New site helps newcomers to family history research

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    By Shannon Johnson

    “It all began when President Bateman gave me a call,” said Professor Raymond Wright of the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy.

    Bateman asked Wright to put together a course to help people worldwide begin their ancestral research.

    “Some leaders of the church had asked if BYU could use its resources to put something on the Web to help Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints begin finding their ancestors,” Wright said.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hoped the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy would be able to provide an easy-to-understand presentation where the principles of beginning family history research would be clear enough for the average person to comprehend.

    “Our immediate goal is to demonstrate to people how easy it is to find ancestors. Once they get started, they”ll be able to continue learning about their ancestors,” Wright said.

    BYU”s Department of Independent Study and Division of Continuing Education offers two separate tutorials — one for members of the Church of Jesus Christ and another for non-members — both free of charge.

    “The first script provided step-by-step instructions to help beginners use computer resources to find ancestors,” Wright said.

    “The second script was aimed at teaching Latter-day Saints how to take the names of their ancestors to temples.”

    Available to the public online, the free tutorials may be found at http://ce.byu.edu/is/genealogy, according to the news release.

    The tutorials are also located under Independent Study”s Personal Enrichment Courses at http://ce.byu.edu/is/dept/famhist.htm.

    “These lessons are free and some also have audio clips,” said Kip Sperry, associate professor of church history and doctrine, who participated in the project.

    “Our goal was to ask what sources and what procedures will help a beginning researcher in family history,” Sperry said.

    Because there are so many Web sites for genealogy research, they felt there was need for a Web site where one could learn how to use these resources for genealogy research, Sperry said.

    A team involving BYU”s Division of Continuing Education, the Church of Jesus Christ”s Family and Church History Department and the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, worked on the year-and-a-half-long project.

    “BYU approached the department and asked if we could do a collaborative effort,” said Candy Steinhorst, an instructional developer for the church”s Family and Church History Department.

    This project was the first collaboration effort between the Family and Church History Department and BYU.

    “We wanted to design it for people who were new to genealogy and who have access to the Internet,” Steinhorst said.

    Steve Brimley, instructional designer for BYU”s Independent Study Department, worked closely with Steinhorst in developing the tutorials after David Nielsen, the previous instructional designer working on the project, left BYU.

    “I”m constantly getting e-mails from people right now that are using the site — both professionals and beginners,” Brimley said.

    Kari Park, 24, a junior from the University of Las Vegas, majoring in anthropology, recently became interested in genealogy after looking into the church”s family search on the Internet.

    She learned about BYU”s tutorial through a daily e-mail she receives through the Church.

    “I was thrilled to discover the program as I have boundless enthusiasm for genealogy, but very little knowledge on its actual pursuit,” Park said.

    Park was mainly concerned about how to get the information she had found ready for the temple.

    “The tutorial led me right through it step by step,” Park said.

    The genealogy tutorials have also sparked interest from family history libraries that want to use the tutorials in CD-ROM form versus online, Brimley said.

    However, converting the online tutorials to CD-ROM has not become a project yet.

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