Youth Acquire Family History Skills at BYU Camp

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 5 August 2015

Youth and instructors at the 2015 family history research youth camp at Brigham Young University work together on a family case study project.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

Article Highlights

  • The goal of the camp was simple: train each young man and young woman with the knowledge they need to become a ward family history consultant and teach others.
  • Much of the week was spent in computer labs learning the ins and outs of FamilySearch.
  • Participants enjoyed pizza parties, a youth dance, excursions to Church headquarters to tour the Family History Library and Temple Square, and free time on campus for a game of bowling or ping pong.

“I’m mostly here because I want to go back to my home ward and neighborhood and teach my family and friends.” —Max Lehman of Grantsville, Utah

PROVO, UTAH

It’s summer and the possibilities are almost endless for Logan Sprague.

Logan is a 16-year-old priest from Monmouth, Oregon, and he has a few weeks before school starts. He could spend the last days of his vacation hanging out with his friends, playing video games, working part-time, or even catching up on some sleep.

Instead, during July 28–31, he was at Brigham Young University sharpening his family history research skills. Logan was part of the maiden class of youth—ages 14–18—participating in the My Family History conference sponsored by the Church-owned school.

Logan said developing research skills was his duty as an Aaronic Priesthood holder and a regular attendee at the Portland Oregon Temple.

“Whenever I go to the temple I try to take my own names—and now it’s getting hard to find those names,” he said. “This conference is going to help me find names.”

Logan’s sense of duty to the sacred work of family history research was evident in many of the dozens of participants at the conference.

Conference administrator John Best said the goal of BYU’s youth family history camp was simple: train each young man and young woman with the knowledge they need to become a ward family history consultant and teach others—including their fellow youth—what they have learned.

In recent years, he added, Church leaders have challenged young Latter-day Saints to utilize their tech-savvy skills and testimonies to find and prepare names for temple work.

“I’m mostly here because I want to go back to my home ward and neighborhood and teach my family and friends,” said Max Lehman of Grantsville, Utah.

Max and his fellow youth conference-goers will have to catch their breath when they return home. It’s a busy week. Campers learn the hands-on fundamentals of family history research even as they deepen their spiritual understanding of the sacredness of this work.

Sixteen-year-old Anne Clark of Provo, Utah, said she hopes to make family history research a regular part of her life. She said the conference is helping her feel “the spirit of Elijah.”

“There are a lot of converts in my family, so I have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Much of the week was spent in computer labs learning the ins and outs of FamilySearch, family tree analysis, census studies, and working with primary source records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates.

Brennan Gillies of Orem, Utah, understands the eternal implications of family history research—but he’s quick to add it’s also a lot of fun. Genealogy allows Brennan to play sleuth.

“My favorite moments are when I find a record with only one name—then I have to do the research to find out the other names and dates,” said Brennan. “I know this conference will help me learn how to research.”

The young campers also learn how to work together using family case studies and other group projects. Family history research, they learn, is best when researched with others.

Conference organizers scheduled plenty of time for fun. Participants enjoyed pizza parties, a youth dance, excursions to Church headquarters to tour the Family History Library and Temple Square, and free time on campus for a game of bowling or ping pong.

“We want them to have a BYU experience and have an opportunity to work alongside fellow Latter-day Saint youth,” said Brother Best.

Many young people arrived with strong desires to build relationships with grandmothers, grandfathers, and other relatives unknown in mortality.

“I’m here to get to know my family better,” said Alonso Olivera, a 14-year-old from Houston, Texas, who was born in Peru.

Participants at the 2015 youth conference for family history research at Brigham Young University map out data discovered on census reports and other primary sources. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Classroom instruction was a key element of the first youth family history research conference July 28–31 at Brigham Young University. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Participants in the 2015 youth family history conference at Brigham Young University enjoy a lighthearted polling exercise during a lab session. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Camp counselor Tyler Brinkerhoff, center, reviews family pedigree charts with youth participants Max Lehman, left, and Alonso Olivera. Photo by Jason Swensen.