What’s a Family Tree Gathering?

By Sally Johnson Odekirk

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family gathering

Illustration by Bryan Beach

In the April 2014 general conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us of the importance of family history and temple work. He said: “We finally have the doctrine, the temples, and the technology for families to accomplish this glorious work of salvation. I suggest one way this might be done. Families could hold a ‘Family Tree Gathering.’ This should be a recurring effort” (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign, May 2014, 47).

What is a family tree gathering? It is a time when your family can learn about and preserve your family’s story, including making sure that temple ordinances are done for your ancestors. It can be as simple as a series of family home evenings or be part of a traditional family reunion. The important thing is to have fun making memories together and to build bonds of love for each other, for loved ones long gone, and for future generations.

Over a period of time, here are some things you might try:

  1. Set aside time to look for ancestors whose temple ordinances need to be done. Then make assignments and attend the temple together to do this essential work.

  2. Have a day when family members can bring existing family histories, stories, and photos and share them with each other. Decide together how you want to preserve and present your family’s stories. For example, when my great-grandmother Kittie kept a daily log during the 1930s, she likely had no idea how important it would be to her posterity. In addition to her daily activities, she recorded important family information and stories she heard when she was young. Eighty years later, Kittie’s journal unites her descendants, who treasure it and cooperate in finding ways to preserve and share the stories with children and grandchildren.

  3. On another occasion, share these stories and photos with your children to get them excited to learn about the lives of their family members. Jim Ison of Ohio, USA, added his grandparents’ stories, photos, and documents to his family tree on FamilySearch.org. He created albums on specific topics about his grandparents and then put together an “ancestor challenge” with questions about them that family members could find the answers to on their family tree. He also printed the stories and put them in binders for the younger children to enjoy.

  4. Find time when the youth, who often have the technological expertise and interest, can scan and upload the stories and photos to Family Tree (see sidebar “Mobile Apps Available”). They could use the experience as part of their Duty to God or Personal Progress goals.

  5. Spend time looking at the records available on FamilySearch.org, or take a trip to a local family history center to see what information you can add to what you already know.

  6. If you don’t have a computer, FamilySearch.org has created the booklet My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together (2013) to help get your family started with recording your family stories. For more information, see Carol Brennan Moss, “Family History for the Rising Generation,” on page 20 of this issue.