BYU ward succeeds with simple approach to genealogy

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    By Kathryn Richards

    The notion that genealogy is only a pastime for old, retired folks is being dispelled by the BYU 147th Ward.

    During the past year, this married student ward has caught the vision of family history work.

    When Keith Erekson, a gradate student from Bel Air, Md., was called as the family history consultant for his ward last February, he recognized several challenges in teaching ward members.

    First of all, family history was an overwhelming thought for most ward members, he said.

    “People had preconceived notions that family history was hard or for their grandparents,” Erekson said.

    Also, a manual for teaching family history didn”t exist. Resources, such as “A Member”s Guide to Temple and Family History Work,” were helpful for a researcher, but not for a teacher.

    Erekson took action to overcome these challenges.

    He enrolled in Introduction to LDS family history to learn the basics. Then he and his wife taught ward members those basics.

    Erekson also used information from “A Member”s Guide to Temple and Family History Work” and feedback from other ward members to compile a manual of family history lessons.

    “We wanted some way to present all those resources in a way that was organized, so that people learning about family history for the first time could assimilate it and not be scared,” Erekson said.

    The manual comprises five lessons outlining the basic steps of family history work.

    The lessons are similar to the missionary discussions, said Mike Glassford, 22, a junior from Mission Viejo, Calif., majoring in English.

    “It breaks it down and makes it simpler,” he said. “It”s pioneering in a way.”

    By the end of the year, 80 percent of the ward members had been taught the basics of family history, and at a recent temple trip ward members submitted more than 1,000 names.

    Ward members have also expressed enthusiasm for family history, Erekson said.

    “There”s a good feeling about that, knowing where you came from — it”s empowering,” Glassford said.

    Erekson said his entire stake has adopted this approach. Other stakes in Provo and Salt Lake City have implemented the teaching manual also.

    “The people (from other wards) who contact me have the same problems we had,” Erekson said. “I share these things and they say, ”Wow, that”s exactly what we need.””

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