Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scouting Out New FamilySearch

This article will be of interest primarily to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Given the time, I try to broaden the appeal of my articles. Sorry; I won’t have time with this one.)

This evening I braved a trip to the local family history center with a 12-member troop of Boy Scouts. Yes, I am crazy. Here’s what I did and what I learned.

I contacted the ward clerk beforehand and prepared a slip of paper for each boy with the information necessary for a consultant to sign in to help each boy on New FamilySearch (NFS):

  • Full Name
  • Birth Date
  • Last five digits of the Record Number (which is their helper number)

I was glad I didn’t try to register each boy. It would have taken too much time. Managers at FamilySearch get nervous when they see lots of people register for FamilySearch but never come back to use it. And there was another teeny, tiny little problem: OUR STAKE DOESN’T HAVE NFS YET!

I prepared a handout beforehand with the Duty to God Certificate Requirements for Deacons that pertain to family history:

Family Activities

4. Keep a written record of your family history. Ask a parent or the ward family history consultant to help you prepare a 4-generation pedigree chart.

Spiritual Development

6. Read an account of one of your ancestors, or learn about an ancestor from one of your relatives. Report what you learned in family home evening or in a quorum meeting.

7. Complete additional family history work, such as a family group record showing your parents as children with the other members of their families. Share this information with a parent or a priesthood leader.

Educational, Personal, and Career Development

11. Learn computer and keyboarding skills. Demonstrate these skills by typing family history information in Personal Ancestral File or another similar program.

On the handout, I also listed the steps each boy would perform while at the family history center:

  1. Have a consultant or leader log into New FamilySearch and set it up to help you. Tonight you will sign in using your full name, birth date, and helper number. (You will be able to get your own account later if you wish.)
  2. Have a consultant or leader show you how to print a family group record showing one of your parents as a child. Print the family group record. Take it home and add your living uncles, aunts, and grandparents information. Use this for requirement 7 of Spiritual Development.
  3. Run Personal Ancestral File. Enter yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents. Use New FamilySearch to get the names and information. (This step is timed. We’ll tell you when to stop.) This fulfills requirement 11.
  4. Print a pedigree chart with the information you entered. Use this for requirement 4 of Family Activities.
  5. If you finish early, for requirement 6 of Spiritual Development you can try to find information about a pioneer ancestor. Go to . Click on Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel and search for names of pioneer ancestors. If necessary, ask a consultant to help you use New FamilySearch to find an ancestor that was born in the east or abroad but died in the west.

Include information on the handout about the family history center (FHC): address, phone number, hours. Remember that adult leaders may have never been to the FHC before; make certain they know how to get there.

Print enough copies of the handout for each boy and each adult.

Contact the FHC well ahead of the scheduled day. Make reservations as required by your center. Verify the number of consultants that will be present. Allow for no more than an hour at the center. When it comes to 12-year old boys, it’s better to be rushed than bored.

Keep in mind that if Mutual starts at 7:00pm, it will take some time for opening exercises and travel to the FHC. Our scouts arrived about 7:15 and left about 8:10 so that they could be home no later than 8:30pm.

Make certain each boy will have a computer. If necessary, schedule patrols on different nights.

We had eight boys, two scout leaders, and three consultants. The consultants were kept hopping and had to delegate whenever possible to the scout leaders. We really could have used another consultant, as one boy’s family was converts and one consultant was pretty much tied up helping him.

Another consultant would have also expedited getting everyone signed in through helper mode.

I shouted out generalized instructions, stepping through the steps on the handout, then assisted the other adults in seeing that all the boys were keeping up. I let other adults handle the stragglers, keeping most of the group together.

For step 3, we had each boy position their parents in the focus position of the NFS “Family Pedigree with Details” view. They could then click on the name of each person on the pedigree to display the information to retype into PAF.

Once the boys had entered themselves and their parents into PAF, they really took off through their four generations. Don’t worry about information that they don’t know and that isn’t available in New FamilySearch. Tell them to ask their parents when they get home. The goal at the moment is to

  • get them a printed family group sheet and a printed pedigree that they can take home with them,
  • give them a little experience entering genealogy information,
  • give them a little experience using New FamilySearch,
  • give them a success experience with several Duty to God requirements,
  • and give them a pleasant memory of using a family history center.

Start warning the boys when there is about 15 minutes of time left over, or when the first set of boys is nearing completion.

About this time one of the Scout leaders started exclaiming amazement at how easy genealogy was and how much the boys were accomplishing. Re-enforce the sentiment with comments about New FamilySearch.

When the first boy is ready to print his pedigree, I shouted out the instructions for everyone else to hear, and to set the expectation that the end was near.

The boys that finish ahead of the bell curve can work on step 5 with minimal assistance. However, we had lots of adults available at that time because the rest of the boys were in the highly repetition portion of transferring their pedigree.

Once you hit the majority of the bell curve, don’t actively push them on to step 5. Tell those on the late end of the bell curve to stop where they are and print their pedigree chart as is.

Have anyone that’s found an ancestor in step 5 print out a page about their ancestor to share in home evening or in quorum meeting.

Get them out on time before the energy level of the activity has a chance to drop.

I’m out of time. Think about the follow-up opportunities with parents, leaders, bishopric, and the boys! Think about what changes you’d make in this formula for non-pioneer descendents where a boy might end up with an FOR for a baptism for the dead. That gives follow-up opportunities with quorum leaders, adult leaders, home teachers, and other family members.

Guess I don’t have time to comment on the problems present in New FamilySearch that are made apparent by this activity.

I used to dread having youth groups come to the FHC because it was impossible to get them to bring the name of a departed ancestor and it was a negative experience for them because they weren’t prepared. I think I’m going to love youth groups now that we have New FamilySearch.


  1. Thanks for this great info! I am going to file this away and give it to the Scout leader at some time. I am sure this could be adapted to YW. I am hoping to get my ward enthused about family history. I am making progress. The bishop asked me to teach a FH class. Woo hoo!

  2. Thanks so much! I immediately forwarded it on to my two Utah son-in-laws, one a deacon's q advisor, and one in charge of scouting in his stake. Just remembered! My Alabama sil is Stake YMP. I'll send it on to him as well. Great article!

  3. Thanks. I've been cheerleading NFS for years without being able to show it off and get my ward members started with it since we live in Utah. I just got called as a consultant in my ward and our ward just went live on Monday. We've got a kick-off meeting scheduled to show it off and this is a great idea to get the youth groups started. I really think that NFS will enable members to get started and light a fire for family history work in the church.


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