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5 Ideas for Helping Others Find Joy in Temple and Family History Work

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:37

by Kathryn Grant

Have you seen someone’s eyes light up when they add an ancestor to Family Tree? Have you felt the power of someone’s testimony about doing temple work for a loved one beyond the veil? These are some of the sweetest experiences of helping others with temple and family history work.

On the other hand, most of us have probably had the opposite experience: we mention family history and see people’s eyes glaze over, or we watch them make a hasty retreat.

How can we help bridge the gap between these two attitudes? How do we help others move from disinterest or even resistance to enthusiasm and joy? Here are five ideas:

1. Remember that family history is a spiritual work.

Prayer plays a key role. As you seek people to help, ask the Lord to lead you to those who are prepared. (In this respect, teaching others to do family history is much like sharing the gospel.) You can also pray for hearts to be softened so people will want to do their family history.

The Spirit also plays a key role. Pray for the Spirit to guide you as you prepare a personalized lesson plan and as you meet with those you help. Follow the Spirit and encourage those you help to do the same. Focusing on the Spirit makes doubts and fears fade away. It also makes relying on our own wisdom less likely. The Spirit makes all the difference in family history.

2. Personalize the experience.

Before you meet with people, learn their goals. You may be surprised! Tailor your lesson plan to meet their goals. Teach people at their level and in a way that is interesting to them. Keep lessons short so people don’t feel overwhelmed.

John, an accomplished Dutch researcher, carefully prepared a lesson plan for his upcoming meeting with Jason. He then asked another helper to review it. Her insightful feedback prompted John to alter his original plan, which focused mostly on research skills and translation. The new plan focused on helping Jason understand the context of his ancestors’ lives. It also included stories to help Jason connect with his ancestors.

When John and Jason met, they both felt the Spirit as they talked about Jason’s family. Hearing stories of his ancestors touched Jason’s heart and increased his desire to do their temple work. Before their meeting was over, he had added names to Family Tree and printed temple cards for them.

3. Focus on discovery experiences.

Making a family history discovery can connect people powerfully with their ancestors. It also helps them feel joy in doing their ancestors’ temple work.

Jill was serving as a family history center director when she was contacted by a member of her stake, Brother Westwood. He felt impressed to ask for help finding a name for an upcoming pioneer trek. At the same time, he was doubtful Jill would find anything because his tree was full.

Before Jill started searching, she said a sincere prayer, asking to be led to someone who wanted temple blessings. Not long afterward, she was led to a family who was missing a child in Family Tree. Searching online, she located the headstone of the missing child—a girl named Winnie. Then she searched the local newspaper and found a beautiful memorial poem written by Winnie’s grieving father.

When Jill met with Brother Westwood, she guided him through the same discovery experience she’d had finding this missing daughter, and then her headstone and poem. Brother Westwood was deeply moved. Together they were able to add Winnie to Family Tree so she could be sealed to her parents.

Brother Westwood later shared his feelings about this discovery experience: “What is indelibly impressed upon my heart is the memory of the spirit that I felt the day we met in the family history library so [Jill] could show me how she found Winnie and show me how to print a card so she could be sealed to her parents. As we looked through various web sites and resources, I felt I was getting to know my ancestors and my heart was being turned to them.” (See the RootsTech presentation “Family at the Center: Making the FHC a Sacred Place.”)

4. Guide, but don’t take over.

When we help others with family history, sometimes we’re tempted to do too much for them. For instance, we might add names and sources to Family Tree instead of letting others learn by doing the work themselves. Or if they don’t do something quickly enough on the computer, we might grab the mouse and do it for them.

Lola asked for help from a consultant, only to have him take over and do everything. He moved rapidly from screen to screen and she couldn’t tell what he was doing or why. Afterward she realized she hadn’t learned anything that would help her progress in doing her family history work.

We teach most effectively when we help others gain experience and confidence so they can find their own family names. It may take time and patience. But people are more likely to feel joy in family history work when they are participants and not just spectators.

5. Emphasize both halves of the blessing.

In an April 2017 general conference address, President Henry B. Eyring taught, “As you follow the promptings to learn about your family history, you may discover that a distant relative shares some of your facial features or your interest in books or your talent for singing. This could be very interesting and even insightful. But if your work stops there, you will sense that something is missing. This is because to gather and unite God’s family requires more than just warm feelings. It requires sacred covenants made in connection with priesthood ordinances” (“Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 21).

Just as baptism is not complete without confirmation, family history work is not complete without temple ordinances. The greatest joy comes to us and our families through the sacred covenants available in the temple.

As people experience the joy of temple and family history work, their testimonies will be strengthened. They will feel a greater desire to make temple and family history work a priority in their lives. In doing so, they will help gather the family of God and bring untold blessings to their families on both sides of the veil.


FamilySearch Free Sign-in Offers Greater Subscriber Experiences and Benefits

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 12:45

Beginning December 13, 2017, patrons visiting will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer.  Since its launch in 1999, FamilySearch has added millions of users, billions of various historical records, and many fun, new features like Family Tree, Memories, mobile apps, digital books, and dynamic help. In order to accommodate continued growth of these and future free services, FamilySearch must assure all its partners that its content is offered in a safe and secure online environment.  Patrons creating a free account and signing in fulfills that need.  

Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.

“A large percentage of our current site visitors are not benefiting from much of what FamilySearch has to offer because they don’t realize the need to simply sign in with their free account to do so,” said Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO. “They are basically arriving in the parking lot but not coming inside for the main event,” he said about website visitors who do not sign in.

FamilySearch is committed to patron privacy and does not share personal account information with any third party without a patron’s consent.

See Registering to Use for information about creating a free account.


Family History on the Sabbath

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:07

The Sabbath day is a day of reflection, service, renewing of our covenants, and serving God and others. Prophets have always encouraged us to honor the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy and improve our Sabbath day worship. In his April 2015 general conference address President Russell M. Nelson called the Sabbath a “delight.” He invited us to make the Sabbath a delight by spending time doing family history: “Searching for and finding family members who have preceded you on earth—those who did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel while here—can bring immense joy” (“The Sabbath Is a Delight,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 131).

In the 2017 RootsTech genealogical conference, Elder Ian S. Ardern shared, “We’ve been asked to make the Sabbath a delight. That’s a prophetic call, and surely doing family history is one of the better ways of making the Sabbath a delight—by doing it on the Sabbath.” Elder Eduardo Gavarett added that doing family history and indexing as a family can be a wonderful activity on the Sabbath.

Why is family history such a great activity for the Sabbath? We are opening the doors to our ancestors and turning the keys to allow them access to the greatest gifts, promises, and covenants God has to offer. We are allowing our ancestors the opportunity to choose God and to choose their eternal family. To Moses, God explained that it is “[His] work and [His] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). President Henry B. Eyring shared that “Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family” (“Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 20–21). By doing our own family history, we help Him gather His family by gathering our own.

Here are a few ideas to make family history a part of your Sabbath day activities:

Share Your Story Discover Your Ancestors
  • Read or share stories of how your ancestors overcame adversity or how they strengthened their faith.
  • Do some research about your ancestors and their homelands.
  • Visit the grave of a family member.
  • Fill out the My Family Booklet together.
  • Find names to take to the temple as a family.
  • Make a memory game of your ancestors or their stories.
Connect with Your Family

Share Your Sabbath Day Discoveries

Many families have shared how making family history a part of their Sabbath strengthened their testimonies and their love for each other:

Phil said, “I tell people to ‘just do one thing’ in Family History each Sunday—whether it’s put a photo or story or a source into FamilySearch, index a batch, or just look around the website. Most people can’t do just one thing because they get in there and find out how much fun it is. One Saturday afternoon with the grandkids we played BYU’s Geneopardy and Wheel of Family Fortune linked to our FamilySearch account. On the way home from church the next day, they asked if they could do family history that afternoon.” 

Romulo said, “We were blessed with happiness on Sabbath days. My wife and I always have a great time reviewing the ordinance cards and our family history accounts. There we look for more temple opportunities. Sunday nights are always spent by reading our family history files, updating our FamilySearch account, and looking at old pictures. We became closer than before.”

Cecily said, “I love doing family history and the special spirit that I feel when I involve myself in this work. I also especially love doing family history with my children because I want my children to love it also. . . . On the Sabbath, I like to let my kids choose an ancestor to learn about, and I’ll tell them a story about that ancestor. If I don’t know the individual chosen, we’ll look into that individual together and see if we can find any stories about him or her. My kids love the stories. That is what they remember. Beckett, who is now 8, felt the Holy Ghost for the first time when we were doing family history together. He was 4, and we were reading an obituary together. After we finished reading the obituary, he told me he felt something special inside and I told him that was the Holy Ghost. What a special teaching moment that was for both of us. To feel a connection to those who came before us, at such a young age, was so precious. To feel the Holy Ghost and to be able to hold on to that memory until he received the gift of the Holy Ghost was something I couldn’t have planned. I’m grateful for family history and the many blessings I receive from doing that work.”

Lizz said, “In my singles ward my sophomore year of college, I was called to be an indexing co-chair. I’d had personal experiences with indexing that had given me a real feeling for the reality of the work we do through indexing and the true excitement of our family and friends on the other side of the veil, and their anxiousness to be found and have their work completed. When I was called as indexing co-chair, my fellow co-chair and I organized a Sunday afternoon indexing get-together each week. Each week we’d pack about 10 people into our living room, provide ice cream, and index together. Sometimes we’d pop in a movie as background noise to our excited gasps, our anguished lamenting of particularly poor handwriting, and our murmurings of counsel as we put our heads together over an especially indecipherable name. The afternoons together strengthened our friendships and brought the Spirit.”

How has family history helped make your Sundays a delight? Share your story with us. What activities have been most meaningful for you and your family? If you haven’t yet found a way to make family history part of your weekly Sunday activities, try reading through the ideas above, and pick something that fits your schedule and family situation. You can take small steps to follow the counsel of Church leaders and bring the Spirit and blessings of family history into your home each week.


Mobile Access to the Consultant Planner

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 14:49

The consultant planner is one of the most useful tools available in your work as a family history consultant or helper. It allows you to access member trees, prayerfully plan lessons, and monitor member progress as you help others have successful family history experiences.

You can now access this planner in the FamilySearch Family Tree mobile app by following these steps:

     1. Open the Family Tree app.
     2. Select More in the bottom right corner. (On Android, select the more icon in the top left corner.)
     3. Tap Help.
     4. Click Consultant Planner.
     5. If prompted, enter your FamilySearch username and password.

To learn more about how to use the consultant planner, click here.

What’s New: Map Your Ancestors

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 15:53

I grew up hearing stories about my ancestors. As I learned the details of their lives, I wondered what it would be like to get a glimpse of their world. The Family Tree app recently added a feature that, in some cases, can help that become a reality by allowing you to map key events in your ancestors’ lives directly in the app.

Not too far from where I now live, I found my great-great-great-grandparents’ home using the addresses attached to their life events and memories on I then searched Google Maps for the address to see if the home is still standing today, and I discovered that it is!

The following are pictures of the home. The top two were attached as memories to my family tree, the bottom left is the image I found on Google Maps, and the last photo is of my dad later visiting the home. While specific street addresses will not always be available, you never know what you’ll stumble on. Try mapping your ancestors with the Family Tree app to see what hidden treasures you can find!

Please note: This feature is currently available on Apple phones and will soon be available on Android as well.

How It Works

Open the Family Tree app, tap More in the bottom right corner, and then tap Map My Ancestors. A map will then show you a 100-mile radius around your current location. Here’s what the icons on the map mean:

    • The blue pulsating dot represents you.
    • People icons represent ancestors who lived in the area.
    • Blue icons with numbers represent multiple ancestors in the same location. Tap the icon to view the names of those ancestors. To exit the list, tap the x in the corner of the list.

Zoom in or out of the map to show fewer or more ancestors at a time. You can also tap the i icon to change the appearance of the map or to limit the number of ancestors you see by tapping “Show only direct line ancestors.”

View Specific People

To see the locations of events from a specific ancestor’s life on the map, tap that ancestor’s name or type their name in the search bar. Icons representing their life events will appear on the map along with a list of the events. Tap an event to learn more about it.

To open this same person-specific view from your ancestors’ page in Family Tree, tap one of their life events, and then tap the map that appears.

Add Burial Locations

Add location information in Family Tree about your ancestors’ burial to view more events in the map and to ensure that the locations you see are accurate. If you know the name of the place where one of your ancestors was buried, open the tree, and select the ancestor in question. On the Details page, tap the burial event, and then tap Edit. Enter the name of the cemetery under Place. Finally, add an explanation for the change. Then tap Save.

Give It a Try

Explore the Map My Ancestors feature to discover places you can visit! Here are some instances where it might be particularly useful:

  • Find ancestors who lived near you. This map can make it easy to find nearby landmarks from your family history.
  • Plan a trip. Search the map by location to find some sentimental stops along the way.
  • Trace your roots. Get a quick glance of where your ancestors came from around the world.

Download the app to try it out!


14 Classes Focused on African Heritage at RootsTech 2018

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 19:13

World-renowned experts in African American genealogy and family history will be on hand at RootsTech 2018 to teach you how to unlock your family’s past and make connections with your heritage. Classes on topics such as getting started, using technology in your research, and overcoming genealogical challenges will be offered during the four-day conference.

Here’s a list of 14 classes focused on African heritage that will be part of RootsTech 2018. If you see a class that interests you, add it to your schedule in the official RootsTech app (available on the App Store and Google Play).

Wednesday, February 28 The Ancestors Await: Finding Your Ancestors through Archival Research

Toni Carrier, Low Country Africana

Libraries, archives, universities, museums, and historical societies hold treasures for your ancestor search! Plantation journals, wills, estate inventories, photographs, and more await you at historical societies, archives, university libraries, and special collections in community libraries. This session focuses on archival resources, what you can learn from them, and how to locate and access these rich resources.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Room: 254A

Digital Library on American Slavery and More

Diane Richard, Mosaic RPM

Researching and documenting emancipated individuals and their ancestors before the 1870 census can be challenging but not necessarily impossible. Many types of records offer information about those who were enslaved. Increasingly, rich resources can be found online so that you can research in your jammies (if you want). This talk discusses a few resources that you won’t regret looking into as you research your African American ancestry. Some collections and techniques include the following:

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Room: 251A

Timelines Are for You!

Shelley Murphy, Midwest African American Genealogy Institute

This session will provide a brief overview of the value of using timelines to enhance your research. Attendees will see the how a timeline keeps things organized and in chronological order. It’s one document that will show the conflicts or gaps and have citations along with resources. Timelines are like writing the beginnings of a biography about your ancestor. Timelines will tell things that impacted your ancestors and the communities they lived in. Timelines can be fancy or simple with Murphy’s methods and strategies to build the timeline. In addition, attendees will be exposed to building a research plan from their timeline.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Room: 254A

The Emotional Side of DNA Testing

Bernice Bennett, BB’s Genealogy Research and Educational Services, LLC

This presentation will discuss the emotional reactions associated with discovering new relatives, ancestry composition results, and other unanticipated findings.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Room: Ballroom I

Turning Ancestors into Art

Tony Burroughs, Center for Black Genealogy

It is very exciting to find an old photo of your ancestors. It is more exciting to add color to those old black and white photos. It is even more exciting to combine photos and documents to turn them into works of art to be hung on walls and given as presents. With a knowledge of Photoshop and a scanner, you can turn your family photos into works of art.

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Room: 255A

Thursday, March 1 Platting Plantations

Tony Burroughs, Center for Black Genealogy

It is difficult enough to identify the name of a slave owner and whether your enslaved ancestors lived on a plantation. But once you’ve identified the plantation, which may no longer exist, how do you tell where it would be today and how to get there? How do you determine if there are any remnants of the plantation and discover the proximity of the churches, neighbors, and other points of interest in the community? This presentation will illustrate how to find land deeds, how to plat the deeds, overlay the plats on current maps, and then walk on the grounds of your enslaved ancestors.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Room: 251D

Decoding Freedom Papers to Find Family Connections

Michael Henderson

Manumission papers sometimes hold clues to otherwise undocumented, clandestine family connections. Uncovering these hidden family connections can help further your research—whether your ancestor was the enslaved person being granted freedom or the person granting freedom to someone else. These documents offer a research goldmine for genealogists of all backgrounds who pore over 18th- and 19th-century documents. The session will explore a proven methodology to examine manumission documents and show how attendees can apply this approach to documents they uncover.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Room: 251A

Tooling Technology to Unpuzzle Birthing History

Janis Forte, Midwest African American Genealogy Institute

Puzzled and confused? Can’t unscramble Great-grandma’s birthing history? Baffled by the 1900 census question on “Mother of how many children” and “Number of these children living”? Are you unable to affirm oral history accounts of childbirths? This lecture is for you. Learn internet websites and research strategies to uncover the precise birthing history of your 19th-century ancestor. Genealogy involves identifying kin regardless of life length. This lecture includes researching those who were stillborn, those who died in childhood, and those who died without futures. To ensure accuracy, in addition to traditional birth registries, we must scour other records for birthing information. This lecture demonstrates electronic databases and specialty files that may reveal long forgotten births and childhood deaths. In case study format, this lecture provides a how-to approach to complete the family structure by uncovering these previously unknown kin who have been lost to history.

Time: 4:30 p.m.

Room: 254A

A Gift of Life: Who’s Writing Your Story?

Deborah Abbott

How do you want to be remembered? As genealogists we always seem to skip over ourselves—so who’s telling your story? Who knows better than you the joy, pain, and laughter of your life? Remember that our lives, as well as the lives of our ancestors, are made up of more than census records and family group sheets. Only you can tell the real stories of love, loss, forgiveness, and change. Don’t leave the task of finding the answers of your life’s history to someone else—take the time to write your life story. Learn the importance of reliving your past and reflecting on who you are today. Explore ways to remember the past that no record would provide and writing in six-word memoirs. Using typical genealogical resources, learn the ease of writing your history and bringing your personal story to life.

Time: 4:30 p.m.

Room: Ballroom A

Friday, March 2 Tracing Slavery with DNA and Genealogy

Nicka Smith

The history of slavery in America has made our DNA a complex cultural stew. In this session, learn how to combine traditional genealogy and DNA research to confirm or deny slave, slaveholder, and ancestral ties to one of history’s most peculiar institutions.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Room: 251A

Loose Women: Record Search for the Female Felon

Janis Forte, Midwest African American Genealogy Institute

Is there a black sheep in your family? Gangsters and crooks in your ancestral closet? These “persons of ill fame” usually produce more documents than do the law-abiding citizens of a community. Generally, these dark-shadowed individuals are males and referred to as “black sheep.” But occasionally, these shady characters are of the “weaker sex” known as “black ewes.” Like their black sheep male counterparts, these black ewes were the charlatans, crooks, gangsters, and criminals of their eras. Loose women all! With a focus on research strategies and techniques, this lecture is about tracking the infamous and elusive females in your ancestry who resided on the “other side of the law”—even if you didn’t know about them. This lecture demonstrates research methodologies and skill-building techniques along with a variety of online databases of criminal record file systems, historical county jails, and state prison systems.

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Room: Ballroom E

How to Get More from Your DNA with

Shannon Christmas

Learn how and why you should mine your autosomal DNA results for genealogical gems using the most popular third-party tool for genetic genealogy.

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Room: Ballroom F

Saturday, March 3 Transcribing the Freedmen’s Bureau

Douglas Remley; Kamilah Stinnett

This session will give an overview of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project. This crowdsourcing initiative aims to transcribe all of the nearly two million images of records relating to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Once transcribed, the records will become keyword searchable through a new database that will allow researchers to search the Freedmen’s Bureau records in a way that has never before been possible and will become an invaluable resource for anyone interested in learning more about their family history or the Reconstruction Era. The session will detail the origins of the project, the partnership between FamilySearch and the Smithsonian, how to participate in the project, tips on transcribing 150-year-old documents, and the critical role technology plays in making African American genealogy accessible.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Room: 251A

Organizing and Documenting Plantation Slaves

Ari Wilkins, Dallas Public Library

Keeping track of numerous of slaves with oftentimes only first names or nicknames can be an overwhelming task. This lecture will offer suggestions on using spreadsheets to organize and analyze information about African Americans before and after the Civil War.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Room: 251D


Five Great Records about Your Military Ancestor

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:43

by Katy Barnes

Are you looking for a way to honor your American military ancestors this Veteran’s Day? How about using historical records to learn about them and their service? You can use various repositories, collections, and websites spanning many conflicts to find your soldier-ancestor. From the Revolution to World War II and later conflicts, chances are you had a family member who served—and you can find records about him! Here are some quick—but by no means comprehensive—ideas for performing military research.

The options are myriad, and some are more easily accessible than others. For example, during both world wars, men had to register for the draft. Obviously not all who filled out a card ended up serving, but these records can be a fascinating resource for researching any man of appropriate age in your tree. Found on,, and, these draft registration cards include information about birth dates and places, addresses, employers, and often a physical description of the draftee. Search World War I draft registration cards for free at

The Civil War also produced an amazing amount of information on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Service records, muster rolls, regimental histories, and pension documents can be rich resources. Pension records in particular are a gold mine. When a soldier was injured in the service of his country, he could often qualify for a government pension, which was meant to help support him financially. Qualifying for one of these pensions took a lot of time, proof of identity and injury, and affidavits from friends, family, and doctors. As a result, pension files can be hundreds of pages long. The actual packets themselves are currently available only through the National Archives for approximately $80, but several of the big family history websites contain indexes to help you determine whether your ancestor qualified for a pension. Learn more about the Civil War, and give the following databases a try: Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database or U.S. Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934.

The War between the States wasn’t the only war to result in pensions: you can find them for the Revolution and the War of 1812 as well. These sorts of military documents are especially important for that time period, since there are generally fewer historical documents overall. The 1700s–1800s for the most part lacked vital records, detailed censuses, county histories, and other record types we rely heavily on for later research. Colonial and antebellum military records are often some of the best sources for details about your ancestors.

Bounty land warrants are also an important source to check. During some of the earlier years of the nation (colonial through just before the Civil War), soldiers were often paid for their service in land. As with a pension, the soldier or his survivors first had to apply for the warrant, which he could then apply toward a patent. That patent granted him ownership of a certain piece of land (which he did not typically get to choose) that he could then elect to live on or sell. These too can be accessed through the National Archives for a fee.
And don’t forget newspapers! My own grandfather was a World War II vet who served as the commanding officer of several POW camps in Indiana and Ohio. I learned most about his service there from the articles I found about the camps written by the local newspapers. Obituaries often also give details about a man’s service, including his regiment and any important battles. Newspapers can be found in many places, such as NewspaperArchiveNewspapers.comElephind, the Family History Library, and local libraries and genealogical societies.

Finally, don’t neglect the smaller conflicts. We don’t talk as much about the Spanish-American War, Mexican War, and various frontier Indian disturbances. Your ancestors may have served in these as well, even if they did not participate in the more famous wars.

With this short article, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s out there. If you’re interested in learning more about how to do military genealogical research, here are a few additional resources:

  • FamilySearch Research Wiki
  • How to Trace Your U.S. Military Ancestorss,” by Kimberly Powell, on military genealogy
  • The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy by Loretto D. Szucs and Sandra H. Luebking (it has a very helpful chapter on military research, but covers many other topics as well—a must-have reference book for the serious genealogist!).
  • U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present by James C. Neagles.

Katy Barnes is a researcher at Legacy Tree Genealogists, the world’s highest client-rated genealogy research firm. Founded in 2004, the company provides full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide, helping them discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA. Based near the world’s largest family history library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, Legacy Tree has developed a network of professional researchers and archives around the globe. More information is available at


Using Military Records to Bring Your Ancestors to Life

Uncovering Your World War I Ancestors

Finding US Military Ancestors in Online Records


Completing Tasks on the FamilySearch Tree Mobile App

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 13:44

There’s a reason family history is so important—taking some time out of each day to turn your heart to your ancestors can enrich your life, establish your identity, and strengthen your family. Thanks to new and constantly advancing technologies that are available today, it has become easier than ever to integrate family history moments into your daily life in simple, rewarding ways.

The FamilySearch Tree mobile app is a great way to do your family history, no matter where you are or how busy your schedule is. Even if you have only a few minutes to spare in your day, you can use that time to do quick and easy tasks to discover your ancestors and add to your family tree.

What Are Tasks?

Tasks show potential work to be done in your family tree. All of your available tasks are indicated by a blue record hint icon, which means that FamilySearch has found a birth, death, or other record that may have your ancestor listed in it. Because FamilySearch uses a public tree that anyone can add to or edit, attaching these records helps to prove your ancestors’ life events and dates. Reviewing and attaching records to your tree can help you verify your ancestors’ vital information, find family members that may not have been added to your tree yet, and input important details that can then help FamilySearch identify more potential matches in indexed records.

Completing Tasks in the FamilySearch App

Now that you understand what tasks are and how they can help you in your family history efforts, it’s time to get started! There are three ways to find tasks in the FamilySearch mobile app:

  1. Record Hint Icons. These icons will appear next to your ancestor’s photo if there are available tasks for that person. Tap the blue icon to see all the possible records your ancestor has been found in.
  2. Ancestors with Tasks. This feature will allow you to see a list of your ancestors who have available tasks. The list includes tasks for people you recently viewed, your first five generations, and any part of your pedigree you’ve expanded.
    • Apple: Select the Tasks icon from the main toolbar.
    • Android: Select Ancestors with Tasks from the app menu.

    Tip: To get even more available tasks in this list, select the Information icon in the top right corner of the screen, and then tap Expand Ancestors with Tasks. This will allow you to see tasks for the parents, spouses, and children of each person you visit.

  1. Descendants with Tasks. From an ancestor’s person page, select the menu with three dots from the top right corner. Then tap Descendants with Tasks. This will load a page that lists all potential record matches for that person’s descendants. You can expand your results by using the drop-down menu to display three, four, or five generations of descendants.
    Tip: This feature works best with people who were born in or before the 1830s.

Android How to Review and Attach Records

Once you select a blue record hint icon from one of the three places listed above, you’ll see a screen that shows all available record hints for that person.

To attach a record to your ancestor’s FamilySearch profile, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a record hint from the list, and then tap Review to get more details and make sure that it is a good match for your ancestor.
  2. Compare the information from the record (left column) to your ancestor’s information (right column) and make sure everything looks correct. If there are multiple people listed on the record, tap the paper clip icon to expand and verify details for each individual.

  1. Add any new information from the record by tapping the + symbol. (This could include dates, places, or family members not yet listed in your tree.)
  2. If you decide that the record is a match, explain how you reached that conclusion under “Reason to Attach Source,” and then tap Attach to add it to your ancestor’s profile.
  3. If the information from the record doesn’t match your ancestor’s profile, select Not a Match to dismiss the record and continue reviewing other record hints.

Completing tasks is an easy way to connect with your ancestors and fill in your family tree. And remember, the more records you attach to your tree, the more record hints FamilySearch will be able to find for you. So the next time you have a minute to spare, grab your phone and find out what records are waiting to be added to your tree—you’ll be amazed by the difference you can make in just a short amount of time.

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What’s New: Logged-in Home Page

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 09:59

Last year, FamilySearch updated the home page to make it a more personalized experience. These changes put your family memories and recommended tasks front and center, making it easier for you to connect with your ancestors.

We’ve created a video to highlight the new features. You can watch the video below.


At a Glance

  • Memories. You can browse photos and stories of your ancestors to get to know them better.
  • Recommended Tasks. FamilySearch lists actions you can easily complete if you don’t know where to start.
  • Recent People. Start right where you left off with this list of the last five people you have viewed on
  • To-Do List. Create a to-do list to keep yourself on track as you explore your family history.
  • Other Actions. Discover additional suggestions of what to do next. You can find these suggestions in the top left and bottom right of the screen.

This infographic provides a quick glimpse of what the new home page looks like, with an explanation of each feature.


Helping Youth Consultants Succeed

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 15:29

by Kathryn Grant

Youth around the world are embracing the role of temple and family history consultant. They come with many of the skills and abilities needed to move family history work forward. They’re tech-savvy. They learn quickly. They love the Lord, and they want to claim the blessings promised by apostles and prophets.

In addition, youth can reach other youth when adults can’t. And as any grandparent knows, they can teach the older generation a few things as well!

Three Principles for Engaging Youth

In his RootsTech 2017 presentation on building powerful youth consultants, Bryan Austad explained that there isn’t a “cookie-cutter recipe” to follow for success. However, leaders can help youth temple and family history consultants magnify their callings by keeping three basic principles in mind:

  • Simple. Avoid making things too complicated or elaborate. Don’t oversimplify; do focus on essentials.
  • Social. Youth enjoy doing things together—for example, indexing in pairs. Family history work can also be interspersed with activities such as sports or dances.
  • Spiritual. Don’t preach, but help youth feel and recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost as they find and gather their family to the temple.

Many youth are busy with school, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities, so finding time for a family history calling can be a challenge. But keeping things simple, social, and spiritual helps youth become converted to family history. And when they are converted, they will find time to do family history even in their busy lives.

Training Youth Consultants

What about training youth consultants? Youth want training and need it in order to be successful. They don’t want leaders to take over and do it for them, but they want enough direction that they’re not left to flounder.

Bryan shared how family history center directors in Katy, Texas, United States, found a successful way to train youth consultants. When the school year ended, they set up Summer Youth Days at the Katy Texas family history center. Leaders and youth consultants met every Wednesday for four hours. For part of the time, youth met together to learn about various topics, such as FamilySearch Family Tree, writing a personal history, and indexing.

Consultants also worked with participants to help them learn to find names for temple work. Several artistic youth consultants created a large family tree that was displayed on the wall. They also created paper leaves that were green on one side and white on the other. When someone found a name, that person wrote the name on the green side of the leaf and put the leaf on the tree. After temple work was completed for the ancestor, the leaf was turned over to the white side.

Summer Youth Days were so successful that when school started again, the decision was made to continue Youth Days on Saturday.

Today’s Stripling Warriors

In a 2017 RootsTech presentation “Youth + Consultants = Awesome,” Dallin Lowder compared youth temple and family history consultants to the army of Helaman. The stripling warriors were prepared; they were worthy. They brought hope to the weary Nephite soldiers and helped protect their people from the attacks of their enemies.

In the same way, youth consultants can be prepared and worthy; they can bring hope to family members on both sides of the veil. Through family history and temple work, they can obtain blessings of protection from the adversary for themselves and those they help.

Youth temple and family history consultants can energize family history efforts and move the work forward in a mighty way.


2017 Worldwide Indexing Event Results

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:36

Over seven million new family history records will now be available on thanks to volunteers around the world who participated in the 2017 Worldwide Indexing Event on October 20–22.

Throughout the event, nearly 80,000 people worked to transcribe historical documents to make them searchable online, including over 9,000 first-time FamilySearch indexing volunteers. Participants represented 116 countries, 10 languages, and all ages, making this a true worldwide event. The following number of volunteers joined the event:

  • Africa and the Pacific: 1,272
  • Asia: 1,670
  • Europe and the Middle East: 2,880
  • Latin America North: 3,605
  • Latin America South: 10,720
  • North America: 53,327

Total number of records indexed

These people selflessly dedicated their time over a three-day period to make essential genealogy records available to the public. With their help, countless people worldwide will be able to discover their ancestors.

Many volunteers took to Facebook and other social media websites to share their progress. Thom Reed, a FamilySearch employee who hosted a family indexing event, said, “We ended on such a high note tonight being able to index with friends! Congrats to everyone from around the world who participated!” Others posted pictures of youth groups indexing together or published comments expressing the joy indexing brought them. One person posted that she indexed four times the number of records she typically indexes in a day! To see some of the posts people shared as well as FamilySearch updates that went live throughout the event, visit the Facebook event page.

Volunteers can help others find their ancestors by indexing records throughout the year. If you missed the event, you can still join the cause of indexing records. As Dorothy Gurney commented, “[The worldwide indexing event] has sparked in me the desire to continue and do more—much more!” Visit to get started or to continue your efforts.

Download the full infographic here.


Sacrifice of Time

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:43

President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy W. Nelson took to the stage in front of thousands of enthused families during the RootsTech 2017 Family Discovery Day. They spoke about small sacrifices to make family history a priority and take family names to the temple.

President Nelson shared a sacred story about his deceased great-grandfather visiting his grandfather, urging him to seal their family in the temple. Sister Nelson shared her experience of giving up the game Scrabble for 21 days and instead using that time for family history.

After sharing their testimonies, President Nelson extended this challenge: “I invite you prayerfully to consider what kind of sacrifice, and preferably a sacrifice of time, you can make to do more family history and temple work this year.”

There are many ways to take up President Nelson’s challenge. A good place to start is meeting one-on-one with a local temple and family history consultant for a personalized experience in family history. Consultants can help you with research or find answers to other questions you have.

Here are a few other ideas to consider as you follow President Nelson’s invitation.


Can you spare just a few minutes a day? If you like to keep your hands busy, even when you’re sitting down relaxing, try indexing while you unwind, while watching your favorite show, with a group of friends or family, or on the go with the new mobile-friendly site.

Preserve Living Memories

Your story matters. Imagine your great-grandchildren listening to your voice as you tell the stories of your childhood or seeing the snapshots of moments that matter to you. Creating an oral history of your own memories can be one of the best ways to preserve the important stories of your life. You can record these stories and upload other memories of your life on the FamilySearch Memories app or on the FamilySearch memories page. If you need some ideas to get you started, check out the 52 stories campaign.

Create Family Temple Traditions

The heart of family history research is completing saving ordinances for our ancestors. “And that means sacrificing time we normally spend on other activities,” President Nelson reminded us. “We need to be spending more time in the temple.” As we participate in temple ordinances as a family, we will receive great promised blessings and protection.

Sister Nelson bore testimony of the blessings she has received: “However fabulous your life is right now or however discouraging and heartbreaking it may be, your involvement in family history and temple work will make it better. It is my testimony that when we show the Lord that we are serious about helping our ancestors, the heavens will open and we will receive all that we need.”

President Nelson closed his remarks with this faithful resolution, “Brothers and sisters, together we are engaged in the work of almighty God. He lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church. We are His covenant children. He can count on us.”

Watch President and Sister Nelson’s full presentation at RootsTech 2017.

Share how you sacrificed time to work on family history here.


Mobile Apps: Great Gathering Tools

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 10:09

by Kathryn Grant

If you think that the FamilySearch Tree and Memories mobile apps are fun, on-the-go tools for family history, you’re right. But did you know that these apps also provide an appealing way to prepare personalized lessons and work one-on-one with others?

Bob and Rena Croft serve as area temple and family history consultants in Billings, Montana, in the United States. They use the mobile apps almost exclusively in their family history work. They’re finding that the apps make family history accessible and relevant for the people they help—perhaps for the first time.

Here are some ways the Crofts use the mobile apps to engage others in family history, both adults and youth.

Help People Fit Family History in Their Busy Schedules
  • After the Crofts taught a mother of young children how to use the mobile app, she commented with emotion, “I can do family history while I’m at a doctor’s appointment or lesson or sporting event. I’m so glad that I can do it wherever I am in these small moments of time.”
  • The Crofts encourage people to use the descendant task list to process record hints, which often lead to names for temple work. One sister, a busy Relief Society president and emergency care nurse, accepted the challenge to process several hints each day. She did this during her breaks at work. Not only did she find people to take to the temple, but her co-workers began asking questions, which resulted in missionary opportunities.
    After a temple session, she texted the Crofts: “Two couples sealed together and 11 children sealed to their parents today! I love finding my own ancestors and doing their work for them. Thanks for teaching me how to do this!”
Teach Ward and Stake Leaders
  • The Crofts always try to have a one-on-one family history experience with stake presidents and bishops before meeting with them in an official capacity. They’ve also helped these priesthood leaders as they in turn have taught their counselors.
  • The mobile app is helping leaders at all levels become self-sufficient in finding family names to add to the tree. “We feel we need to be part of the law of the harvest, not just the harvest,” said Brother Croft. “People are used to finding green temples. They need to know how to add new people to the tree so they can be self-sufficient and provide names for their families.”
Help Beginners Get Started
  • When someone’s tree has few or no family members, the Crofts use the booklet My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together. They help the person gather information, encouraging him or her to contact family members as needed. Then they help the person enter names for the first four generations in the Tree mobile app so temple work can be done.

Teach Children to Love Family History
  • The Crofts have also used the Memories mobile app to engage children in family history. Children love photos, and many already have family photos on their devices. Older children also enjoy using features such as speech-to-text for stories.
  • The Crofts’ two grandsons, ages 10 and 11, know how to use the descendant task list on a tablet. In fact, when the Crofts did training with the stake presidency and high council, their grandsons were the ones helping the stake president and his counselors.

The Crofts are quick to point out the role of the Spirit in using the apps. “The Spirit is an important part of this process,” they said. “Both the Holy Ghost and the ancestors on the other side help us find places where we can have success with these families.”

The FamilySearch mobile apps are enabling family history in wonderful ways as youth and adults use them to help people gather their families.


Youth Leading the Way

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 09:37

by Kathryn Grant

In his April 2017 conference talk “Gathering the Family of God,” President Henry B. Eyring observed, “The youth of the Church have responded to the spirit of Elijah in an inspiring way. Many now hold their own limited-use temple recommend and use it often. Temple baptistries are busier than ever; some temples have even had to adjust their schedules to accommodate the increase in the number of young people attending the temple. It used to be a rare but welcome exception for youth to bring the names of their own ancestors to the temple. Now this is the norm. . . .

“In addition, many youth have discovered that giving of their time to do family history research and temple work has deepened their testimony of the plan of salvation. It has increased the influence of the Spirit in their lives and decreased the influence of the adversary. It has helped them feel closer to their families and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. They have learned that this work saves not just the dead; it saves all of us (see D&C 128:18).”

Amber Sessions is one of the youth described by President Eyring. Inspired by her mother’s example, Amber attended the temple regularly after she turned 12. She also enjoyed working with her mom to discover more about her family and prepare their names for temple work.

As Amber grew older, she felt a strong desire to serve a full-time mission, but she wanted to be sure it was the Lord’s will for her. While at the temple one day for baptisms, she prayed specifically to know if a mission was right for her. She then opened the scriptures without any particular passage in mind, and her eyes fell on Doctrine and Covenants 42:6–7:

And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God.

And ye shall go forth baptizing with water, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Amber knew immediately that this was her answer from the Lord. She is now happily serving in Ecuador.

But the story doesn’t end there. Amber’s younger brother TJ was only 10, but he had been inspired by watching Amber and his other siblings go to the temple. Even though TJ couldn’t yet go there himself, he asked his mom to teach him how to find family names for his siblings to take to the temple.

His mom showed him a family she’d found in the census and then explained how TJ could find birth information for each member of the family. It wasn’t long before TJ had found the information, and then his mom guided him as he added the missing family members to Family Tree. As TJ helped gather his family, he felt connected to them.

Finally, TJ printed the temple cards. Seeing his own name on the cards was thrilling for him. He was even more thrilled when his mom talked with him about how he was helping to release their family members from spirit prison. She told him that just as Amber was teaching the gospel in Ecuador to give people the opportunity of baptism, he was doing the same thing for people on the other side of the veil. “Really!” TJ exclaimed, with wide eyes and a huge smile.

Not surprisingly, when TJ’s younger sister Grace saw what he was doing, she said, “Wow, can I do that?” Even as a 10-year-old, TJ set a wonderful example for his younger sister that made her want the same blessings.

Amber, TJ, and their siblings are typical of many youth who find spiritual strength and answers to their prayers through temple and family history work. They are growing in their ability to influence others, including their own family members. They reap the blessings promised to those who help to gather the family of God.


Making Dinner a Delight: 12 Ways to Make Mealtime More Meaningful

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 10:44

What’s for dinner tonight? Whatever you’re making—curry and rice, meat and three veg, spaghetti and marinara, or a simple can of soup—you’re also making history.

The family dinner is a powerful thing. Our childhood meal experiences follow us the rest of our lives, and it’s not just about the food. Studies show that the frequency of shared family meals can affect everything from grade-point average to mental health outcomes to the risk of substance abuse.

Research aside, food rituals are among the most fundamental and defining aspects of human experience. The details of what we eat, how and where we serve it, and with whom we share it are gloriously diverse the world over, but one thing is universal—the deep-rooted significance of cooking and eating customs.

In every culture, meals are about more than simply fueling the body; they are communal experiences, as much about gathering, sharing, and connecting as they are about the cuisine itself.

More Than Just a Tortilla

“I watched my mother, my grandmother, great-grandmother, and now my daughters use the same recipe to feed the hearts and bodies of those they love,” blogger Allison Kimball wrote in her "My Family Food Story" booklet. “Stories of faith, struggle, and perseverance—and memories of love, laughter, and music have happened as the smell of tortillas cooking on the stove wafts through the house and the rhythm of the rolling pin sounds in my mind and heart.”

A tortilla is more than just a tortilla for the Kimball family. It’s a ritual.

Nothing could demonstrate the intrinsic importance of food traditions more than the story of “a fragile, handwritten book of recipes, the pages sewn together by hand,” compiled by the prisoners of the Terezin concentration camp during World War II. Of all the things they could have preserved on the precious little paper they had, they chose to write down instructions for making stuffed eggs, Jewish coffee cake, chicken galantine, and plum strudel. Their recipes were an essential piece of themselves that they couldn’t bear to lose, after having lost literally everything else.

“The recipes in this book . . . recall another, better life. They evoke visions of a boisterous family gathered around a heavily carved dining room table laden with food,” wrote Lore Dickstein in a New York Times review. “This book has particular relevance and poignancy for me; when I read the recipes for asparagus salad or chocolate torte, I can see these dishes and taste them; it is the food of my childhood.”

The words both Kimball and Dickstein choose are revealing—they write of seeing and tasting, of hearing and feeling. They point to what makes the family meal so enduring. When we cook and eat together, we engage all of our senses:

  • We are seeing faces we love and the rich colors of the food before us.
  • We are hearing a symphony of sounds—sizzling, bubbling, clinking.
  • We are feeling textures with our hands and with our tongues.
  • We are smelling potent aromas and tasting layers of flavor.
  • We are sharing these sensations with everyone else at the table.
Engaging the Heart

With all the distractions of modern living, mealtimes often feel more like a chore than a sacred rite, but whether we’re serving a home-cooked masterpiece or noodles out of a box, eating together will still engage all of our senses, and memories will still endure.

“I feel a special connection to my family every time I eat it,” says Edgar Gomez about his Mexican grandmother’s bread pudding.

“Grandma puts loving care into every handmade batch,” says Steve Rockwood about his American grandma’s Rocky Road fudge.

“Like the delicious aroma of Mom’s cooking, my Vietnamese heritage touches every part of my life,” says Anne Metcalf about her family’s traditional spring rolls recipe.

Are these dishes so deeply meaningful because of how they taste—because of the particular combination of ingredients that pleases the palate? No, it’s what the recipes represent: time, sacrifice, family, and love.

Any meal, eaten alone or with others, naturally touches the eyes, ears, hands, nose, and tongue. But we can also get the heart involved when we gather with loved ones or cook recipes that connect us to our heritage.

More Meaningful Family Meals

Here are a dozen simple ways to make your family dinner more memorable and meaningful for families of all shapes and sizes, no matter how busy the schedule or how tight the budget.

Download here.

  1. Aim for 10 minutes. Bruce Feiler, author of Secrets of Happy Families, says 10 minutes of conversation is all you need to reap the benefits of a family dinner. Even on nights when there’s only enough time to prepare the simplest of meals, you can nourish hearts and minds with a little bit of your time and attention.
  2. Gather at the table. The kitchen table is arguably the most important furnishing in the home. Even if you grabbed takeout on the way home from work, make it a point to sit at the table and eat together. (Tired of the kids arguing and fighting? Feiler says engaging them in a cooperative task beforehand—like setting the table—has been proven to increase mealtime harmony.)
  3. Talk about family history. According to research conducted at Emory University, says Feiler, “Kids who knew more about their family history had a higher sense of self-esteem and a greater belief that they could control their own lives. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional wellbeing.” Dinner is the perfect time to create and reinforce your own family narrative and to give your children a sense of belonging and a strong “intergenerational identity.”
  4. Cook heritage recipes or mindfully start your own food traditions.
  5. Involve children in the preparation. Jonathan Wing says Wednesday night was his turn to help his mom with dinner, often making adobo. “She taught us how to make traditional dishes from her childhood [in the Philippines],” he says. “Now a part of Mom’s childhood is part of mine too.”
  6. Begin the meal with a moment of unity. Your family might have a tradition of saying grace or uniting in prayer. If so, pray for or offer thanks for every person present by name. Those who aren’t religious can still holds hands around the table, taking time to pause and connect before starting to eat.
  7. Acknowledge everyone who contributed to this meal. Talk about the farmers who grew the vegetables, the butcher who cut the meat, the provider whose paycheck bought the groceries, the ancestor who passed down the recipe, and the hands that prepared the food.
  8. Set aside phones and smartphones at mealtimes—especially for dad and mom. Almost 3 in 5 US workers say the constant emails and texts are ruining the family dinner.
  9. Listen. Research shows that parents tend to dominate two-thirds of the dinner conversation. “If that’s what’s happening, you’re not taking enough advantage of your time together,” Feiler says. Try to let the kids do at least 50% of the talking.
  10. Honor the recipe creator. Place a photo of the person who passed down the recipe at the center of the table, to spark conversation and connection, as Elizabeth Dillow demonstrates on the FamilySearch blog.
  11. Engage the five senses—and the five tastes. If there are children eating with you, ask them to identify what they are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. Ask them if they can spot all five tastes in this particular meal: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami.
  12. Map your meal. Name all the different locations that the food on the table came from—Peruvian grapes, local chicken, Mexican rice—and have the kids identify the countries on this downloadable placemat. Or map the home countries of the ancestors who passed down the recipes you’re enjoying.

Download 8.5×11 here.
Download two 8.5×11 here to make a larger placemat.

The memories we make at the kitchen table will stay with us throughout our lives. If food traditions or dinner stories from your own childhood came to mind while you were reading this article, take a moment to write them down or share them in the comments. Maybe even upload them to your profile on FamilySearch.

Going forward, we all have a choice: we can think of meals as a chore, or we can choose to look at the family dinner as a privilege, a gift, and a powerful tool that’s capable of improving children’s lives, strengthening generational ties, and building stronger families. And we don’t have to become better cooks in order to reap these benefits; we just have to do our part to reach beyond the five senses and engage the heart.

If you’d like to learn more about how food traditions bring family together, click here.