YouTube videos make family history easier to learn

Part-time church service missionary in the BYU Family History Library James Tanner sets up to teach a family history webinar. The BYU Library is creating more online ways for students to learn how to do family history. (Maddi Driggs)

Students can give excuse after excuse for not doing their family history but not being able to learn how won’t be one of them. The Family History Center in the Harold B. Lee Library now offers classes, webinars and instructional YouTube videos to help more students learn how to do family history in their own time.

Director of the Family History Center Terri Dahlin explained they have had classes on Sundays for a while now, but the online options are relatively new. He said the purpose is to give busy students opportunities to learn and do their part.

“If you can’t meet a structured class like they do on Sundays, this extends the reach,” Dahlin said. “It’s using the new technology, so you can do family history in your jammies or at two in the morning and you’re stressed about a test and need a distraction.”

Dahlin explained they have people like James Tanner, a specialist in family history, host live webinars with live chats and instructional Youtube videos of different focuses and lengths.

He said more students are picking up on the new online classes. He also said the YouTube videos are getting the most traffic because of how accessible they are.

“Why do people like texting? Why do they email? Because they do it when they want to do it,” Dahlin said.

Another advocate for the rise in family history technology is Jill Crandell, professor in family history. Crandell recalls a time when she spent 25-30 hours reading the town records because they had yet to be indexed.

“The technology helps us find things faster,” Crandell. “We will have microfilm for many years to come, and we will always need to travel to record that have not been imaged, but the volume of what needs to be done is significantly reduced by new technology.”

Motivation to do family history can be hard for some students. The real motivator is the Spirit, according to Crandell. She said the work itself is exciting as students learn more about their ancestors.

“It’s a connection to history to know that your family and your ancestors participated in the events you read about in history books,” Crandell said.

Mindy Jacox, a senior studying family history, said the technology is what got her into studying genealogy.

“Seeing the technology we have, we are able to do things that weren’t there before, and that’s what got me motivated to do it,” Jacox said.

She advised students to understand that sometimes family history work can be intimidating, but it’s not as hard as it seems.

“Whenever I find people who think it’s hard, I let them know that they will be helped, but they need to put forth effort,” Jacox said.

Her vision for the future is similar to Crandell’s and Dahlin’s. They all said they believe technology is going to continue to make family history easier.

“Because this is the Lord’s work, I know there will be progression and technology will continue to grow,” Jacox said.

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