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Build a Legacy Through Sharing Family Stories

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 14:30

Every family has stories to share, whether the central characters are heroes or villains. Regardless of what color of hat they wore, most ancestors are worth remembering and their stories are worth preserving.

During RootsTech 2017, Hank Smith shared some moving stories about how his family stories have brought him strength and how he wants to ensure that that same strength is available to his children and his children’s children. As Hank reminds us, if those stories are going to get passed down, we need to commit to making it happen.

You can hear what he had to say about the importance of passing down family stories in the following video.

Download: Small (360p) | Medium (720p)


How will you make sure your own family stories are passed down? Here are some answers to common hesitations you might be having right about now:

Download infographic here.
  • “I don’t know what to write about.” Anyone can get writer’s block from trying to write on demand. Instead, capture ideas when they come to you, whenever they come to you. Write them down in a notebook or a notetaking application on your phone, tablet, or computer. Write or record the actual story when you have time.
  • “I am not a good writer.” Anyone can tell a story. You don’t have to be an experienced or award-winning writer to tell what happened in your own words, as you remember it. To make it simpler, consider using your phone’s audio recorder. The FamilySearch mobile apps are simple and free tools to help you record your stories and connect them with your ancestors in Family Tree. Learn more about how to use the mobile apps. If you do want to brush up on your storytelling prowess, a quick Google search can get you started.
  • “I don’t have time.” There’s no simple way to create more hours in the day. However, you can take advantage of little slices of time to capture a story here and a story there. Record stories on your phone while you are fixing a meal, walking to the bus, or visiting your parents or another relative. Don’t get hung up on the story being long or polished. Just focus on sharing the key moments that tell the story.
  • “I’m not good with technology.” If the idea of using a mobile phone or computer to preserve your family stories has you running for the comfort of your notebook and pencil, don’t fret. Just record your family stories in whatever format makes you the most comfortable. What you write can be shared and handed down to your posterity. Consider enlisting the assistance of a family member who is more comfortable with technology. It will be a blessing in their lives to help you preserve your stories and share them more broadly with family.

Take a minute today to make a plan for how you’ll make sure your family stories are told. You won’t regret it, and future generations of your family will thank you.



Safely Gathered In: The First Four Generations

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:40

By Kathryn Grant

When members want to begin working on their family history, one of the first questions they usually ask is, “Where do I start?”

For many, the best answer to that question is, “With yourself and your immediate family!”

In a 2014 general conference talk, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “In the worldwide membership of the Church, fifty-one percent of adults currently do not have both parents in the Family Tree section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Sixty-five percent of adults do not have all four grandparents listed.”

If you’re helping those with empty trees or mostly empty trees, completing their first four generations in Family Tree will likely reveal temple work that needs to be done. It will also create a solid foundation as they continue to build their family tree.

You can follow these steps to help members complete their first four generations in Family Tree:

  1. Start by asking them about their family history goals. They may want to do a particular family member’s temple work or to learn more about a great-grandparent. When they are successful in accomplishing their goals, members are more likely to keep working on family history and adding people to their lines in Family Tree.

  2. Get access to the member’s tree through the consultant planner. It is important to know if someone’s tree is truly empty or if it just needs to be connected to branches that are already in Family Tree.

  3. Prepare before your meeting. Pray to know what you should share, and ask those you’ll be meeting with to pray for you as well. Using the consultant planner, create a simple lesson plan to guide you in the meeting. You can print the lesson plan and give it to those you help at the end of the meeting so they can remember the steps they followed.

    You may be impressed to ask them to prepare in advance as well, seeking vital information on an ancestor through family documents like birth certificates, funeral programs, or family Bibles. They may also need time to contact other family members for information.

  4. When you meet, pray for the Holy Ghost to help you as you fill in information about their family. Avoid the idea that adding the first four generations is a race. Adding one family member at a time, reviewing recordsattaching sources, and recording memories can be an enlightening and even tender experience that helps members feel a bond with their family on the other side.

    Be sensitive to any complicated family situations you may encounter. Some members may have been disowned by their families upon joining the Church, or their extended family may be hesitant to share information if they’re unsure of what will be done with it. You can be a support in such cases by:

    • knowing the guidelines for reserving temple ordinances,
    • helping the member identify the family member they are most comfortable approaching,
    • assisting in determining what to say, and
    • offering to role play so they can practice.

    These steps, along with your prayers, can all provide great comfort in such situations.

  5. Point members to the temple. Members can have a rich spiritual experience as they complete temple work for those they have grown to love. They also receive divine protection and strength. For those who do not have the opportunity to attend the temple personally, help them understand the importance of their contribution. Help them share the names they find with the temple, or identify other members who may be able to perform the work for them.

  6. Encourage members to find others to teach—they can show a family member how to find and add a name just like they did when you helped them. This experience can assist them in completing their first four generations. It may also help ancestors be safely gathered to the temple sooner as families help each other.

Completing their first four generations in Family Tree can be a beautiful, heart-turning experience that helps members feel closer to their ancestors and ensures that all are safely gathered in.


The Power of Family History in Missionary Work

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 11:48

by Kathryn Grant

“The artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and family history work is being erased; this is one great work of salvation.” —Elder David A. Bednar

Have you ever thought about the relationship between missionary work and family history? They might seem like separate efforts, but in truth they are closely related. As members of one eternal family, we have been charged to play an important role in the literal gathering of Israel. We best accomplish this when love for others and for God are our motivation, and when we are prepared to be led by the Spirit. When this is the foundation we build upon, family history can be an effective tool in conversion and convert retention.

In a presentation given at RootsTech 2017, President Russell M. Nelson observed, “People have an inborn desire to know something about their ancestors. That becomes a natural opportunity for our missionaries.”

Many people, President Nelson said, do not know the names of all eight of their great-grandparents. In this context, he continued, “Missionaries can make this suggestion: ‘I have a friend at our Church who can help us [find their names].’ . . . That friend at church, of course, is the ward temple and family history consultant.”

Family History in Missionary Work

Our callings provide us with a perfect opportunity to help investigators and new members participate in the plan of salvation through family history. We can help them gather the family of God in a number of important ways:

  • Embrace the Find–Take–Teach model and its principles.
  • Study “Gathering the Family of God” by President Henry B. Eyring, from the April 2017 general conference. Ponder and pray for inspiration regarding the doctrine of gathering and how to present basic truths in a clear manner.
  • Consistently do your own family history and attend the temple on behalf of your deceased family members. As you do so, you will be more in tune with the Spirit and will be better prepared to help others.
  • Work closely with the ward mission leader and the full-time missionaries. President Russell M. Nelson said that if he were a missionary today, one of his best friends would be the ward the temple and family history consultant.
    • Let missionaries know you’re available to help investigators and new members with family history.
    • Talk with missionaries about how they can use family history and temple work to share the gospel.
    • Help the missionaries with their own family history, teach them how to use the six principles for helping others, and then help them to teach someone else.
  • Use social media. Social media is a great way to let investigators and new converts know about your love for family history and to invite them to get started. Through social media, you can reach people you might otherwise be unable to reach.
  • Become familiar with resources such as:

Help others become familiar with these resources as well.

  • Provide training. If you have a leadership calling, train those who serve under your direction to use temple and family history work in missionary work and convert retention.
  • Teach other members how to share the gospel through family history and temple work. “Tell me about your family” is a great conversation starter. Members can also show investigators the website to help them learn more about their ancestors.
Strengthening New Converts through Family History

Temple and family history work is a particular blessing to new members because it helps them stay strong when challenges inevitably come. In the Family History Leadership session at RootsTech in 2017, Elder Dale G. Renlund explained: “Convert participation in temple and family history work is positively correlated with retention at one year. In our research, new converts consistently disclose that when they are vicariously baptized for their deceased ancestors or make new discoveries in their family history, they re-experience the same feelings they initially felt as investigators. These feelings and memories build a defense against the challenges they face during their first year in the Church.”

You can help new converts build that defense and re-experience the spiritual feelings of their conversion in several ways:

  • Extend the hand of fellowship. Reach out to new members not just as a consultant or leader but as a brother or sister in the gospel.
  • Invite the Spirit. Teach new converts how to gather their family using the power of the Holy Ghost given to them at their baptism. Point out moments where the Spirit is present, helping them to recognize the Holy Ghost in their lives.
  • Focus on the first four generations. Help new members know that through family history and temple service, they become part of a multigenerational family in the Church.
  • Point them toward the temple. Elder Quentin L. Cook instructed temple and family history consultants to “work with the end in mind—assisting members in taking their family names to the temple.” Performing sacred ordinances in the temple helps new converts stay strong.

In her RootsTech 2017 presentation, Sister Wendy Nelson related a powerful teaching from President George Q. Cannon: “Those who are joining the Church are joining quite precisely because their ancestors have been praying for one of their posterity to join the Church so that they, the ancestors, can receive their essential ordinances by proxy.”

We can help answer these prayers and assist the Lord in gathering His family as we help investigators and new converts participate in family history. Their testimonies will increase, and they will experience joy as they connect with and serve their family members beyond the veil. Creates an Interactive Family Tree with Living Relatives

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 14:02

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’m grateful to see what’s going on with family and friends, but I could do without public posts, personal rants, and self-serving selfies. This is why I am excited that, a new app that has partnered with FamilySearch, has created a private social network specifically for families. While it is not a messaging center, you can connect with your family’s photos and get to know living relatives and your ancestors at the same time. is available on both desktop and mobile devices and allows me to automatically load my existing FamilySearch family tree onto the site. Next, I add information about living relatives. Once I invite family members to join my tree, they can add their own up-to-date photos. I can also tag photos with labels for different events or categories and add comments.

As soon as I registered, I was directed to download my family tree from FamilySearch. (See this tutorial for help connecting with your FamilySearch tree). It didn’t take long before my tree was in place and I could start building the tree by adding living relatives.

Once I figured out how to add new names—and make sure they were the right gender—it was easy. (Note: The site automatically adds the person as a female unless you select the male option.) I started adding a few memories to my immediate family by dropping in photos from my computer and then tried adding one from Facebook. It was a simple process. The site also has options to import photos from other sources, including Google Drive, Dropbox, or Instagram.

The tags feature allows me to tag other family members in their memory, or I can tag specific descriptions, making it easy to search for the memory later. For example, I can use “wedding” to tag memories of family wedding traditions over the years.

The more names and photos I added, the more excited I became. It was surprisingly touching to see all the people I love on the chart. My heart was full as I reflected about each person and the memories we shared. Watching the past merge into the present seemed to bring our family story to life.  


Using FamilySearch Apps to Record Oral Histories

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 14:40

The most complete family histories draw on a wide variety of resources. Documents and records provide important basic facts, while photos paint a fuller, more in-depth picture of ancestors. Oral histories add another invaluable layer with stories, personalities, and details that bring your ancestors to life. And with FamilySearch’s Family Tree and Memories apps, making audio recordings part of your family history has never been easier.

If you don’t have the apps yet, just go to the FamilySearch Family Tree and the FamilySearch Memories app pages to learn more and to download these free apps. Then read on to learn how to use the apps effectively to make oral histories part of your family tree.



Using the Apps

Both apps are simple to use and provide ready tools to record and upload audio clips to your FamilySearch family tree. To get started, follow the steps below for each app.

FamilySearch Memories

The Memories app was created to make it easy for you to preserve family memories no matter where you are and to connect these preserved memories to your tree. With this app, recording family stories and histories is straight-forward and convenient.

Once you open the Memories app, tap the Audio icon in the bottom right corner if you are an Apple user or in the white toolbar at the top of the screen in an Android product. Then tap the plus symbol in in the top right corner.

Apple Android

The recording screen will open. You then have the option to use a provided topic as a prompt, or tap Begin
at the bottom of the screen. Then simply tap Start to begin recording. When you have finished, tap Done to stop the recording.

Apple Android

After typing a title and saving your recording, you’re ready to add this audio to the appropriate person in your FamilySearch family tree. Select the audio recording, and then tap on the Tag icon to indicate which family member’s profile you want to save it to. As you start typing, possible matches from your tree will appear. When you see the correct person, tap the name. You can also choose Add New if the person is not already in your tree. You aren’t limited to just one person. If the recording applies to more than one person on the tree, you can attach it to everyone it fits.

Apple Android

You can also share your recording by text or email or in other ways by tapping the “Share” symbol.

Apple Android The Family Tree App

To use the Family Tree App to record memories, start by selecting the person you would like to make a recording about. In the bar under the person’s name and photo, tap Memories.

Apple Android

Then tap the green plus symbol in the bottom right corner of the screen. Several options will appear. Tap Record Audio, and a list of questions will automatically appear. These questions are ideas to get you started. If you have something else in mind, simply tap the green Begin Recording bar at the bottom of the screen.

Apple Android

From this point, the process is very similar to the Memories app process described above. Tap the Start button to begin the recording. Type a title for it, and choose whom to attach it to on your family tree. As with the Memories app, you can also choose to share the recording with others.

Apple Android The Basics: Tips for Great Interviews

Before diving in to using the apps, you might want to take a moment to review the basics of oral interviews. Here are some tips to ensure your success with the FamilySearch apps.

  • Start with older family members to make sure you preserve their invaluable memories before it’s too late.
  • Branch out to others who may have known your relatives and who can share insights, stories, and memories of them. These people can include family members of all ages or others such as family friends.
  • Keep recordings short. The FamilySearch apps allow recordings of up to 15 minutes at a time, but the apps encourage you to keep recordings to around five minutes each to make them easy to listen to.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking, “When were you born?,” ask “What are some of your favorite childhood memories?” Let your family member’s personality shine through by not interrupting or micromanaging answers.
  • Expand beyond traditional interview questions. Record family members retelling favorite family stories or jokes, giving advice, or sharing family mottos. Or record tidbits of actual events, such as a piano or vocal solo, a short speech, or an awards presentation.
  • Don’t forget to label your recordings and attach them to your tree!

If you’re ready to record and preserve your family’s stories, be sure to start with FamilySearch’s apps. With these tools, it has never been easier to preserve memories and make them part of your family tree so others can enjoy them for generations to come.

For More Information

Need more question ideas? Here are some articles, lists, and steps that can help:

View Full Infographic


Preserving Family Memories: Real-Life Success Stories

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:58

I wonder what it was like for my grandma to work day in and day out in their small-town café, with five young children at home. I wish I knew more about great-grandpa’s experiences in the war. I’d really like to ask my mom about her relationship with her father.

Questions about our parents and grandparents arise throughout our lives. If we’re lucky, the subjects of our questions are still just a phone call away. But that won’t always be the case. The only way to guard against being left with dozens of unanswered questions after our loved ones pass away is to ask those questions now. Ask them of your aging and younger relatives. Ask them of yourself.

The following stories show how two women have embarked on journaling projects with the goal of recording important memories, experiences, and insights so they’re not lost to history. Their experiences, while very different from one another, prove that preserving family stories doesn’t have to be all-consuming or overwhelming. It just takes commitment, a bit of a routine, and insightful journaling prompts from the #52stories project.

Kim Farah: Preserving Stories from Aging Parents

Kim, an empty nester who works in the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was sitting in a meeting about the #52stories project last year when a thought hit her: “I need to be interviewing my parents.”

The #52stories project encourages participants to preserve one personal or family story every week for a year. It features 144 questions to choose from that are divided into 12 monthly themes. The questions are available to download in various formats. As she listened to discussions about the project, Kim felt an overwhelming prompting—and an unexpected urgency—to start preserving her parents’ history now.

“They’re at this time in their lives where they’re cleaning out a lot of boxes and organizing memories and pictures,” Kim says. “They have stories to tell, but you have to sit down with them and ask them the questions for them to have that opportunity.”

Kim printed all 144 questions, which are divided into 12 categories such as Goals and Achievements, Holidays and Traditions, and Love and Friendship. She included the questions in a notebook to give her parents for Christmas. She also bought a digital audio recorder and recruited her sister’s help.

“It’s exactly what my parents wanted,” she says. “They wanted their stories to be told, but they had no idea how to go about it.”

Kim’s Approach: Monthly Audio Interviews

Once a month, Kim and her sister sit down with their parents, Lynne and Elaine Stanley, and spend an hour or two recording their conversations on the digital recorder. The digital recorder creates audio files that she can easily upload to her computer when she gets home. At ages 83 and 81, the Stanleys feel much more comfortable with audio than video, and they appreciate having the questions available in advance. Rather than just picking a few questions each month, they answer every single one.

“They look at the questions, and they talk about them,” Kim says. “Many times they’ve gone through some of the mementoes from their childhood, so they’re prepared for these interviews.”

Elaine once even spent five hours on the phone with her sister before that month’s interview, clarifying details and stories from their childhood.

Kim appreciates that the #52stories questions are open-ended, making them easier for her parents to answer and insightful enough to have sparked some deep and meaningful discussions. “You end up having conversations about things you don’t normally have conversations about,” Kim says, “and you learn things about your parents as individuals that you didn’t realize.”

While her goal is to preserve family stories, one wonderful side effect has been the deepening of generational ties. “My kids just see grandma and grandpa as perfect; they don’t think of them as young people who really had to go through challenges,” Kim says. She has appreciated the chance to help her children understand what her parents had to overcome to become the people they are today.

Capture Now, and Edit and Share Later

Once she reaches the end of the interviews, Kim plans to transcribe the audio files and edit them so they’re more readable. She’ll fill her parents’ notebooks with transcriptions and keep the digital files as well. “There’s a lot of emotion that’s captured on those audio recordings,” she says. “The banter back and forth won’t be captured in that text version.”

Eventually, she’d like to bind all the transcriptions into a book and share it with everyone in the family and perhaps even record a short video about the project. She’s keeping an open mind about where the project will take her, knowing that the most important thing is to get the memories and stories captured now. There will be plenty of time to decide what to do with the content in the future.

Kara Hale: Preserving Your Personal History

Kara is a young mother of four living in Centerville, Utah, who follows @FamilySearch on Instagram. Every week, she sees one question from the #52stories project pop up in her feed, and she has made the goal to answer each of those questions on her iPad, often typing with one hand while she rocks her new baby. She started the project in January, and by the end of the year, she will have written 52 stories about her life past and present.

Kara’s Approach: Memories Captured in an App

Kara sets aside time every Sunday to type her memories into a journaling app called Day One. She cemented the weekly habit when her baby was brand new, and the two of them had a few hours alone each week while the rest of the family was at church.

“I just thought, I need to quit handwriting this,” Kara says, who remembers helping type all of her grandmother’s old journals as a teen. She didn’t want to subject her posterity to the same thing.

“You definitely had to sift through a lot to find the little gems,” she says of her grandma’s journals. “Her life was a lot of work, so it was a lot about daily tasks and just kind of a log of events—‘I went to a church meeting. We went to visit so and so, and it was so and so’s birthday.’”

Kara appreciates having weekly memory prompts to answer because it’s not easy to figure out what to write about. “I don’t want to write that I did the laundry or vacuumed,” she says. “I want to write about meaningful things.”

She appreciates the variety of questions available in the #52stories project. Some are lighthearted and fun, while others are more serious, and they cover many aspects of life.

Being a busy mom, Kara likes to sit down and have one specific prompt waiting for her: “I’m not in the mode of life to sift through the questions. Just give me the question, and I’ll answer it. That’s the beauty of it. No prep time spent.”

The Side Benefits of Storytelling

As Kara has completed the writing prompts week after week, she has been surprised by three important life lessons:

1. Writing Invites Quiet Reflection

Inspired by one of the weekly writing prompts, Kara imagined what it must have been like to be in her grandmother’s shoes. While she worked hard throughout her life on demanding physical tasks, much of that work was quiet and repetitive, leaving room for the mind to wander, remember, and reflect.

We no longer have “those quiet moments when you’re out in the fields or doing laundry,” Kara says. We tend to plug in our headphones and drown out our thoughts with music, podcasts, news, and more. As great as these things can be, they also rob us of time to think. The #52stories project has encouraged Kara to spend more time reflecting and making connections.

“It’s a healthy habit as a person living in the present to write things and think about your life, and not just live it,” she says.

2. Writing Sparks More Writing

Kara had been meaning to establish a journaling habit for many years, and her original plan was just to answer 52 specific questions in one year and call it good.

“This project unstuck me,” she says. “And as a result, I do write about some of the important things that are happening in life right now too. That’s getting recorded. It wouldn’t have gotten recorded before.”

One of Kara’s many recorded memories with her family

Kara has no problem mixing stories from the past and the present in the same app. She doesn’t feel tied to a chronological approach, knowing she can always reorganize her collected stories later if she wants to.

3. Writing Helps Us Expand Our Comfort Zones

Every now and then, Kara encounters a question that makes her uncomfortable, but she answers it anyway. We all have episodes in our lives that remain sensitive and tender, even many years later. These are, perhaps, some of the most important stories for us to record.

“I’m constantly trying to get my kids to try new things,” Kara says. “I get to live in my comfort zone all the time, and yet I want them to be exploring and trying new things? It’s nice to be pushed out of that comfort zone.”

Why Preserving Stories is Worthwhile

As Kara and Kim have both learned, when we commit to writing about our lives or helping loved ones record their memories, we don’t have to wait decades into the future to reap the benefits. The advantages are immediate—deeper conversations with loved ones, greater understanding about where we come from, a changed perspective about what’s important in life, strengthened ties between generations, and profound feelings of gratitude.

Before you begin, you don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do with the stories you gather, how you’re going to organize them, or how you’ll share them. The most important thing is just to start—and to start now.

How to Start Now

Try these tips to help you get started preserving your personal and family stories in simple but meaningful ways.

1. Just start somewhere. Begin with what’s inspiring you right now. There’s no rule that says you have to start at birth and record your life story chronologically.

2. Capture now, organize later. Write or record stories in the moment, or when the memory first arises. You can decide what to do with your captured stories later.

3. Establish a routine. Set aside 30 minutes every Sunday for personal journaling, or schedule a regular monthly interview with your grandparents. Just be consistent.

4. Use prompts to spark memories. Don’t know what to write about? Rely on insightful writing prompts and questions, like those found in the #52stories project.

5. Make it conversational. Skip the formalities. Whether you’re writing your story or interviewing someone else, encourage authentic voices to shine through. Be real.

Tip: Whether you’re gathering stories about yourself or a loved one, upload them as Memories to the person’s profile on, a permanent and free archive that aims to create the world’s largest genealogical database. You can even add audio files and pictures. For mobile access, try the FamilySearch Memories app and the FamilySearch Family Tree app.