(Much thanks to Sister Spendlove, who co-authored this article.)
Kimberly Spendlove has been a family history consultant in her ward and stake in Valencia, California, U.S.A. off and on for the past ten years. Kim was baptized at age 18, and during those early days she had a home teacher who knew a lot about family history and introduced it to her. Since she was the first person in her family to join the Church, there was a lot of family history to be done.
With the help of her home teacher, she learned the basics and was able to have a successful first experience with family history. That great start has motivated her to continue to work on her family tree. These days she has help from her husband and four children, three of which have been called as YSA or youth family history consultants themselves.
When asked what she wishes she knew when she was first called as a consultant, she has some definite advice.
Kim says that at the outset she would have wanted to better understand the importance of seeking heaven’s help to make sure that each member that she works with has a successful experience with family history. “This is done best by first asking Heavenly Father for spiritual guidance to help those that you teach,” she says. “It is as much a spiritual work as it is a research work.”
Another key insight she has learned is to do a little prep work. Before meeting with members, it’s good to ask for the last five digits of their membership number. With that number, you can look at their tree as a “helper” before you meet to get an idea of how far along their family tree is, and what countries their ancestors came from.
When you meet with your ward members, Kim suggests that you make sure that you have as much one-on-one help as possible. If you are helping several people and you are the only consultant available, invite friends and others that have experience with family history to assist those you are teaching. Ward members will learn more quickly if they are at the computer with someone answering their specific questions and guiding them every step of the way. If you work with them on things that are important to them, they will be more motivated to keep doing family history. If their primary goal is to upload photos, help them start out with that, even if they may have family names to find.
Kim has also learned to set expectations at the outset and let members know that researching a family tree will take more than just a single hour with a consultant. She also lets them know that all the answers are not to be found in one spot. While researching, they may come to a point where they don’t know what to do. Kim suggests using the help section on FamilySearch, including the Research Wiki, or even Google to learn more. Language or locality specialists can be found in the same way if people need specific information about an unfamiliar country or province.
Another bit of advice from Kim: Don’t be afraid to try new tools and resources. Some people with full family trees may be overwhelmed when starting out. However, the newer features like the Descendancy View and Record Hints can be helpful in these cases and provide heart-turning experiences where folks thought their work was “already done.”
Above all, Sister Spendlove advises any family history consultant to remember that he or she will need to listen to the promptings of the spirit to know how to best help those they work with. And, don’t forget that family history is about making eternal family connections, so “have fun with it!”
This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight the learnings of family history consultants from around the world. Let us know if you have had an “ah ha” moment in your calling about how to find success teaching family history and how it can help others! Email your story to email@example.com. We may contact you about using it on FamilySearch.org!
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