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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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