Thousands Attend Family History Library’s Annual Block Party

Contributed By Noelle Baldwin, Church News contributor

  • 29 June 2016

The Utah Pipe Band marches down West Temple during the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016.   Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • More than 2,200 people from more than 15 countries attended the event.
  • Classes were available to teach people how to do family history.
  • Live entertainment brought cultures from all over, including Polynesia, to the event.

Despite the rain, families flocked to downtown Salt Lake City for the second annual Family History Library Block Party on June 11. The event was held in and around the Family History Library and, for the first time, the Church History Museum. Face painting, bounce houses, a rock climbing wall, and pioneer games and experiences were available on West Temple in front of the Family History Library.

More than 2,200 people from more than 15 countries, including China, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, and Tonga, attended the event. Debbie Gurtler, the staff supervisor of research training and a member of the organizing committee at the Family History Library, said that they had several tour buses come with passengers from different countries.

Heavy rains drove most participants inside the Family History Library and the Church History Museum. However, Sister Gurtler said that “the blessing of the rain was it got people to go into the library” and to try the interactive programs there.

Inside the Family History Library, volunteers and missionaries helped attendees create and log in to their FamilySearch account and answer questions about their family history. Other activities that took place inside the library were a photo face swap, where participants could replace faces of popular or historical pictures with their own faces, and a green screen photo booth that allowed the entire family to put their photo on different backgrounds.

Computers were brought in so attendees could log in to Relative Finder, which is normally available at the Discovery Center in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Once an individual is logged in, a world map appears with small icons representing where different ancestors lived. Individuals could interact with the icons and read stories about their ancestors. “Computers are cool,” said 9-year-old Kasen Lindquist as he zoomed in on his ancestors in Europe. The Relative Finder program also showed participants which presidents, inventors, famous athletes, entertainers, and pioneers they were related to.

Kevin Clark plays the bagpipes with the Utah Pipe Band in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Hui Gong, left, Allison Tian, and James Tian, right, enjoy some time together in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

From left, Dave Martin, Jennifer Hohl, and Angie Call from the Pecos Bill Band sing at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Kasen’s mom, Shelley Lindquist, said that the block party and activities provided “a great venue to teach families about their family history.” Sister Lindquist said she and her husband have a huge map on their wall at home where they track each ancestor. They hope that they can get their three children interested in family history. Even though Kasen is only 9, Sister Lindquist said his interest in their history has skyrocketed and that the block party was a great way to reinforce that interest.

Due to the rain, some of the live entertainment was also held inside the Family History Library. The Ailine’s Touch of Polynesia dancers brought little pieces of Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii, and other islands into the crowded lobby, which “made a great space for the dancers. It was fun to see that inside the library,” said Sister Gurtler.

During their performance, Ailine Lao, executive director of Ailine’s Touch of Polynesia, said that it was great for all of the families to come to the block party together because “that’s how we get to know our families—by doing things together.”

Short classes on getting started, finding a name, and the updated FamilySearch apps were taught in the main computer lab in the library. The classes gave attendees a small taste for family history and gave them an opportunity to ask questions.

The “Getting Started” class showed a short video and then let participants try their hand at basic family history. For many Church members finding a name that needs temple work is hard, so the “Finding a Name” class was designed toward helping these members, said Sister Gurtler.

The class on the newly updated FamilySearch app spoke about the new features that make it easier for users to update their family tree from their mobile device. Now instead of having to find a scanner to upload photos, users can take a picture with their phone or tablet and immediately upload it to their ancestor’s file. This feature allows photos or delicate documents to be uploaded without special equipment.

The Church History Museum had all of its exhibits open, including the “First Vision Experience,” a seven-minute film of Joseph Smith’s First Vision on a 240-degree screen, the “Joseph Smith: Prophet and Statesman” presentation about his run for the president of the United States, and the “Be a Museum Detective” interactive program for families.

Also inside the museum many staff members, dressed as historical characters and pioneers, wandered throughout the building, telling different stories about their personal family histories and playing games with authentic wooden tops, hoops, and other toys.

Sister Gurtler said that they were excited to get people interested in family history and to let people know what resources are available at the library and the museum. She also said that the Family History Library is open to any who need help with their family history. “The staff here are expert genealogists,” she said and added that they speak multiple languages.

Walk-ins are welcome in both the Family History Library and the Church History Museum. The library is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. However, for large groups at the Family History Library, reservations are required and can be made by visiting the library’s website or by calling 801-240-4673. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Zyan Draper dances the Highland Fling with the Utah Pipe Band in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Rylan Phelps smiles as he sees his painted face at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Issac Lewis tosses a ring in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Ron Anderson demonstrates stone carving at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Jason Bluemel looks at family history in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Karlie Lundell helps her son Jesse Lundell take a picture at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Kasen Lindquist, 9, looks at family history details in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Aaralyn Gibson holds her dad's arm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

The Gibson family get their picture taken at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Paul Feletoa, of Ailine’s Touch of Polynesia dance group, performs during the second annual Family History Block Party on Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Melepaea Tuuhetaufa and Ailine’s Touch of Polynesia dance group perform in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Michael Hohl with the Pecos Bill Band performs at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Maradivah Awell gets lunch at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

A slide is an attraction for children at the second annual Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Ending another year of the Family History Block Party in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.