Family history and genealogy conference held at BYU

The Family History and Genealogy Conference will be held July 28–31 at the BYU Conference Center in Provo. The conference will discuss new features in FamilySearch. (BYU)

The Family History and Genealogy Conference will be held July 28–31 at the BYU Conference Center. This year marks 47 years since the conference first began.

The four-day conference will include 160 classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced genealogists. The capacity will allow 750 participants to attend, which is expected this year.

“There are a lot of classes to choose from,” said John Best, program administrator for BYU’s conferences and workshops. “We divide them into tracks so people can choose. Usually a big part of our conference is beginners.”

Best has worked with this conference for 12 years.

“I have a passion for it; I really love this conference,” Best said. “People aren’t coming to get something for themselves like learning how to make money. They’re coming to help someone else. It’s really a good cause I enjoy working with.”

The keynote speakers each morning and the “What’s New in FamilySearch” class are the most popular each summer, Best said.

“Online changes every year,” Best said. “If you learned it last year, then it’s new this year.”

This year’s keynote speakers are Elder Gerald N. Lund (author of “The Work and the Glory” and the “Fire and Steel” series), Robert L. Kehrer (senior product manager of search technologies for FamilySearch), Lisa Louise Cooke (producer and host of the Genealogy Gems podcast) and filmmaker T.C. Christensen (director of “The Cokeville Miracle”).

A genealogical fan chart can display a vast amount of ancestry. Fan charts like these are often used for genealogical research. (BYU)

J. Lee Simons has been attending the conference for more than 15 years and has been working on family history for just over 37 years.

“I always try to pick things that are specific to the areas that I’m working on,” Simons said. “So if there’s a big focus on New England, it’s not really helpful for me. But if there’s a focus on the south, then I’m all over it because that’s where everybody is at that I’m working on.”

Occasionally two classes Simons wants to attend will overlap in the schedule. However, all participants receive a 600-page syllabus detailing all the classes, Best said.

“I have all the syllabi that I’ve gotten over the years both in hard copy and then on DVD,” Simons said. “Because sometimes I just want to pick one up and flip through it in my hands, but then if it’s on the DVD then I can search for things faster. When they put books or links in the syllabus, it’s really helpful.”

This is the first year that a youth family history camp has been offered. The capacity for the camp, due to housing, is 62 participants, which has been reached this year.

“With this, the youth get hands-on experience, and when they go home they can help others, do their own work or are capable of being family history consultants,” Best said. “The church has put a lot of emphasis on youth doing family history work. Apostles have said youth can avoid temptations of the adversary by doing family history work, and we wanted to help in that.”

General admission for the conference is $180 with discounts available. This cost includes vendor information as well as class materials and handouts for all classes.

“I love feeling the spirit of Elijah during the conference,” Best said. “Everyone’s selfless work is admired.”

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