by Kathryn Grant
Vilate Kimball was present when the Prophet Joseph Smith first taught the Saints about baptism for the dead. She wrote joyfully to her husband, Heber C. Kimball, who was then serving a mission:
“President [Joseph] Smith . . . says it is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before this gospel came forth. . . .
“I want to be baptized for my mother. . . . Is not this a glorious doctrine?” (As quoted by Quentin L. Cook, “Roots and Branches,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 44–45).
In those early days, family history meant talking to relatives, sending letters across oceans, and even looking through old church records.
But as technology advanced, things changed. Microfilmed records were a miracle in their day, followed by personal computers, the internet, and mobile devices. Technology is one way the Lord hastens the work of family history, in ways our ancestors probably never imagined. But technology doesn’t replace heart-turning experiences; rather, it’s a tool that can invite them.
One way the miracle of technology comes to us is through FamilySearch partners. Over the years, FamilySearch has gathered and digitized billions of valuable family history documents and made them available in FamilySearch Historical Records. However, many records are available only on other sites.
FamilySearch has partnered with key family history organizations to provide free accounts for members of the Church so they can access as many records as possible. Together with FamilySearch Historical Records, these sites provide valuable information and tools you can use as you prepare family history lesson plans and work with people one on one to help them with family history.
FamilySearch currently offers free accounts for the following partners:
- Ancestry.comprovides access to 14 billion worldwide records. Members can also create personal trees and collaborate with other members. It is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.
- FindMyPast specializes in records from the United Kingdom, but it includes other collections such as US marriage and census records. This site is available in English only.
- My Heritage provides international records, extensive searching features, family tree tools, and unique matching technologies. It is available in over 40 languages.
- American Ancestors focuses on American family history from the 17th century to the 21st century. This site is available in English only.
- Geneanet focuses on French and European records and research. Member online trees include information for over 400 million individuals. Hundreds of thousands of free digitized archival records are also available. This site is available in Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
You and those you are helping can sign up for free partner accounts by following the steps below. Be aware that youth must be at least age 13, and youth ages 13–17 require parental consent.
- Visit FamilySearch.org/partneraccess.
- Click the button for the account you want to create (you may need to scroll down to see the buttons).
- When prompted, sign in to FamilySearch.org.
- After signing in to FamilySearch.org, you will be guided to create your account. If you already have an account with one of these partners, you can convert your account to a free LDS partner account.
In addition to FamilySearch partners, some third parties have created apps for everything from interactive maps to charts showing your ancestral homelands. Here are a few that could help create a discovery experience for those you are helping with family history.
- The Family History Guide offers dozens of free lessons and other resources to help people reach their family history goals.
- RootsMapper uses Family Tree data to plot your ancestors on an interactive map.
- Find A Grave and BillionGraves both have apps that allow volunteers to photograph grave markers and make them available online. Users can also request photographs.
- Pedigree Pie offers a fun way to visualize your ancestors’ countries of origin.
- All the Stories helps you find stories of your ancestors in Family Tree.
Technology can help in your efforts to provide heart-turning experiences when it enables people to better know and love their ancestors. Used appropriately and under the guidance of the Spirit, it can be a valuable tool to help gather the family of God.