By Saranne Lewis
They need help. They are lost, they are alone and they cannot possibly progress at all in their current state.
They wait, as spirits in a prison, for someone to find them, claim them, and do their church ordinances vicariously for them.
They are ancestors, and they can be found. BYU”s 36th Annual Genealogy and Family History Conference is here to assist in that responsibility.
The conference will run Tuesday through Friday in the BYU Conference Center. The theme is “Where Generations Meet” and it will focus on a variety of research methods.
“Many people attend this conference from throughout North America and leave the conference with a great deal of new information,” said Kip Sperry, associate professor of family history and also a past director. “In my opinion, they leave with a great deal of knowledge.”
Each day will begin with a devotional or forum. Speakers include Thomas Jones, Steven Olsen, Raymond Wright, and Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and also executive director of the Family and Church History Department.
The conference draws approximately 400-600 attendees annually, said Robert Holcombe, program administrator for the conference, but this number is very different from 36 years ago. When the conference began in 1968, it was authorized by the Church, not just by BYU.
“It was much larger, several thousand, and had reference to the priesthood,” he said. “Many years ago, the church decided that it would be a BYU thing.”
Even though the number of attracted participants went down because of the drop in Church affiliation, Holcombe said the event was now a smaller and more intimate conference, and attendance has stayed roughly the same for the last seven or eight years.
“We get primarily Utah, but we do get people who come in from many sections of the United States,” he said. “Sometimes we get some international people, but primarily Utah.”
Clinics will be held throughout the four-day conference. There are classes on searching for ancestors on Google, photo editing, and “genetic genealogy.” From Canadian to Nordic research, genealogical computing and methodology, the workshops are sure to help almost everyone search for their ancestors.
Gerald Haslam, director of the conference, said the event should be helpful to everyone.
“It”s geared for all levels of expertise, from the beginner to the professional,” he said. “Anyone who is interested in genealogy or family history would benefit from it.”
Registration is $175, but for $322, participants can receive two credits for completion of a family history research class.
Schedules and more information are on the BYU homepage or at the BYU Conference Center.