Tips for Adults Trying to Engage Youth in Family History

Contributed By Paul Nauta, Church News contributor

  • 16 September 2014

Genealogist Hannah Allan encourages youth leaders to plan fun, engaging family history events that let the youth explore and learn on their own.

Article Highlights

  • The best thing adults can do when working with youth is to give them goals and objectives and then get out of the way.
  • Do not pressure or require, make it fun, use diverse talents, and trust the youth.

“Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth. … But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves.” —Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve


“Be facilitators, not dictators.” That's the key for adults working to involve youth in family history. In other words, give the youth the desired temple or family history goals and objectives and then get out of their way, says Hannah Allan, a genealogist for the Oregon Historical Society.

Allan said she has been deeply inspired by recent counsel provided by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves. Young people increasingly need to be learners who act and thereby receive additional light and knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost—and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” October 2011 general conference).

“Invite the young people to act. You have to be there, but you have to get out of the way. You have to provide direction without taking over” (David A. Bednar, “Let Them Act,”

Allan suggested the following tips:

1.       Involve the youth in planning—but let them lead.

2.       Do not underestimate the youth. Trust them.

3.       Let the youth own their work and planning.

4.       When setting up youth family history consultants, call youth who are 
enthusiastic and willing.

5.       Do not pressure or require—invite.

6.       Make it personal and fun. (Include food, games, technology, ward members, 
personal family names, stories, photos, etc.)

7.       Youth need activity and example. Do not just lecture.

8.       The best way to learn is to teach and serve.

9.       Use the diverse talents and interests of the youth, and apply them to family history (art, music, language, 
photography, videography, history, writing, scrapbooking, sports, etc.).

Hannah Allan suggests that parents and leaders create memory books, scrapbooks, photo albums, and family recipe books to help get youth excited about family history.

For leaders working with youth to prepare youth family history events, Allan suggests:

1.       Keep it personable.

2.       Provide opportunities to feel the spirit of Elijah—those divine witnesses that their family relationships are divine in nature.

3.       Make sure the technology resources (such as FamilySearch login credentials, Internet, and computers), where applicable, are sufficient and working.

4.       Use a member’s home on a regular basis or set up a regular family history class 
during the three-hour Sunday block. Consider modifying the content regularly to keep it interesting, current, or random.

5.       Provide opportunities for them to share and showcase their work with peers, family 
members, and ward and stake members.

6.       Provide events that allow the youth to bond with each other as well.

7.       Keep things moving! Provide breaks and different things to enjoy.

Allan said youth peers are very influential at dispelling any undesirable perceptions of family history and temple efforts. And youth making family history connections to their personal lives is powerful. She told the story of one 14-year-old young man who walked away from a youth family history event feeling an obligation to document his personal life for his posterity.

Allan and audience members suggested the following ideas and activities for engaging youth in family history:

1.       Socialize indexing events.

2.       Share a family recipe and publish it in the FamilySearch Memories feature, complete with the recipe, photos of the plate and ancestor, and related stories.

3.       Create memory books, scrapbooks, photo albums, and family recipe books.

4.       Put together a “Who Do You Think You Are?” type slide show or movie trailer, based on the youths’ personal family history.

5.       Spotlight an interesting or inspirational ancestor. Publish the story on his or her profile.

6.       Conduct and publish an oral history with a family member or older ward member. (Try using the new FamilySearch Memories mobile app to help.)

7.       Have a culture night (dinner, shows, displays, etc. showcasing ethnic family 
backgrounds and traditions).

8.       Do a family history showcase night.

9.       Photograph and index tombstones with mobile phones for 
BillionGraves or FindaGrave.

10.   Choose an interesting tombstone in your community and research the person. Add what you find to the profile.

11.   Scan personal family photographs or ward members’ photos, and put 
them on

12.   Visit museums and libraries for heart-turning experiences.

13.   Use Personal Progress, Duty to God, merit badges, and the new My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet.

14.   Conduct a family history fair.

Allan recently shared her insights and experiences on how to orchestrate successful youth-oriented family history events with an audience of youth and adult leaders at the 2014 BYU Family History Conference.