43rd Annual Family History and Genealogy Conference Comes to BYU


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A vendor explains his family history product to an attendee of the Conference on Family History and Geneology on Tuesday at the Conference Center on BYU's campus.
The 43rd annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy may not be making history, but participants are preparing to find it.

Approximately 600-700 participants are taking part in more than 100 classes in hope of learning new skills to help with their genealogy. The convention began Tuesday at BYU’s conference center and will run through Friday.

“We hope to help people to learn how to do family history work better,” said John Best, assistant program administrator. “Our goal at the end of the conference is that people are able to go home and find their ancestors. A lot of people struggle in family history work because of all the different complexities and throughout the conference we are able to break it down into steps and make it easier.”

Since the first conference, the goal has remained the same, but the skills and tools used to achieve it have been constantly shifting.

“The focus is changing more to computer classes than what we used to have,” Best said. “Now it’s how to use the Internet and the many different programs. If you don’t know about programs it helps to come to a conference where people will explain how to work with them.”

The conference highlights three keynote speakers who also teach other classes throughout the week.

Joshua Taylor, director of education at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Tuesday’s keynote speaker, recalls attending the conference at a young age.

“I attended my first conference when I was about 12 years old with my grandparents,” he said. “It is kind of fun to be returning now all these years later.

I remember sitting in the classes and thinking ‘I want to be that person. I want to be able to share that kind of knowledge with others,’ and it grew from there. It’s such an intensive learning experience. I remember walking away with loads and loads of information that really helped me learn how to be a better genealogist.”

The conference offers seven to eight tracks focused toward beginners, intermediary and expert genealogists.

“There are all these sessions that are geared toward folks who are just starting out with genealogy and you can get some great advice, some great quick start ideas, but there are also a lot of sessions focused on intermediary genealogists,” Taylor said. “It’s really great for intermediate and advanced users because you can really practice what you learned in the classroom the next day or the next week.”

Jill Crandell, a professor at BYU and the director for the Center of Family History and Genealogy, will hold a variety of classes at the conference, one specifically focusing on different records that can help individuals learn more about their ancestors and locate journals along with basic data.

“When people are moving, that is a difficult time to track individuals and find records about them,” she said. “However, because we are a record-keeping people, there are actually an awful lot of records about the LDS migration into Utah.”

Of all the conferences BYU offers, Best points out what makes this one unlike the rest.

“We organize many conferences here at BYU, but the thing that is different and unique about this conference is that these people don’t come to improve themselves or to find out how they can make more money or get better health,” Best said. “They come just to help other people, to learn how to find their ancestors and the end result is to do temple work. It is selfless work that they’re doing and we appreciate those who sacrifice, who come and learn how to do family history work for other people.”



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