5 steps toward learning to love family history


Photos from the genealogy records of the Bartholomew family of Springville. (Courtesy of Samantha Strong Murphey)

Let’s play the word-association game. When we say “Family History” what’s the first word that comes to mind?

Boredom? Guilt? Nothing but crickets?

You’re not alone. Family history is important— this we know. But sometimes it’s hard to feel that importance deeply and personally in a way that motivates us to actually do it. Here are five steps to making family history doable, fulfilling and — dare we say it? — fun.

1. Learn what you can

For many of us, it’s easy to say, “My family history work has already been done. There’s nothing for me to do.” For starters, have you learned about what’s already been done? Gather the records compiled by your relatives and educate yourself about your ancestors. The more you learn, the easier it will be to come up with ways you can contribute and the greater your desire to do so will be.

2. Redefine the task

Next, throw out the notion that doing family history work only means searching for names and dates to fill out your pedigree chart. When you expand your definition, you open yourself up to infinite possibilities of creative ideas that will resonate with you.

3. Brainstorm

Once you’ve cleared away limiting parameters and burdensome expectations, get to brainstorming! Interview living relatives about deceased ones. Make a slideshow of photos and stories about family heirlooms. Go through your parents’ and grandparents’ yearbooks. Make a “Then and Now” record of special family locations, comparing 50-year-old photographs to current ones. Make a heritage cookbook using favorite family recipes, especially those passed down from generation to generation. Take a field trip to a historical sight with family significance. Pick a topic like gratitude or parenting and search family records for relevant stories. Then compile your generational wisdom into a book. Check out Extreme Genes family history radio and The In-Depth Genealogist blog for more engaging ideas.

4. Get to work

Pick a project that feels compelling and get to work on it! Involve your family as much as possible. Family history projects can provide immediate-family bonding and opportunities to reconnect with your extended family. When you’re finished, share what you’ve done. Let your efforts teach and inspire others.

5. Test out your new attitude

Now that you’re attitude toward family history is evolving, give some of the more traditional efforts a try. Find a genealogy specialist in your ward or stake directory and schedule an appointment. Use his or her expertise to familiarize yourself with resources. Check out Family Search and set aside some time for their indexing effort. Before it seemed tedious, but now you might be surprised at the passion you feel for the work.


Samantha Strong Murphey is a lover of greenery, glitter and goat cheese, an advocate of media literacy, human rights and karaoke for all. She earned bachelor's degree in communications from Brigham Young University and is a former writer and editor at Utah Valley Magazine. Now, she works as a full-time freelance writer and blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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