How to start family history lds?

“Our [Heavenly] Father’s plan is about families, symbolized by a great tree. In order for a tree to live and grow, it needs both roots and branches. We likewise need to be connected both to our roots—our parents, grandparents, and other ancestors—and to our branches—our children, grandchildren, and other descendants” 

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at the RootsTech Family Discovery Day, 14th February 2015.


Importance of family history to LDS members

Why is family history so important for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Almost all faiths across the world hold a value on genealogy, but for LDS members family history is more than just a casual hobby.

LDS members learn that their founding prophet Joseph Smith was visited by an angel called Moroni. Moroni told Joseph,

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. “. . . And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (Joseph Smith—History 1:38–39).

Joseph Smith went on to declare that our  “greatest responsibility in this world … is to seek after our dead.”


Latter Day Saints have interpreted this as members (children) must seek truth from their ancestors (fathers) to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Participating in family history is one way they can “turn their hearts” to their ancestors.

With a core belief that family members are reunited again in the afterlife, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put a strong focus on family history and in particular practising sacred ordinances in their holy Temples to ensure families are together beyond the grave.

Alongside this, LDS members believe that from knowing who and where you came from you can discover your true identity and enable you to tie deeper bonds with family members both alive and deceased.


How big is the LDS church genealogy records?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been collecting and sharing genealogical resources since 1894! Making it the largest collection of family history records in the world. Demonstrating the importance of family history to its core principle, the Church set up the popular free genealogy website FamilySearch as a non-profit organisation. Family Search has information on over 3 billion deceased people.

How to start family history

1. Recording your personal momentous events

Forward-thinking family history (or Descending genealogy) is when you focus on your life today and document it as a valuable asset to be inherited by your future family. Recording your life allows your progeny to have a firsthand record of who you were as a person from your personal perspective. Information on you and your life is far more personal, intimate and detailed.

The details of your life you chose to record today will allow your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to bond deeply with you.

Your life story can be a source of inspiration for your future family to add to your documentation with their own personal life story, creating a rich and detailed record of multiple lines of the same family to be inherited.

2. Writing in personal journals

Whether recording big life achievements or writing in a personal journal, individuals can take control of what they want to leave behind to be remembered as. Journals can be shared with children and grandchildren to enrich family bonds.

3. Holding onto family records and adding to them

If you’ve inherited family records take the time to go through them and add to them. Add your immediate family achievements, include photographs, video, artefacts and any documentation that you feel will be valuable to your future family to hear about.

We often look back to our grandparents who lived through world wars with admiration for their strength and perseverance to pull through those challenging times.

Many LDS members will even participate in the 1,300- mile Mormon Trail from Illinois to Utah to commemorate the taxing 3-month pilgrimage made by early church settlers who were driven from Nauvoo.

Reflecting on our ancestors’ stories and life situations can be a huge source of inspiration for us in our lives. So recording our own challenges and difficulties (in different ways to wars and pilgrimages) may prove to be a source of inspiration for our future families.

4. Sharing family stories

Whether around the dinner table or as a family home evening activity, families can start their family history by simply sharing precious stories passed down. Whether discovered through inherited family history documents or even told by grandma around the dinner table, the stories will encourage deeper bonding, closeness and even inspiration among family members.

5. Recording your family tree

When it comes to starting your family history many people will think of the family tree activity.

If there has been no prior work begun on your family tree this can be an intimidating task to begin! Where to start? Whose line should I trace first? Where to look for information? How to record my findings?




6. Use a digital family tree builder

Whether through the use of an app or using an online family tree builder you can jot down all your findings in an organised and easy-to-access place. Say goodbye to hoarding onto piles and piles of documentation cluttering your home, and say hello to sharing with family your results and adding to records easily.

Many of these apps will make your family tree building easy with a built-in template that you just fill out the details.


7. Adding images, video or documentation

Another advantage to using a digital family tree builder is that many allow you to add images, video, voice-recordings and even scanned documentation.


8. Add family stories to your family tree

It often gets overlooked when building family trees, but the stories of who came before us are part of what makes family history so fascinating.

Without the personal stories of who they were, their achievements, their struggles, their skills or even their downfalls, recording family history loses its flavour. Part of the journey is enjoying the process and enjoy learning about the people we came from. What made them great, and even what made them not so great. Discover the choices they made to change the path in your family line.

Do you descend from a different geographical area? How interesting would it be to know the story of why and how your family emigrated?

Look for documentation to support these stories such as newspaper clippings, letters and so forth.


9. Join family history networks

Whether you join a social networking resource for family history connections or even a family history society, there are many genealogists who are more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise in order to help you on our own journey.


10. Choosing your family tree lines

The most popular family tree lines to record is the Pedigree Chart. This is when you begin with you and work backwards including details such as names, date of birth, birth location, marriage date and location, death dates and location.

The types of lines you can trace fall into the following categories:

  • The agnatic line is tracing the male-line ancestors. So, for example, you’d begin with your father, his father, his father and keep going in this pattern.
  • A matriline is the tracing of the female lines (mother, her mother, her mother etc) However this is much harder to trace due to marriages and the adoption of male names.

There are many types of genealogy including Family Pedigree Chart, Ascending, Descending, The estate, The agnatic, Cognitive, Genetic Genealogy and Psychogenealogy. Click the link to read more about what these are!


11. Refer to genealogical records

From census records to newspapers there is so much crucial documentation available to help you on your family history journey, and so many sources to choose from. Take a look at your country’s National Archives.

From using the massive database from FamilySearch to going to your local library and archive office, you have so much data available to find at your fingertips.


How to record my family tree?

Task 1

Begin with jotting down all the family links you currently know yourself.

So start with your parents, then their parents, and theirs and so forth. It won’t take long before you’ll be calling family members asking for details on names and date of births of relatives.

Include the date of births, marriages, and deaths to begin with to keep it simple.


Task 2

As you start your family tree quest there is one extremely important activity you MUST carry out immediately and that is to talk to your existing family and record their memories. 


Why should I record my family’s memories?

It doesn’t take long for all knowledge of your ancestors to be lost if there is no written record. How much do you know about your grandparents or even great- grandparents. In just a few generations, memories and facts about your ancestors are all forgotten.

Along with all those precious memories are the keys to unlocking your own identity.

Each ancestor before you all exist within you. Their traits, knowledge, memories and skills are encoded into our DNA and sometimes it takes just knowing about them for us to realise and harness our own potential.

Information on existing documented records (such as censuses or parish records) will always be available, but your family’s memories won’t be around for long. Seize the opportunity to learn all their stories and memories that often are lost while they are still with us today.


How to record my family’s memories?

The best way to document the memories and life stories of your loved ones is to record an interview with them.

By using a dedicated life story interview app you can follow an on-screen question prompt while using your smartphone camera to record and document the precious information being shared.

The advantages of recording these memories via video are that you get more enriched documentation that can be cherished forever. Not only are the stories and memories documented first hand, but you get to hear their voice, and see their body language. Emotions can be felt and appearances can be seen. Not to mention the small details such as the home decor or fashion style of these times.


What questions should I ask?

It’s important to ask questions that not only tell you everything about your loved one’s personal life but information on the memories of their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so forth. Because when it comes to the point in your family tree where you can’t find details of ancestors, the stories of your loved one may give you clues to know where to look.

Things to think about could be nicknames, places they lived, occupations, religious beliefs and even hobbies. These answers will play a key role when you start looking further afield for relevant records.

Read this next post for more life story interview questions.


Closing remarks

For LDS members looking to increase their participation in family history, we recommend trying out some of the suggestions above.

“We thank you for all you are doing to identify ancestors, the real value of research in identifying ancestors is providing the ordinances for them in the temple.” 

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, director of the Church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council (Spoken at a question-and-answer session at the 2011 RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City).