Family History and Genealogy Conference invites all ages for genealogy training

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The Family History and Genealogy Conference at BYU aims to involve young people in family research by offering classes specifically for youth for the first time in its 45-year history.

Organizers of the conference said that including a track of classes for youth is the conference’s response to council from Church leaders for young people to be involved in family history work. The conference will still include content for more experienced genealogists, but this will be the first year that the conference will include classes designed specifically for youth.

George Ryskamp, associate professor of history at BYU and member of the conference’s program committee explained that the organizers’ goal was to get youth involved in more than just the technology aspects of genealogy.

“Our feeling was that the youth would gain from being exposed to other concepts beyond just the computer concepts,” Ryskamp said. “We’ve invited them and given them a track that reflects a number of different aspects of family history research.”

The youth-focused track will consist of five classes and include topics such as helping grandparents preserve stories, photographing graves to post online and the basics of genetic genealogy. Youth are invited to attend these classes for free on Tuesday, July 30.

In addition to the youth track, Ryskamp explained that the rest of the conference has some new material to offer attendees as well.

“I think the most exciting thing is the fact that we’re going to see more emphasis on training people in using photos, using stories that reflects the recent change on familysearch.org.”

Among the classes being offered this year are technology-centered topics such as uploading photos to FamilySearch, turning tablets into genealogy tools, Microsoft Excel for genealogists, copying records with a digital camera and a whole track of classes on different Google tools that can help with family history.

The conference runs from July 30 through Aug. 2 and will feature 86 teachers presenting 160 classes under this year’s theme, “Strengthening Ties that Bind Families Together.”

A committee composed of BYU faculty along with representatives from the Church’s family history department selected the presenters and classes from a pool of papers that presenters submitted. According to John Best, assistant program administrator with BYU Conferences and Workshops, the committee had to turn away about 100 ideas.

Best also explained that the conference registration hit full capacity drawing about 700 attendees, with only about 50 percent coming from Utah.

“Half come from all over the United States,” Best said. “We have some that come from Italy, Australia, England, Canada and all around. It’s an international group too.”

Although the conference will offer classes on a number of practical skills, the conference is really about the spiritual importance of finding information on family members, said Jill Crandell, director of the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy which helps sponsor the conference.

“We need to be able to prepare these names for temple work — to provide ordinances for those who have gone before us,” Crandell said. “And (the presenters) know how to locate that kind of information and teach us how to do that so that we can move that work forward.”

Best, who has been organizing this conference for more than a year, says he hopes people walk away knowing how to do family history work better.

“The Church puts a lot of emphasis on family history work,” Best said. “We’re just glad to assist them in helping people find better ways to find their ancestors.”

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