Warning: Participating in family history and genealogy while watching the NFL Super Bowl with your significant other may cause side effects including distraction, interference with relational bonding, and failure to fully enjoy chips, salsa, and guacamole. Research responsibly.
It’s time for the NFL Super Bowl! The winner of the Lombardi trophy will soon be determined on the field. The New England Patriots secured the AFC Championship and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC Championship. Sunday will be the final game of the year—Super Bowl LII!
As the big game approaches, I think of another “big game,” RootsTech, to be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center this month, beginning Wednesday, February 28 through Saturday, March 3, 2018. This year’s headliners includes Brandon Stanton, Scott Hamilton, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Natalia Lafourcade. Although their keynotes may inspire and motivate us to pursue our heritage, the actual routes we run for our genealogy touchdowns will be as individual as the ancestors we pursue.
To assist us, RootsTech offers approximately 300 sessions from which to choose to customize a plan of attack to avoid fumbles and interceptions when pursuing our family history goals. Whether you attend the conference onsite or virtually you can download the RootsTech app either from the App Store or Google Play. Once you have downloaded the app you will have access to information about each session and any of the accompanying handouts to enhance your training.
So how can RootsTech assist you? How can you make the most of your time at the conference and in Salt Lake City? Here are a couple of suggestions:
Know why you are attending. This may seem like a strange recommendation but it will make all of the difference because everything you do will center on the why. RootsTech is an amazing conference, but it is impossible to see, hear, and do everything. Knowing your why will help you manage the all the possibilities.
Make SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound— family history and genealogy goals for RootsTech. The more specific you are, the greater the opportunity to achieve your goals during the conference. These goals determine which sessions to choose or if it would be best to skip a session and head to the Expo Hall or Family History Library. The assistance available at RootsTech and the neighboring Family History Library can easily move you closer to a genealogical touchdown, to winning your game, and ultimately to achieving the [insert your ancestral surname here] trophy of your Family History and Genealogy Bowl.
To the players and coaches of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots who play this year’s Super Bowl, the genealogists and family historians who struggle to find time to play the game (i.e., research), to our ancestors whose lives were rarely blessed more than ours, I close with a quote that I first posted for Super Bowl XLVIII and is known as The Man in the Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Cheering you on in your game to win your Family History and Genealogy Bowl!
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. This annual event has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants worldwide.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador to the RootsTech Conference and, as such, I am provided complimentary admission and other services, opportunities, and meals to accomplish my duties. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
In case you missed it, Relative Race is a new show that premiered last Sunday, February 28th at 6pm MT on BYUtv. With 9 more episodes to go, the good news is that there is time to catch up by watching the first episode on BYUtv.org. If you like Amazing Race and family history, you’ll love Relative Race!
What is Relative Race? Those who attended RootsTech were the first to see the premier episode and the response was one of enthusiasm and anticipation!
I had the opportunity to visit with the Relative Race production team at RootsTech who explained the details. It began last year with an audition call for couples to submit an approximate 2-minute video introducing themselves and explaining why they would want to be on the show. Not all audition videos are available, but here is one example:
Four couples were finally chosen:
Anthony and Brooke Brown from Las Vegas, Nevada
Doug and Margo Engberg from Seattle, Washington
Bradley and Heather Randall from Phoenix, Arizona
Patrick and Janice Wright from Anchorage, Alaska
Each couple took AncestryDNA tests that discovered DNA matches throughout the United States and then the matches were verified by a researched paper trail. These findings defined the Relative Race route for each couple that spans from San Francisco to New York.
In Relative Race, each couple is given a team-colored rental car, a paper map, a $25 per diem, and a flip phone. No GPS here. No advantage to the technological native born; a possible advantage to the technological immigrants of today. Each couple must stay at the home of the newly acquainted relatives along the way!
Dan Debenham is passionate about Relative Race!
Each team’s route is unique. Relative Race ensures fairness by estimating how long each team may need to complete a challenge and arrive at their destination each day. At the end of each leg, teams are ranked by subtracting their estimated completion time from the actual completion time or vice versa. It’s the difference that matters. The couple in last place for each leg receives a strike. If a team receives three strikes, they’re eliminated from the race. The couple ranked first at the end of the race wins $25,000.
At RootsTech the Relative Race production team discussed the adventure, the challenges, and the long hours spent making this show a reality. Some tough decisions were required in editing to allow the audience to actually feel like they are a part of Relative Race. It’s exciting. It’s emotional. It’s heart-warming. It’s funny. It can bring out a bit of road rage at times, but in the end these couples are introduced to family they have never met. At the end of the season, Relative Race will culminate with a “Where Are They Now” episode. I’m looking forward to it. I know from experience that these types of road trips are game-changing. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll catch the first episode before Sunday 6pm MT. I have it on good word that this show gets better and better. For all of us watching, let’s enjoy Relative Race!
Note:Family Discovery Day at RootsTech is a free, one-day event of inspirational messages, instructional classes, interactive activities, and exciting entertainment to teach LDS members (age 8 and up) how to find their ancestors, prepare and take their names to the temple, and teach others to do the same. See RootsTech.org for more information.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Family Discovery Day opened with announcements from Elder Allan F. Packer, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He announced that there were about 13,000 individuals in attendance with 120,000 participating through live streaming at lds.org. In addition, the presentations were recorded and will be used during 1300 Family Discovery Day events held in over 55 countries and presented in 10 languages. Ultimately, the presentations will reach over a quarter of a million members and their friends. Once this material is incorporated into curriculum lessons, websites, and printed publications these messages will reach millions of Church members.
Elder Packer said that earlier that day a meeting was held among Church leaders. The Missionary Department announced two new pamphlets, Learning and Serving in the Church and Families and Temples. The Family History Department announced a new beginner resource card titled Strengthening Eternal Family Bonds through Temple Service: Start Building Your Tree. The card and online experience were created to help new members record their family lineage and identify those who may need temple ordinances. The My Family booklet is now available in 42 languages around the world. The Temple Department announced that members will now be able to print family ordinance cards on white paper on any printer and then take these cards to the temple to perform ordinances for their ancestors.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley
Following these announcements, Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley, took to the stage for the keynote address. After introducing his wife, he remarked that when he is not with his wife, he is “ruthless.” Together they shared a family history story that you can listen to below.
Ashley described the discovery of dynamite by Alfred Nobel. It was a combination of two known substances, kieselguhr and nitroglycerin. This was likened to family history and temple blessings, together they’re a powerful combination.
The Renlunds discussed the challenge given by Elder Neil A. Anderson to those in attendance at RootsTech in 2014: “Prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple.” In 2015 Elder Anderson added, “and help someone else do the same.” “This opportunity for blessings excludes no one,” Elder Renlund says. His wife Ruth added, “the temple ordinances are central to individual power.”
The Renlunds then read from Ezekiel 47: 1-5, 8-9 and explained that Ezekiel saw an angel who brought him to the House of the Lord. As the water left the house, it grew into a river and out to the sea, … “for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh.” According to Elder Renlund, the river that increases represents the blessings of the temple and he likened the growth of the river to the exponential growth of progenitors doubling each generation.
Ashley quoted President Russell M. Nelson, “While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families.”
Elder Renlund closed by adding his apostolic voice in support of the temple challenge and extended a promise of protection for the individuals engaged in this work and for their families. The challenge was modified to include not only baptisms but all ordinances. He promised “personal power, power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family together and heal that which needs healing.” He closed by declaring his witness of Jesus Christ and the restoration of the sealing power to earth.
Sister Sheri L. Dew and Sister Wendy W. Nelson
Elder C. Scott Grow was asked to recap a few ideas from the previous presentation, specifically the apostolic temple challenge, before introducing Family Discovery Day’s next guests. Elder Grow reminded everyone that the apostolic temple challenge to find as many family names for temple ordinances has been reissued and expanded the challenge to include all ordinances, not just baptisms. He stressed that this challenge is for everyone. “A promise of protection and personal power, power to change, power to progress, power to learn, power to be sanctified, power to heal, the power to be sealed, and seal the hearts of our families together” has been issued. He quoted President Howard W. Hunter by saying, “I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing.”
Elder Grow then introduced two good friends, Sheri L. Dew and Wendy W. Nelson for a family history discussion. These good friends then publicly conversed about Sheri’s resistance to pursuing family history. Wendy shared some of her spiritual experiences with Sheri and the blessings that have come into her life since she took Elder Richard G. Scott’s challenge. In the end, Sheri took the apostolic challenge to find as many ancestors to take to the temple to receive their ordinances as she will complete this year and to help others do the same. I encourage you to watch their presentation.
Sheri responded to Elder Grow’s question of how this is to be accomplished by saying, “Something will have to change and I’ll figure it out. I don’t yet know exactly when or how, but it will work … I’m sure I’ll have to give up something, the question is what?”
Elder Grow than asked those in the RootsTech audience, “(1) What did you learn? (2) What did you feel? Select one idea expressed in this presentation and make it a part of your life.”
Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom
Elder Enrique R. Falabella, who serves as an executive director of the Family History Department, began this session by expressing his enjoyment of Family Discovery Day. He said, “The Lord has inspired the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to help the members of the Church to strengthen their testimony in Heavenly Father and in His Son Jesus Christ through keeping the Sabbath holy. What a great opportunity we have now to spend some time on the Sabbath doing family history Our ancestors will be eternally grateful and we will be blessed.” He then shared that this was the first idea that came to his mind to help Sister Sheri Dew meet her commitment to bring her ancestors to the temple. After his remarks, he introduced Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom.
“There is no age requirement to be touched by the Spirit of Elijah,” says Brother Stephen W. Owen. He went on to say that by becoming involved in family history, one discovers the power and purpose of relationships in God’s plan. “Relationships are at the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He then quoted the greatest commandments. He said that the Savior focused on relationships and was not distracted by anything temporal. He suggested that as we’re focused on our relationships with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, our family, and others we are focusing on what lasts and Christ’s gospel can move from our head to our heart.”
Brother Owen invited his youngest daughter Jessica on stage to share her family story. Jessica delivered her first child, Annie, two months premature. Annie was born with a condition where all of her muscles would contract and this happened about 60-70 times a day. Jessica and her husband Sam would cheer her on to get through each episode, but four and a half months later, Annie passed away. Jessica shared how her father, through his own grief, counseled them to get through this together. Jessica shared her gratitude for the plan of salvation and testimony that families can be together forever if we do our part. Brother Owen returned holding his one month old grandson, Archie, Jessica and Sam’s second child and Annie’s little brother.
Brother Owen then quoted from a song called “Grandma’s Book of Memories”:
“When Grandma opens up her book of memories,
these strangers all begin to look like friends to me.
I can see where I have come from and where I belong,
And where I got the color of my hair.
And I won’t be afraid when I follow them home,
because I’ve got friends already there.”
He mentioned the sealing power of the priesthood that can strengthen and bind family relationships. He went on to say, “We are each an important link in our family chain. And each of us, regardless of our current family circumstances. can begin working on the things that last. I recognize that not everyone has had the opportunity to nurture and develop family relationships, but don’t be discouraged. Stronger relationships can begin with you, right now, where you are. Through all kinds of family history and temple work, you can increase in love and help your family heal, going in both directions, towards your ancestors and towards your posterity. Maybe you’ve started your family history and have become discouraged because of damaged relationships or missing information. Don’t give up. Keep seeking the eternal. Pray and look for connections, relationships, and stories and when you begin to find those personal connections … you’ll start to understand what it’s like to have your heart turned to your fathers and the gospel will have an opportunity to move from your head to your heart. You will feel for yourself the power and eternal nature of family relationships … Let us remember that Christ suffered alone so that we can be together. Because of Him, we can have relationships that endure, relationships that include our Heavenly Father, our Savior, and our loved ones. I testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of relationships that transcend death and have eternal value. And, I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom then took the stage. She started by sharing an experience she had five years ago when an apostle asked her, “What is the taproot that will anchor a child in the wind?” A taproot is the first and largest root that sprouts from the seed. It grows downward and provides stability. Taproots can make a plant drought-resistant. She shared the story of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. Children need to know who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going so that their lives take on a sense of purpose.
Sister Wixom quoted President Russell M. Nelson saying, “We need … women [to] call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.” She extends this call to all members of the Church in the lives of children. She then asked how does this related to family history. She said that she loves family history and loves family stories. Then she made two confessions: (1) she now makes cookies for her husband while he does family history research, and (2) she does not scrapbook; she has plastic container with pictures for each child for their future book.
She recognizes the importance of family history and shared a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. as saying, “They are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith (History of the Church, 6:52). We make our ancestors real by telling their stories.
She said that she began with a two-minute exercise to write everything she remembered about her deceased father. Then she began to discuss recording her memories of others and considered how these stories and phrases could strengthen the next generation. She stressed that they must be shared and preserved and recommended the FamilySearch Memories app.
She closed by testifying, “We can anchor all generations to the taproot as we share precious pieces of information about those wonderful men and women, perform their sacred temple ordinances, and seal our families together. Of this truth I testify. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Elder Bradley D. Foster introduced two young men to illustrate the “importance and power of family.” He continued, These young men show us what it looks like and “what good families produce.” He then introduced Britain Covey, a wide receiver for the University of Utah, and Taysom Hill, a quarterback for Brigham Young University.
For some Family Discovery Day fun, each player was asked to find two youth in the audience to help with a relay race. No spoilers here; you must watch the video to know the outcome :)
Once the race was decided, it was time for these young men to be interviewed. The presentation highlighted Britain’s mission call to Chile and Taysom’s temple marriage. Both shared missionary experiences on and off the field.
About leaving his football career for a mission with no guarantee upon return, Britain said, “Scoring a touchdown is awesome, but it’s a difference type of happiness that this gospel and this mission brings and I guess this is what I’m excited to share.”
After this presentation, Family Discovery Day closed with a concert by Lower Lights. Mark your calendar for next year when Family Discovery Day will be held again on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Steve Rockwood opened Thursday’s session of RootsTech with a few of his family stories. One story he told was when he was a young boy who, although he need heart surgery, didn’t want anyone “messing with [his] heart.” The doctor didn’t gain Steve’s trust by his medical degrees and training. He gained his trust by wearing cool and funny ties. Although the doctor’s expertise was essential to young Steve’s care, it was the ties that won Steve’s confidence. And subsequently, Steve’s doctor did not try to turn him into a heart doctor.
The same is true with family history. A family member may need the outcomes of family history: love, peace, joy, happiness, belonging, etc., but may not need to become a genealogist. Steve encouraged conference attendees to consider someone in their family who would benefit from sharing a family story. He suggested that a different approach may be necessary and encouraged everyone to make it fun, in small doses, to build trust and relationship.
Rockwood introduced his neighbor, Kathy Tarullo, a stay-at-home mom who recently graduated with a bachelor of general studies degree with an emphasis in family history and genealogy. Rockwood and his wife Jill were invited to Kathy’s graduation party where she served refreshments associated with her ancestors decoratively arranged with a story behind each one. Kathy also mentioned another project she is working on where she is taking an ancestor’s story and turning it into a children’s book written in poetic form. These are some of the ideas shared to inspire attendees to consider ways of making family history part of everyday life.
RootsTech began to trend #4 on @Twitter during the opening session of RootsTech Photo credit: Wendy Smedley
Next up was the host of BYUtv’s American RideStan Ellsworth. He surprised the crowd by entering the hall on his classic Harley-Davidson. I’ve been to RootsTech, even before it was known by its new name, and I have NEVER seen anything like it! Ellsworth shared his passion for the American story that is our collective story. Nevertheless, “every American family has its own unique heritage, traditions, its own roots ’cause all of us came from somewhere before we came here,” Ellsworth said. He continued, “every American family has its own story to tell … These people want their stories remembered; they want their stories to be celebrated. You can begin your own journey. You can start your own exploration. You can find your heroes. You can find your heritage. You can find your roots. So kick a leg over and begin to discover your family’s own unique American ride.”
After his impassioned speech, Ellsworth was delighted to introduce Paula Williams Madison, a successful businesswoman who retired in 2011 to pursue the story of her maternal grandfather Samuel Lowe. Madison thanked FamilySearch for helping her find her Chinese family. She credits FamilySearch and the individuals who index for solving this mystery in her family. If you are a volunteer and ever wondered if what you do makes a difference, Paula Williams Madison wants you to know that you do.
Before RootsTech I listened to her memoir, Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem. I chose the audio book so that I could listen to Madison’s story in her own voice. It made a difference to me. I encourage you to watch her keynote address, read or listen to her book, and watch the documentary. It is an amazing family journey.
Regrettably, Paula Williams Madison’s uncle, the youngest son of Samuel Lowe, passed away in China the Sunday before RootsTech. As her American family members returned to China to gather and attend the funeral, Paula determined that she would give her keynote address at RootsTech. It’s the way her uncle would have wanted it. After briefly meeting with the media, Paula began the long journey to China arriving with 4 hours to spare before her uncle’s funeral. My personal condolences to Paula Williams Madison and her extended family in Harlem, Jamaica, and China at the loss of such a wonderful patriarch. I am so grateful that Paula found her family and reconnected with them during the last few years.
Next, Bruce Feiler took center stage. He began his remarks by saying that he felt like RootsTech is the “Super Bowl of storytelling.” [This may be true but just an FYI, “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark of the NFL.] He told stories of his adventures in his keynote address:
Feiler says that the “secret sauce” of a happy family is that they TALK, they talk a lot, about what it means to be a family. He recommends 3 things that families can do to be happier:
Write a family mission statement.
Do storytelling games in your family.
Tell your family history; use pictures.
Feiler said that the single most effective idea for a happy family is to tell your family’s story. It is the same for biological and/or adopted families. It is the family narrative that is critical for the resilience of its individuals. He recommends that a person grounds their story in the oldest stories ever told, find a way to make it part of everyday, and don’t keep the story to one’s self, but share it! He mentioned that his New York Times article, The Stories That Bind Us, was the most emailed article for an entire month and, out of the 850,000,000 articles saved to the Pocket app, it was the second most saved article on the entire planet for the entire year. It’s worth the read.
He also encourages seniors to tell their story. He is working on another book and made a request that attendees write to him and tell him their experiences of how they accomplished this in their own families.
Feiler was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago. On the one year anniversary of that fateful day, he asked his doctor what advice the doctor would give Feiler’s daughters if they came to him. The doctor replied, “I would tell them what I learned. I would tell them that everybody dies, but not everybody lives. I want you to live.” As a family historian I would add, “and set aside time to record it.”
Bruce Feiler closed his keynote address with great counsel for all of us: “Every now and then find a friend, take a walk, and share a story.” I witnessed a lot of this as I went about my day at RootsTech.
RootsTech is a massive conference with many opportunities throughout each day, including the event organized to index the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau. These records were created when the bureau was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. Although RootsTech is an unique experience to each person, it is almost universally a very long, engaging, and exhausting day for all!
Since genealogy + football = my game, you can only imagine how pleased I was to hear that Britain Covey of the University of Utah and Taysom Hill of BYU will be joining RootsTech this year for Family Discovery Day! This announcement is not to intercept the outstanding team recruited for this year’s event! Read the following press release from RootsTech for full details. I hope to see you there!
Announcement: Full lineup of Speakers Announced for Family Discovery Day
SALT LAKE CITY, 28 January 2016—RootsTech, the largest family history conference in the world, announced today the complete lineup of speakers for its free Family Discovery Day event, which will take place Saturday, February 6, 2016, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. This incredible opportunity is specially designed for families and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ages 8 and older.
The free one-day event will feature inspirational messages, instructional classes, interactive activities, and exciting entertainment designed to teach LDS families how to find their ancestors, prepare names for temple ordinances, and teach others to do the same. Attendees will also receive access to the Expo Hall, where hundreds of exhibitors will showcase the latest technology and tools. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and FamilySearch will host the event. Families are encouraged to register online at RootsTech.org.
This year’s event will kick off with an exciting opening family general session featuring newly called apostle Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund. Their daughter, Ashley Renlund, will join them for what will be an inspiring and candid moment with the entire Renlund family. This 45-minute opening session starts at 1 p.m.
Sheri Dew and Sister Wendy Watson Nelson will speak during the family history discussion, which will be an exclusive conversation between best friends. Sheri Dew is the executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation and the CEO of Deseret Book Company. Sister Wendy Watson Nelson is the wife of President Russell M. Nelson and was a professor of Marriage and Family Therapy. They will share their life experiences with family history during this 45-minute session, which starts at 2 p.m.
Primary General President Sister Rosemary M. Wixom and Young Men General President Brother Stephen W. Owen will speak during the family session. Sister Wixom will share how the plan of salvation and family history provide a taproot that anchors our children. Brother Owen will speak about the role of families in the plan of salvation. This uplifting 30-minute session starts at 3:15 p.m.
Family Discovery Day continues its amazing lineup with a session featuring Britain Covey and Taysom Hill. Britain Covey is a University of Utah Wide Receiver from Provo, Utah. Taysom Hill is a Brigham Young University Quarterback from Pocatello, Idaho. They will both share inspiring stories, humorous memories, and faith-promoting experiences. This 30-minute session will start at 4:15 p.m.
Family Discovery Day will close with a stunning performance by The Lower Lights, a gospel and folk band that recently performed at Kingsbury Hall. The band will bring its part-revival, part-vigil sound steeped in tradition to Family Discovery Day for an exclusive performance that attendees will not want to miss. The performance starts at 5:30 p.m.
Family Discovery Day is free, but registration is required. Visit RootsTech.org to learn more and to register.
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. This annual event has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants worldwide.
Elder Gerald N. Lund, an emeritus member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gives the keynote address
Yesterday was opening day at the 47th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy with the keynote address given by Elder Gerald N. Lund, an emeritus member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the author of many fiction and nonfiction books, including two popular series, The Work and the Glory and The Kingdom and the Crown.
Elder Lund and his wife are the parents of 7 children, 29 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. He shared that his wife of 51 years passed away a little over a year ago but outlined four identifying characters she possessed: (1) a love of the Savior, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (2) a fierce love and commitment to her family, (3) a love of music, and (4) a passion for family history, with a love of photography. She took over 200,000 photographs! It was obvious upon hearing this and more that family history has been a part of their lives since the beginning.
He commented that the idea of family history as doctrine was new to him. He had always known that turning “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” was scripture and even that this concept is mentioned in all four books of scripture, but something intrigued him. There is a scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants 98:16 that says, “…seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.” How could this be if the fathers were dead? His oldest daughter had an experience in the temple that provided an answer; “[t]hey are not dead, only living somewhere else.” He then expounded on the relationship of the living to the dead, the dead to the living, and the living to each other. He also quoted Elder Russell M. Nelson saying, “we come to earth to start our eternal family.” The doctrine is not only about the past and the future, it is about the present and our relationships here. Elder Lund said, “I believe it is about creating eternal families whose hearts are bound together in love and service to one another.” We serve them by remembering them, honoring them, and performing their temple work. Their example can motivate us. He also believes that they serve us from the spirit world.
Although he has always felt guilty about not writing his family history, he realized that most of his historical fiction books have come about because his heart was turned to the fathers, e.g., Fire of the Covenant. Personal histories have shaped the plots of his books, within his novels are the names of some of his children and grandchildren, and he takes his family on research trips. He shared many stories, some humorous and others sacred, which I cannot recount at this time, but concluded with the thought that our ancestors influence us in many ways beyond completing their temple work. Could they not be the angels who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost?
James Marion Baker spins the wheel at the BYU Family History Library booth and wins some chocolate!
With the keynote address establishing the tone for the conference, individuals could attend up to five more sessions throughout the day. I spoke with many conference participants, some who return each year and others who are attending this conference for the first time. Stories were shared that I hope will be written in journals and recorded for the inspiration of others and for posterity. Some have started their applications to lineage societies, courtesy of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) workshop. DAR will continue to help participants with this process all week in room 2279 CONF. The vendors in the main hall displayed their products and services. The BYU Family History Library had participants take a chance to spin a wheel where they could win a printed fan chart or some candy.
Today Robert Kehrer will be the keynote speaker at 8:30 a.m. He is a senior product manager of search technologies at FamilySearch. His topic will be “FamilySearch: Making Difficult Research Easy and Accurate.” Following his remarks, sessions will be offered on DNA research, finding stories, technology and tools, and preserving family history. Today the United States and Canada research presentations will continue and a track on British Isles research will be offered. ICAPgen will continue its sessions outlining the process of accreditation.
Scanning services are offered in room 2285 CONF throughout the week!
FamilySearch is providing complimentary scanning as well as hosting a computer lab onsite for attendees. Additional vendors will be available in rooms 2260 CONF today and tomorrow. Vendor presentations will be held from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. in various rooms throughout the conference center. Although the day can be long, staying for one of these presentations sure beats traffic :) This evening the BYU Family History Library will host an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. I hope to see you there!
The 46th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy is coming to a close. Today, in addition to those who registered to attend the full conference, family history consultants have been invited to receive a full day of training. The consultants will be instructed in their core responsibilities to help others find their ancestors. There will also be classes on United States, British, LDS ancestral, and professional research, methodology, FamilySearch compatibles, and computers & technology.
From left to right: Frederick E. Moss, legal advisor to the Federation of Genealogical Societies, David E. Rencher, and Glenn Kinkade of Dallas, Texas
Yesterday, David Rencher, chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch International, gave the closing keynote address, The Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community. Mr. Rencher outlined the journey of growth and phases of FamilySearch International. Sometimes by looking back we may achieve a clearer vision of the future.
FamilySearch invites everyone, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to search for their ancestors. As people accept this challenge, there are going to naturally be more beginners. He asked those present to remember when they first started their family tree and to be patient with the errors made by those new to this endeavor. He encouraged participants to manage this learning curve by mentoring them in their pursuit. He spoke about “pain points” and acknowledged that mistakes have been and will continue to be made.
Mr. Rencher compared FamilyTree to the recent renovation of the LDS Ogden temple where he realized that “scraps will be left over when building a temple” and that the same is true when reconstructing the pedigree of the human family online. He addressed the debate of quality vs. quantity and shared his experience of completing work that was a duplication in his earliest days in this field. He said that, “why all that I did was completely disposable, I had an experience that turned my heart.” In essence, the time he spent was never “wasted,” yet FamilySearch is “trying to have the most accurate lineage-linked system” as organized by man. “Let’s focus on the work that we are to do and do the best work possible.”
Mr. Rencher outlined the role that FamilySearch has taken, from its earliest days of negotiating access to the world’s records to a point of agreement and signed contracts. Microfilm is still being used by the request of a few repositories. In addition, there are 189 cameras in the field capturing digital images, while microfilm is being scanned from the vault to be placed online. “The films I wanted were converted first; the ones you wanted — last, not really, but there must be some executive privilege,” he joked. Mr. Rencher discussed how FamilySearch has improved its quality check. “You know the image skipped is the one you want.” Amazingly, FamilySearch provides 1.6 million new searchable names each day, so “if you did not find your people yesterday, check today.”
Once FamilySearch International was “the only game in town.” Now there are major for-profit companies and FamilySearch “welcome[s] them to bring their resources to the table.” He said, “we are not in competition.” He mentioned the free access members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received to ancestry.com, findmypast.com, and myheritage.com. He says that it is about a $700 savings for members each year. However, “these members fund all that is free on familysearch.org.” He said that he is also very excited about FamilySearch’s partnership with BillionGraves and shared an example of his contributions to this project. He said, “I have no teary-eyed videos today. You are stuck with my humor,” as he pointed out a discrepancy between a vital record and a cemetery stone he used as an example from his personal research.
FamilySearch also collaborates with non-profits, such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). One current project is the Preserve the Pensions from the War of 1812. FGS “took point on that” and the images will be offered for free on fold3.com. He showed examples of the plethora of documents found in these files, including “that torn page out of the family bible” from the days when duplication services were not available. There are 7.2 million pages related to this project. Each dollar that is donated will preserve two pages; this becomes four pages with ancestry.com’s commitment to match donations dollar for dollar. These files are being digitized alphabetically and the records are currently digitized to about the letters G-H and are available online. For the month of July there was a goal to raise $1800 a day to preserve these records. Although it is now August, your monetary support to this project is still greatly appreciated!
Mr. Rencher admitted that “there is an element of independence that must be given up to collaborate and sometimes it is painful … [but, the goal is to] connect people to their ancestors.” His presentation slides, The Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community, are available on the conference website. Elder Paul F. Koelliker keynote address, Family the Fabric of Eternity, is also available on the conference website.
So many stories, so little time … this is how I feel as I try to capture the essence of the first day of the 46th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy. I met so many wonderful people who shared so many wonderful stories!
The Koelliker Family and Me
Yesterday’s opening keynote address was given by Elder Paul F. Koelliker, an emeritus member of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has served as executive director of the Temple Department and as assistant director of the LDS Family History Department. His remarks centered on the purpose of family history and genealogy and the motivating factor for all we do – LOVE! He encouraged participants to think beyond the charts and find the stories that touch the hearts of those around us. He commented that we should think more about the future of our children than we do of the past and asked, “What stories have you written down to teach the generations to come?” He challenged participants to determine five actions they can take from ideas presented at this conference and implement them into their lives. He encouraged participants to think of family history in a forward direction. “Cousins is the new buzz word” and he suggested we find ours and take them to the temple. He shared a story of finding one of his cousins in Africa. Elder Koelliker who is of Swiss descent said, “who would have thought?” I had the opportunity to visit with the Koelliker family after the session ended, and well, all I can say is that they make you feel like one of their own.
Hannah Z. Allan teaching youth about “Using Social Media in Family History”
There was standing room only during the opening session of the Youth track. Hannah Z. Allan discussed using social media for family history. So many youth commented about how much they enjoyed her presentations! I even noticed a few adults trying to disguise themselves as youth so they could attend these sessions :)
Joan Enders had the youth actively engaged in “The Military Life of Joshua H. Bates, a Camp Lewis Soldier”
Throughout the day FamilySearch provided scanning opportunities for photos and began to collect books that will be scanned and made available online after the conference.
There is also a computer lab with a dozen computers provided by FamilySearch for those attending the conference this week.
Today, the keynote address, “I Am Ready Now – Lessons from the Life of Ephraim K. Hanks,” will be given by T.C. Christensen who wrote, directed, and produced the movie Ephraim’s Rescue” After his keynote address, participants will have the choice of seven tracks: Beginner, DNA Research, United States Research, Immigration and Migration, Photos, Youth and Genealogy, and the FamilySearch Family Tree. There is definitely something for everyone interested in pursuing their ancestors!
Incline Software, the makers of Ancestral Quest, and Heritage Miniatures will demonstrate their wares from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in rooms 2254 and 2295, respectively.
 Photograph courtesy of Alfonso J. Flores, BYU Marketing and Communications
A round “Tuit” to help you get around to your genealogy and family history!
Some of you may have started participating in genealogy and family history this past autumn when the leaves were turning and the weather called us to an inside game. For others, New Year’s Day tradition brings the air of resolutions and the commitment to new goals.
A recent survey of articles reveals that many of us have the same aspirations: eat well, exercise, get more sleep, lose weight, and/or get in or out of relationships. There are also goals related to finance, organization, and making life better, happier, and more satisfying. One of your goals may be to learn more about your genealogy and family history.
There are a number of reasons that individuals pursue their genealogy and family history, and if this is one of your goals this year I would like to recommend resources to help you get started.
First let me state that it is traditionally taught that you start with yourself, but any ancestor of interest is just as appropriate. Please be aware that if you have not proven the relationships between generations you may be learning about family history that belongs to someone else. As interesting as this may be, it will not help you reach your goal to know your family history.
If you are interested in recording your or a family member’s personal history, Real Simple has published a 10-page worksheet with questions that cover a life span of experience to help get you started. Set a time to complete this document or arrange a time to interview that family member of interest. You could even do both :-) Choose your questions wisely. Some individuals may be uncomfortable with specific topics so be sensitive and appropriate.
The second resource I would like to recommend comes in two online wikis. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “wiki” it is a web application that allows individuals to collaborate and add, modify, or delete content as necessary. The idea is to keep the most relevant and up-to-date information available to its audience. Ancestry.com has a wiki that provides the information found in two classic reference books for the United States, Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources and The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. The information from these two books, in addition to other information available in Ancestry’s Learning Center, can help you get started. FamilySearch.org has a wiki that provides information from their classic Research Outlines that covers research resources internationally as well as more up-to-date information. FamilySearch also has online tutorials for the necessary education to reach your goal of knowing more about your family history.
And finally, don’t forget the search engines that provide access to all the information available online. Check out David Barney’s well-attended presentation at RootsTech 2013 for helpful hints on using Google’s tools for genealogy.
Genealogy and family history can be fascinating. There is a definite learning curve so take is slow. Focus on one pivotal person and build from there. With these resources you will have everything necessary to reach your goal. Remember the KISS principle. Wishing you all the best in this new year!
I’ve been thinking about this question in relation to the new emphasis in FamilySearch training that says “first the heart, then the chart” in genealogy and family history. It only makes sense. This idea is important to acknowledge by those who have their charts given to them, such as in long-standing New England or LDS families. Others who begin with a question, curiosity, or desire to know the unknown naturally start from the heart because there is no chart :-) The heart provides the motivation for the quest, yet sometimes our hearts are challenged. Rarely do we know this until symptoms manifest.
In 1903, a Dutch physician named Willem Einthoven invented a way to chart the heart. He received the Pulitzer Prize in Medicine for this in 1924. The electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) identifies abnormalities that provide doctors with information that helps in diagnosis and treatment. The heart exists; the chart assists. The same thing can be true in family history.
Anyone familiar with history knows that challenges within families have existed from the beginning. Without expounding, I have met many individuals over the years who resist family history and genealogy because of sensitive issues surrounding the chart. Family history can be fun if as a community we realize that one size does not fit all. Adoption and other circumstances require our understanding. I remember one student in the second grade who was asked to draw a picture of her family. She drew herself, her mom, her dad, a brother, and three sisters. In reality, her parents were divorced and she was an only child. She drew herself in her best friend’s family. In essence, she charted her heart.
The purpose of this post is NOT to address social or political issues, but to suggest ways that one can engage in and enjoy family history and genealogy by charting the way to turning the heart :-)
Start with anyone that you and/or your child would like to know more about :-) Consider a member of your family who has a quality or qualities that you admire. More often than not, they stand on the shoulders of those that came before them. Find out :-) Think about it; Who Do You Think You Are? finds a significant story, otherwise the majority of the audience would just tune out. Learn about your ancestor, write their story and/or a script, make your own episode highlighting a series of interesting life events. Make the ordinary extraordinary!
Post a fill-in-the-blank chart in a high traffic area in your home, even on the refrigerator if necessary. Make sure it is laminated and that a vis-á-vis or extra fine Sharpie is readily available to record discoveries. Our chart was in the family room. Recently I decided I would erase all the ancestors and start over, more for fun than verification purposes :-) My daughter’s response was, “Mom, you do have all of this recorded somewhere else, don’t you?” My son came home that day and asked, “What happened to the ancestors!” Believe me, they notice :-) Again, the chart can start with anyone that turns your heart :-)
Create a chart to discover common or complementary talents, interests, abilities, and/or occupations. One can chart eye color, hair color, and/or other physical traits. [Don’t you just love military records and passport information that are so descriptive!] The point is for family members to discover patterns and what they have in common with their ancestors.
So, when I consider the titled question, my response is a resounding YES! [And, it can be a fun process.] Just like so much in life, one cannot appreciate what one has not discovered for oneself. It’s the journey, not the destination, that engages the heart and fills out the chart!
[If you have an idea for charting the heart and would like to share, please comment or send me message. At your request, full attribution or anonymity will be included in future posts. If you have your own blog and post a response there, send me the link. I would love to continue the conversation :-)]