Hannah Allan has the best of both worlds. She’s 25, looks 17, and is as hip as a 15 year old. She’s contagiously energetic and enthusiastic when it comes to family history and engaging youth in personal heart turning experiences. But don’t be fooled by her youthful façade. Allan graduated from BYU in Family History and Genealogy and is employed as the genealogist for the Oregon Historical Society. She recently shared her insights and experiences on how to orchestrate successful youth-oriented family history events with an audience of youth and adult leaders at the 2014 BYU Family History Conference.
Allan said she has been deeply inspired by recent counsel provided by Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves. Young people increasingly need to be learners who act and thereby receive additional light and knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost—and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon.” (Bednar, David A, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” General Conference, October 2011)
Through her experiences and complimentary suggestions from youth and adult leaders present, a key ingredient for adults to learn when working with youth is to give the youth the desired temple or family history goals and objectives, then get out of their way. “Be facilitators, not dictators,” remarked Allan.
“Invite the young people to act. You have to be there, but you have to get out of the way. You have to provide direction, without taking over.” (Bednar, David A, “Let Them Act” video, www.lds.org/youth/family-history/leaders)
Allan suggested the following tips:
- Involve the youth in planning – but let them lead!
- Do not underestimate the youth! Trust them.
- Let the youth OWN their work and planning.
- When setting up [youth] family history consultants, call youth who are enthusiastic and willing.
- Do not pressure or require – invite!
- Make it personal and fun! (Include food, games, technology, ward members, personal family names, stories, photos, etc.)
- Youth need activity and example. Do not just lecture.
- The best way to learn is to teach and serve.
- Use diverse talents and interests of the youth and apply them to family history (art, music, language, photography, videography, history, writing, scrapbooking, sports, etc.)
Elder Bednar reminded youth leaders that family history is not just another thing on a checklist, rather it is literally the work of salvation. “And as [youth] do that work, that’s an expression of faith. It opens their heart for that spirit to be able to get in and touch them. It will be inviting them to do something, to listen, to look, to act.” (Bednar, David A. “Help Others to Come Back to Church” video, www.lds.org/youth/family- history/serve).
For youth leaders working with youth to prepare youth family history events, Allan suggests:
- Keep it personable.
- Provide opportunities to feel the Spirit of Elijah—those divine witnesses that their family relationships are divine in nature.
- Make sure the technology resources (FamilySearch login credentials, internet, computers, etc.), where applicable, are sufficient and working.
- Use a member’s home on a regular basis or set up a regular family history class during the three-hour Sunday block. Consider modifying the content regularly to keep it interesting, current, or random.
- Provide opportunities for them to share/showcase their work with peers, family members, and ward/stake members.
- Provide events that allow the youth to bond with each other as well.
- Keep things moving! Provide breaks and different things to enjoy.
Allan said youth peers are very influential at dispelling any undesirable perceptions of family history and temple efforts. And youth who make family history connections to their personal lives is powerful. She told the story of one 14 year old young man who walked away from a youth family history event feeling an obligation to document his personal life for his posterity.
Allan and audience members suggested the following ideas and activities for engaging youth in family history:
- Socialize indexing events
- Share a family recipe and publish it on FamilySearch Memories complete with the recipe, photos of the plate and ancestor, and related stories
- Create memory books, scrapbooks, photo albums, family recipe books
- Put together a Who Do You Think You Are type slide show, movie trailer, based on the youths’ personal family history
- Spotlight an interesting or inspirational ancestor. Publish their story on their FamilySearch.org profile
- Conduct and publish an oral history with a family member or older ward member (Try using the new FamilySearch Memories mobile app to help)
- Have a culture night (dinner, shows, displays, etc. showcasing ethnic family backgrounds and traditions)
- Do a family history showcase night
- Photograph and index cemetery tombstones with mobile phones onto BillionGraves or FindaGrave
- Choose an interesting tombstone in your community and research that person. Add it to their FamilySearch.org profile.
- Scan personal family photographs or ward member’s photos and put them on FamilySearch.org
- Visit museums and libraries for heart turning experiences
- Use Personal Progress, Duty to God, Merit Badges, and the new My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together booklet
- Conduct a family history fair
About FamilySearch International
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.