The Reasons Why

LDS Church News

Saturday, June 2, 2001

It is estimated that 60 percent of the people in the United States want to research their family roots. With the recent computerizing of the Ellis Islands records, that national interest in family history became even more evident. Consider, for example, that the National Park Service's famous immigration site averaged 27,000 hits per second during peak periods!

One might well ponder a question: How many of the Latter-day Saints want to research their family roots?

To accommodate the tremendous national interest, the Church's Family and Church History Department and an army of volunteers — the same organization that spent 5.6 million hours automating Ellis Island records and 11.5 million hours automating the U.S. 1880 Census as national service projects — have now compiled and made available a significant number of resources for Church members and the public. Great increases in information about family history have eroded away many of the commonly expressed reasons among Church members for not doing family history research. Consider the following:

  1. I don't know how.

  2. The Church's FamilySearch site has a tutorial, called Research Guidance, that guides a novice researcher from one step to the next. Introductory family history courses are also frequently taught at the ward and regional levels. Every ward should have a ward family history consultant who will help members get started. BYU has an online basic course that is free, and easy to understand and use. (See Church News, April 21, p. 12; "Tutorial aids with computer, Internet family history research.")
  3. I don't have a computer.

  4. Most family history centers provide free computer time and instructions. The Church has more than 3,500 of these centers around the world. Public libraries also provide free computer use. It is not unrealistic, either, to suppose that most people live near family members or close friends with serviceable computers that they would willingly share. And of course, family history doesn't have to be done on a computer; manual forms are still acceptable.
  5. I don't have time.

  6. Many more resources, including the Internet and CDs, are available to the home, where members can use their spare time effectively in doing family history research.
  7. Someone else in our family is doing it for me.

  8. Do you have an up-to-date copy of what has been done for your first few generations? Has all this information been submitted to the new version of TempleReady to check if all ordinances have been done? Have all lines been checked to see if now there is more information available? Are you keeping your own family's records up to date, such as recording marriages of children or births of grandchildren?
  9. Family History is boring.

  10. Family history is more than dry statistics about names, dates and places. It is about real people, their lives and struggles, and triumphs. Consider this letter from Ann Pitchforth about an 1845 storm onboard the sailing ship Palmyra "All unsecured boxes, tins, bottles, pans . . . danced in wild confusion, cracking, clashing, jumbling, rolling, while the vessel pitched and tossed and bounced till people flew out of their berths on the floor, while others held on with difficultly; thus we continued for eight days — no fires made — nothing cooked — biscuits and cold water; the waves dashed down the hold into the interior of the vessel, hatchway then closed, all in utter darkness and terror, not knowing whether the vessel was sinking or not; none could tell — all prayed — an awful silence prevailed. . . we found we were not yet drowned. . . ." (Millennial Star, July 15, 1846.)
Finding one's ancestors, searching even during a few spare moments, is a fascinating pursuit. Submitting their names to the temple and doing work for them is a fulfilling and spiritual experience, a rich source of inner peace. Doing family history research today is easier than it has ever been. Easier, in fact, than to come up with a good reason not to.