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 from July 25-29, 2016. Her mother Roberta Allen Allred, an avid family genealogist, had left to 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 in their families ages 14-18 who would like to attend this camp courtesy of the trust fund. The answer was 13 times “yes” — 9 young men and 4 young women, 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 2nd Annual myFamily History Youth Camp this year.
Youth arrived Monday afternoon and settled into their dorms for a week of full activity! During the welcome party the youth divided into teams, painted team shields, and completed a case study introducing various record groups and the importance of researching an entire family unit. As they analyzed documents they recorded the family’s story on a “massive butcher paper timeline.” 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.”
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 the local Catholic parish and then, 6 months later, in the local opera house. About the same time Cardall was approached by Elder David A. Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to compose the music for lyrics he had written. The result of these experiences in Cardall’s life resulted in the song One by One available at lds.org. After this inspirational keynote address, the youth attended instructional classes, workshops and labs that answered the question, “Where do I start?,” including a class on using social media for family history.
The youth took off from Provo on Wednesday and traveled to Salt Lake City to participate in a scavenger hunt and family research at the world-renowned Family History Library. 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!” 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 youth previewed the movie The Cokeville Miracle in preparation for Thursday’s keynote address by Amy Williams, one of its survivors.
After the keynote address on Thursday, participants attended workshops introducing them to small databases; paleography, a skill that is so helpful when indexing and reading old records; the most popular and useful family history sites and apps; and, how to follow 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 with participants attending Especially For Youth. One of the highlights of the camp was an opportunity for the youth to gather and share the success that they experienced in their research during the week with each other.
Friday’s keynote was given by the popular youth speaker John Bytheway who encouraged the participants to keep a journal of their experiences 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 and hastening of the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.” (“Roots and Branches,” General Conference, April 2014.)
Grace Hancock of California said that when she heard that the myFamily History Youth Camp was going to be offered 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 Utah paid for the camp herself! Currently serving as a ward family history consultant, 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].” Of interest, ten percent of the participants from last year’s inaugural camp returned this year! Camp registration was $450, including 4 nights in BYU Campus Housing and meals for each day; the cost was $360, excluding BYU Campus Housing. The 3rd Annual myFamily History Youth Camp will be held July 24-28, 2017 on the Brigham Young University Provo campus.
©2016 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.