day; the cost was $360 if attendees decided not to stay in BYU housing.
Those interested can find more information about the Brigham Young University 2016 myFamily Youth Camp at http://myfamily.ce.byu.edu/. Information about the 2017 camp will be available on the same site in January 2017.