"We are family history"

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A letter reported an Austrian’s home was unexpectedly swallowed into Germany’s boarder. The man living there went to get married and was barred because he was not a German citizen.

In another case, a man’s name in the newspaper said he was moving, but mentioned nothing of his wife. Meanwhile, his wife’s name appeared in another newspaper, where it reported she was marrying another man.

These are only a few samples of hundreds of stories that were shared at BYU’s 44th Annual Family History Conference.

[media-credit name=”Michal Savage” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Stands, including the family word cloud stand, were set up at BYU's 44th Family History Conference.
Teachers taught various subjects from Scandinavian research to computers and technology. A few of the presenters from the family history conference will be teaching courses at education week. One of the presenters that is doing both is Barry Ewell and he talked about how to break the belief of family history only being for older adults.

“Sharing family history one generation to the next really isn’t about the one thing that you do, it’s about the way that we share our lives and the way we share our histories,” Ewell said.

Speakers talked about ways to involve youth, adults and grandparents.

“When you think of the Bible, it is a record,” said Ewell. “Our duty as genealogists is no different than Nephi or Peter in keeping the record. It has as much value and as much importance to your family as those records do to us in a religious sense. Because it is the record of who we are. It is in those records that we teach the same lessons that are taught in those records.”

The conference drew in many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although not exclusively. Although many of the attendees were older, there were youth there as well.

Jeff Moffat, from Lakeside, Arizona, is a BYU student who works for the Center for Family History and Genealogy and he thinks the mental age boundaries surrounding family history should be broken.

“I think there is kind of an interesting stigma with LDS population,” Moffat said. “You think its just a lot of old people, but like Elder Bednar said, our thumbs are made to text and tweet and we can use that for genealogy. Because of all the research, we know how to find things and check different records and check for good sources. That is what we need in family history. ”

Nicole Coleman, a senior family history major, also works in the Center for Family History and Genealogy and said that family history is the number two website and passtime in the world and that people of all ages are getting involved.

“I went to a conference in Cincinnati in May,” said Coleman. “There were a lot more people in their late twenty and early thrities. They were just as excited as we were.”

Both Coleman and Moffat said that for college students doing family history, it is easier because you already know how to research, and at the same time, gaining more research skill strengthens students’ academic ability.

“It’s been really rewarding,” Moffat said. After reading extracting information from pages and pages of German records, Moffat said he has realizes, “This is a real person, and this is their experience and they have children and tons of descendants that are all over the world now.”

For Moffat, being surrounded by family history work in his job has given him insight into the family history industry.

“There are all sorts of technological advances that are going on,” Moffat said. “It is a very big and booming industry. There are plenty of jobs in it. That is something that I didn’t think about.”

Coleman also said there were many opportunities to do family history that people don’t normally expect.

“For my internship, I am going to Spain and go work in the archives and get to handle the old books,” Coleman said, “and help make it more accessible to people here in the United States.”

For family history teachers like Ewell, it is important to get youth and college age students into family history and to do it through a deep connection rather than just claiming names and dates.

“The whole process behind this concept,” Ewell said, “is it isn’t about what I didn’t do or what I did do—but it’s what I can do today. It’s not just one thing. It’s the attitude of how we share our lives and how we share about ourselves.”

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