FamilySearch®—Stepping-Stone to the Temple


Since FamilySearch® arrived, members in the Logan Utah Stake use the computer in the family history center nearly twenty-four hours a day.

Rocky Maughan, bishop of the Logan Forty-fourth Ward, was sure that his family history was complete and that all the temple ordinances had been performed for his ancestors. He knew that his third great-grandfather had helped settle the Cache Valley in Utah and that many of those Latter-day Saint descendants are active in the Church. He also knew that his extended family had worked most of their lives gathering family history. So when he used FamilySearch to gather some of his family history, he wasn’t surprised at the hundreds of names he found. But he was surprised to find hundreds of temple ordinances that needed to be performed! He checked the information for accuracy. Then, to ensure that he would not duplicate the temple ordinances, he cleared the names for temple ordinance work using the appropriate sources. Though the temple ordinances had been done previously for some of these ancestors, most of the names cleared and were sent to Bishop Maughan’s family file in the Logan Temple.

“I had never been through the temple for one of my own ancestors,” he says. “It has had special meaning for me. My nieces and nephews did the baptisms, and we’re going together as a family with my wife’s family to perform the remaining ordinances.”

Catching the Spirit of Elijah

Bishop Maughan’s experience is typical of those of many other members of the Logan Utah Stake as they participate in a local program designed to maximize the use of FamilySearch with the aid of a ward family history consultant and eight ward family history specialists. (See sidebars on pages 15 and 16.) Members are discovering that FamilySearch is a tool that helps them gather the names of some of their ancestors, thus providing them with a basis of information from which to start their research.

As a result, the demand is high for computer time in the Cache family history center, temple ordinances have increased for names in family files at the Logan Temple, and unity among members has deepened within the wards. Learning to use FamilySearch has brought joy, has increased testimonies, and—in many cases—has even given meaning to the lives of those who are involved with it.

“We called Grant and Coline Gudmundson as stake family history consultants in August 1990,” remembers stake president Jack Kidd. “At the time, our stake was struggling in the family history area. When we heard Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk at general conference in November 1990, it gave us the boost and direction we needed.”

The Gudmundsons have been the driving force behind family history work in the Logan Utah Stake. Called about four years ago as ward family history consultants in the Logan Thirty-fifth Ward, the Gudmundsons knew nothing about computers or the resources of FamilySearch. But they were prayerful about their calling and tackled the challenge of learning all they could about family history. Slowly the answers came. As enthusiastic stake family history consultants, the Gudmundsons helped establish a family history center with a computer and FamilySearch.

“Family history work has been a blessing to our stake,” says President Kidd, “but we are just on the threshold of what it can be.”

Making the Computer Invisible

The Gudmundsons knew from their own early experience as ward family history consultants how it felt to be intimidated by a computer. They also knew, after mastering the use of the computer, that there was nothing to be afraid of. So they developed a program designed to help patrons use the computer, aided at each step by a specialist who had become an expert in that particular phase of the program.

“As your family names come up on the computer screen,” says Dean Rich of the Logan Thirty-fifth Ward, “you forget about the computer, and it’s just you and your family names. The computer becomes what it was designed to be—simply a tool to help gather family history and to clear names for temple ordinances.”

Never Too Old

When Melba Litenberger of the Logan Forty-fourth Ward was called to serve as a ward family history specialist, she thought she was too old to learn to use a computer. Seventy-five and widowed, Melba was hoping to go on a mission when this opportunity came to her. Though she was nervous, she accepted the calling.

“I was terrified at the thought of using a computer,” remembers Melba, “and learning didn’t come very fast to me. Everything just seemed to escape from my mind. My bishop gave me a blessing to help me remember what I needed to know. I felt peace and calm after that, and I knew that this was to be part of my mission here on earth.”

Now Melba is a knowledgeable family history specialist who teaches others how to use FamilySearch. Her involvement in the program keeps her busy every day. Useful and productive, Melba knows her work is beneficial to others.

Priesthood Involvement

There is a spiritual foundation beneath the enthusiasm surrounding family history in this stake. Not only has the Spirit taken hold in the hearts of the members, but solid priesthood involvement and support guides this program.

President Kidd assigned high councilor Roger Gardner to administer the family history work in the stake. Brother Gardner and the Gudmundsons immediately became a great team, with the Gudmundsons providing the motivation and with Brother Gardner providing, as he says, “the pace and balance.” They do everything from ordering computer hardware to bearing their testimonies in sacrament meeting presentations designed to introduce the program in each ward.

In the talk she gives in sacrament meetings, Coline Gudmundson asks for interested families to sign up for the program after the meeting. Knowing that there is only enough computer time for about fifty families per ward per year, eager members line up to reserve a time slot.

Following each presentation, Brother Gardner, under the direction of President Kidd, makes arrangements with each bishop to call eight ward family history specialists. The following Sunday, Brother Gardner and the Gudmundsons meet with the specialists and explain the program. Training begins the next week, with each new specialist being guided through the program, which includes gathering their own family names from Ancestral File™ and checking for missing temple ordinances.

“Until you get the program personalized on a ward level,” says President Kidd, “nothing much happens.” Ward Melchizedek Priesthood leaders, following the suggestions in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, use the ward family history temple committee to direct this program. The ward family history consultants and the eight family history specialists function as part of this committee.

Bishop Maughan is grateful for what the program has done for his ward. “I honestly believe that this is one of the most productive things I have seen happen in our ward,” he says. “A team of eight people, who didn’t know a thing when they got involved, now know exactly what they are doing and are training others. Ward members spend long hours helping each other, which results in stronger friendships. Members are also beginning to attend the temple to perform ordinances for their own ancestors. There’s not a testimony meeting that goes by that someone doesn’t get up and share an experience resulting from their participation in this work and what it has done for them spiritually.”

Clara’s Little Black Book

If you measure a person’s popularity by the number of phone calls they receive and by the number of people who come up to talk to them at church, Clara Robison is one of the most popular women in the Logan Utah Stake. As stake family history center director, she keeps the family history center stocked with essentials such as pencils and notebooks, makes sure that there is always a supply of formatted floppy disks on the shelf above the computer, and even keeps the carpet swept. But the source of her popularity doesn’t lie only in these contributions; it also lies in her little black book.

“I carry this with me everywhere I go,” says Clara of the book she uses to schedule computer time. “People come to me all the time and say, ‘When can I have my turn?’ I schedule the computer in two-hour segments. Some need it longer, so they schedule two or three segments. Some schedule time at 3:00 A.M. because they work a swing shift. Some even stay all night.”

Never Too Young

“Family history is no longer an old person’s program,” says Ray Dawson, high priests group leader in the Logan Thirty-fifth Ward. “We want to involve the young. Now even busy families can spend an hour a week and accomplish a tremendous amount of work. Many people still think that doing family history is the old-fashioned drudgery of searching dusty books and papers. But things are different now with FamilySearch.”

Virginia Napper, mother of four, has a gift for working with computers, people, and family records. She might never have discovered her talents if she had not accepted a call in May 1991 to serve as a family history specialist in the Logan Forty-fourth Ward. As part of Virginia’s training, she searched Ancestral File of FamilySearch for her ancestors.

“I collected about six thousand names connected to my ancestral lines,” she says. “The more time I spent searching, the more I wanted to do. When I printed my family records, I ended up with two four-inch binders full of information. The computer helped me to gather in hours the work that had taken my family years to research. Now I have a basis of information to do more research and temple work. It just feels as if my ancestors are grabbing me and saying, ‘Look up my history.’”

Not everyone who searches Ancestral File will find six thousand names. But the number of names found is not as important as gathering a record of previous research that has been done for our families. It gives us a place to start. FamilySearch has the power to search through millions of names in Ancestral File in a short time and provide just such a list. Therein lies its power.

“Family history isn’t just computers and numbers,” says Brother Gardner. “It’s a feeling of love, faith, and testimony that you have when you do the work. When the Spirit and FamilySearch come together, you have it all. After all, family history is really about love for family and temple ordinances.”

Filling Family Files

When Dawna Carlisle accepted the challenge to serve as a specialist in the Logan First Ward, she was surprised that her bishop asked her to help check for missing temple ordinances using Personal Ancestral File, because she had never submitted any names to the temple before. So Dawna learned by doing.

“As I typed the last of twenty-seven names into the computer for temple submission,” she says, “I wept tears of joy. I looked over at Sister Gudmundson. Tears were rolling down her cheeks also because she knew how important these names were to me. We sat quietly and watched the names come up on the computer screen. All but two of the names qualified for temple submission.”

“Joined at the Crossroads”

FamilySearch has been the means of stimulating spiritual growth on many levels in the Logan Utah Stake. Ward and stake priesthood leaders are able to magnify their callings as members actively pursue their family history and attend the temple. Ward family history specialists develop personal skills, gain confidence as they teach others those same skills, and enjoy friendships with those whom they teach. Members gain a testimony of family history and temple work as they learn to use FamilySearch and then go to the temple to perform ordinances for their ancestors.

“As we proceed [with our family history research],” said Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve at a 1977 regional representatives’ seminar, “we are joined at the crossroads by those who have been prepared to help us.

“They come with skills and abilities precisely suited to our needs. And, we find provisions: information, inventions, help of various kinds, set along the way waiting for us to take them up.

“It is as though someone knew we would be traveling that way. We see the invisible hand of the Almighty providing for us.” (See Ensign, May 1991, p. 26.)

Brother Rich considers his notebook of family history to be a workbook. He makes additions and corrections to it from his research, and he searches for the names of ancestors with missing ordinances. He and his wife, Lynda, enjoy attending the temple and performing the ordinances for their ancestors.

“From my own experience I know that Elder Packer’s words are true,” says Brother Rich. “My sister, my wife, and I have all felt the spirit of this work calling us, begging us to continue—to find our dear family members who paved the way for us. Who crossed the Atlantic in creaking ships. Who fought in the Revolutionary War for our independence. Who cut out a home on the frontier. Who heard the call of the Prophet Joseph Smith, joined the Church, and crossed the plains. Who have done so much that we could be here. Let us do their temple work. Let us find them in the records. There will be help from beyond the veil. We will know where to go.”

FamilySearch at a Glance

FamilySearch is powerful computer software that helps members identify their ancestors and provide temple ordinances for them. It is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and in more than one thousand LDS family history centers in the United States and Canada.

The FamilySearch system includes two classifications of information: computer programs and computer files.

FamilySearch computer programs help users search for information about their ancestors and prepare their names for temple ordinances. This classification includes two programs:

  1. 1.

    The research program, which searches for a match to an entered name. If found, a match can provide dates and places of birth, marriage, and death; and names of parents, children, and spouses.

  2. 2.

    TempleReady™, which helps members determine whether temple ordinances have been performed for their ancestors and helps clear them for temple work.

FamilySearch computer files are collections of information drawn from family history records gathered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This classification includes five files:

  1. 1.

    Ancestral File™, which contains the names of almost 13 million persons linked in family groups and also includes pedigree charts contributed by members of the Church and others since 1979. It is updated regularly.

  2. 2.

    Family History Library Catalog™, which allows searches for localities (places), surnames, and microfilm call numbers.

  3. 3.

    International Genealogical Index™ (IGI), which contains 147 million names and information about deceased persons for whom temple ordinances have been performed.

  4. 4.

    Social Security Death Index, which contains vital information for about 39 million deceased persons who had Social Security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Security Administration.

  5. 5.

    Military Index, which lists nearly 100,000 U.S. servicemen and women who died in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

The information in each FamilySearch file is distributed on compact discs capable of storing the equivalent of 320,000 pages of text on each one. They are read by computers equipped with a special compact disc player. Other files will be added to FamilySearch as they become available.

NOTE: FamilySearch is not the same program as Personal Ancestral File® (PAF). Personal Ancestral File is designed for home use as a means of helping patrons organize their family records into documented family group sheets and pedigrees.

One-on-One Training with FamilySearch

“We encourage local initiative in family history, under the direction of priesthood leaders,” says Elder J. Richard Clarke, executive director of the Family History Department. “These local efforts, which may not be appropriate for Churchwide implementation, can be tailored to the needs and circumstances of members in a particular area.”

Eight family history specialists are called in each ward in the Logan Utah Stake to help the ward family history consultant guide interested members through the following program. Specialists become experts in one or more of the steps of this program and agree to help patrons one-on-one.

  1. 1.

    Orientation: A specialist meets with you in your home. Together you review your family records and compile a four-generation pedigree chart.

  2. 2.

    Extract Ancestral File records using FamilySearch: With your pedigree chart and the help of a specialist, you learn how to search Ancestral File of FamilySearch for your ancestors. This often takes a considerable amount of time and may require several visits to the family history center. All of the information is copied onto a computer disk.

  3. 3.

    Translate Ancestral File records into Personal Ancestral File program for linking: A specialist helps you link the names from Ancestral Files to your own pedigree chart on Personal Ancestral File.

  4. 4.

    Print family history using Personal Ancestral File program: A specialist in printing takes your disk and prints out the information. You receive a complete pedigree chart, a family group sheet for each couple on the pedigree chart, and an alphabetical index.

  5. 5.

    Organize printed family history: A specialist helps you organize your printed family history in a three-ring binder.

  6. 6.

    Submit temple ordinances using Personal Ancestral File: Using your computer disks, a specialist teaches you how to determine which of your ancestors has not had all temple ordinances performed.

  7. 7.

    Clear family names using TempleReady in FamilySearch: A ward family history specialist teaches you how to enter your family names into TempleReady. TempleReady checks your family names to make sure the temple ordinances have not been done previously. The names for which no temple ordinances have been performed are copied onto a disk. You can take this disk to the temple and perform the ordinance work for your ancestors. (You should send or take the disk to the temple a few days before you plan to attend the temple.)

  8. 8.

    Enter data using Personal Ancestral File: You are now ready to make corrections or to enter new information from your own family records onto your disk of family history records. A specialist teaches you how to do this. The result is the most complete and most correct version of your family history. This is an ongoing process.

  9. 9.

    Contribute your updated family history to Ancestral File: A specialist teaches you how to transfer your new or corrected information onto a blank disk and send it to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, where it will be added to the next Ancestral File update.

  10. 10.

    Begin original research: A specialist helps you use FamilySearch to begin your original family history research.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark

[photo] Roger Gardner (right), high council adviser for family history in the Logan Utah Stake, helps his neighbor Fred Rigby review his family records in preparation for Fred’s first trip to the family history center to use FamilySearch®.

[photo] Grant and Coline Gudmundson, stake family history consultants, use FamilySearch to search the Ancestral File with Virginia Napper (at the keyboard), who serves as a ward family history consultant in the Logan Forty-fourth Ward.

[photo] Dean Rich, a family history center patron from the Logan Thirty-fifth Ward, holds a pedigree chart and a family group sheet with information from the Ancestral File.

[photo] Ray and Bonnie Dawson of the Logan Thirty-fifth Ward have enjoyed several spiritual experiences as a result of their family history research.

[photo] Rocky Maughan and his wife, Dixie, of the Logan Forty-fourth Ward, use the TempleReady program in FamilySearch to clear their family names for temple ordinances. FamilySearch, with its variety of powerful computer tools, helps to lead us to the temple in behalf of our ancestors.