Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Family 15-in-15....More than Who-begat-Who

We love our assignment as Area Family History Support missionaries working throughout the Pacific. We have especially enjoyed the opportunity to team with others in carrying out the My Family 15 in 15 goal.

There is nothing new about asking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to compile records about four generation of their family.  The 15 in 15 program is unique, however, based on the emphasis placed on individual accountability.  Our main focus has been engaging the leadership of the church to set the example and the degree of expectation to "return and report".

The basic idea of recording our lineage back to our great-grandparents was initiated during the early days of the church.

At the April 1894 general conference, President Wilford Woodruff  presented a revelation to the membership of the Church.  “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. … This is the will of the Lord to his people.” (1)  The Church began gathering print records from that time.  Microfilming of records started in 1938.(2)   As more records became available in the collections of various genealogical societies, the specific responsibility to seek out family records for at least four generations of every members’ family was instituted  in the mid 1960’s. (3)

For generations, church leaders have invited and encouraged members to seek out their kindred dead to ensure that ordinances of salvation could be extended to them.There are many rich blessings which have been promised by prophets, seers and revelators to those who follow the commandment to seek out their  ancestors and take their names to the temple. (4)

 People around the world have been gathering family records for a very long time. Today, however, we seem to have reached a tipping point in which enthusiasm for this work is supported by a greater array of tools and resources than ever before. (5)(6) More than at any other time in history, it is now possible to obtain primary source records, histories, and government documents at the click of a button. 

The LDS Church has embraced emerging technologies for family history research in a big way.Substantial resources have been invested to ensure that church collections of geneology information are properly preserved and protected.(7)  Most family history centers offer internet services, including free access to a number of partner sites for anyone (member or non-member) who uses those centers.  FamilySearch has also made contractual agreements to allow free access in the home for specific premium websites for church members. (8)(9)

There are currently 274 LDS family history centers in 14 countries throughout the Pacific Area. (10)    Equipment for those centers is provided for and tracked by the Pacific Area Office in Auckland, New Zealand, where we work. (Keeping a technology inventory list up to date and ordering new computers and printers as needed are parts of our job).  Local leaders in each country assign individuals to work as volunteer Family History Center directors and consultants.  We have opportunities to train many of those people, as we recently did during our trip to Fiji. 

There are also several missionary camera teams working in New Zealand and in Australia, as well as a team in Papua New Guinea, to continually add to the growing collection of key family history information that is available.   Called "Records Preservation Missionaries" these folks provide a vital link that makes document research possible by filming old records in government archives, church records and other sources.  The combination of converting old microfilm records stored in the "granite mountain" into searchable digital images and the new images that are being captured from archives all over the world by records preservation teams are adding 400 million images each year to the LDS collection which are shared freely with the world  (11).

Even in those parts of the world where recorded documents are not generally available, great efforts are being made to preserve living memory by recording oral histories which can then be indexed to provide searchable records of a community or certain family group. (12) (13)

The My Family 15 in 15 goal encourages members to use the My Family booklet as a tool for  gathering information which can then be input to FamilySearch.org.  

The great thing about this book is that it encourages gathering stories and photos to bring memories of our ancestors to life.  Keeping an accurate record of names, dates and places detailing the when and where of each person's birth, marriage and death is all well and good.  By itself, however, even the most detailed chart of who-begat-who is not particularly inspiring.  It is the stories that help us feel a sense of connection to those in our family tree.

The most meaningful part of the trainings we do is when we teach people how to gather and record family stories.  We have been humbled and honored by the many stories that have been shared with us at each of the places we have visited.

It has made me want to do a better job of recording my own family stories and special personal experiences. I plan to begin with the list of QUESTIONS that I have so often shared with other folks to help them write their family narratives.  I will be posting the questions here on this blog so I can always find them easily.   Our days are often full and our schedule packed with a long "to do" list.  So it will take some careful planning to carve out time to focus on this.

However, if I have learned anything from my work on th My Family 15 in 15 program it is the power of leading by example.  I cannot sincerely expect the people I am teaching to get serious about writing their personal and family history stories if I am not willing to do it myself.

Who wants to join me?


   1)  The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham (1946), 157; or Millennial Star, 28 May 1894, 339. As quoted by Russell M. Nelson.  April 1998. “A New Harvest Time”.  https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/a-new-harvest-time?lang=eng

         2)   FamilySearch YouTube Video.  Uploaded October 8, 2010.  “Granite Mountain Records Vault, Part 1.  FamilySearch Genealogy Records”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KLea_DPxb4

    3)  Ensign. (1972)  “What is the Four Generation Program?” https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/03/what-is-the-four-generation-program?lang=eng

    4)  LDS.Org. (ND). Family History Topics. “The Promised Blessings of Family History”.  https://www.lds.org/topics/family-history/fdd-cook/blessings-video?lang=eng

     b  5)   Family Tree Magazine.com  July 28, 2014. “Best Tech Tools For Genealogy”. http://familytreemagazine.com/article/best-tech-tools-2014

Gagne, Tammy. 2012.  A Kid’s Guide to Genealogy.  Using Technology to Find Your Family History. Mitchell Lane Publishers. 

          7)  Family Search YouTube Video. Uploaded Feb 4, 2011.  “Granite Mountain Records Vault, Part 2 – FamilySearch Genealogy Records.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYkLKAPzCfQ

    8)  FamilySearch.org. 2015. Partner Access. https://familysearch.org/partneraccess

     9)  Brimhall, Dennis. Febuary 26, 2014. FamilySearch Blog. FamilySearch Parnerships: Some Questions and Answers. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/questions-answers-familysearch-partners/

   10)  FamilySearch. (ND). Find a Family History Center.https://familysearch.org/locations/#

   11)  Lloyd, R. Scott.  Jan 22, 2013.  Church News.  "Preserving the World's Records".  

   12)  Mormon Newsroom.  February 8, 2014. "Church Making Strides Preserving African Family Histories".  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/2014yearinreview/church-making-strides-preserving-african-family-histories/ 

    13)  Raleigh Yow, Valerie. 2005. Recording Oral History: A Guide For the Humanities and Social Sciences. Second Ed. P. 273.  Oxford, UK. AltaMira Press.

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