For more than 170 years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been involved in doing family history work. In 1894 the Church organized the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) to help individuals discover their ancestors. The GSU at one time had members like any other society, but slowly changed into a non-profit organization without members which was sponsored by the Church to help individuals around the world find their ancestors. As the Internet arrived and the Church began offering services online, the GSU began using the website FamilySearch.org. This then slowly took hold until the organization was renamed last year to FamilySearch.
The LDS Church continues to invest in family history through sponsorship of the nonprofit FamilySearch organization. Over the past thirty years the Church established more than 4,600 family history centers in more than 125 countries around to world to help those who are searching for their ancestors and to circulate records from around the world via microfilm.
The key to success in family history is often the help that those searching can receive. For this reason, the LDS Church established in each of their wards (an LDS congregation) one or more individuals who were asked to serve members of the Church as well as the general public and provide help with family history. This volunteer position is called a family history consultant.
Family history consultants volunteer in a variety of assignments. Some serve in family history centers and provide help to patrons who visit there. Some work with members of their ward on a one on one basis. Some teach family history classes. Whatever their role, they help individuals to find their ancestors and use family history technology.
Family history consultants can be your most valuable family history asset. If you don’t know where to begin, they can sit down with you and help you select somewhere to start. They can point you towards resources to help you. They can work with you at the family history center to use the resources. Think about them as your own personal advisor for family history. Best of all, all of their time is free. Maybe even better than best of all, they will be happy to help you. Most family history consultants are thrilled to work with someone and help them succeed.
Often family history consultants will visit the house of those they are helping. Many individuals who are working on family history have materials that are difficult to bring to the family history center. Often the consultant will come to you to help you with your information. They can help you organize your information. If you have the Internet in your house they can do many of the searches from your home that they can do in the family history center.
If you want to get started with family history, or if you have a problem you cannot solve, give your local family history consultant a call. If you are a member of the LDS Church and don’t know who your family history consultant is, ask your high priests group leader. If you are not a member of the LDS Church, ask one of your neighbors who is. The consultant will not try to convert you to the Church. Their role is simply to help with family history. If you have questions about the Church they will answer them, but they will not push Church doctrine on you.
Don’t expect each family history consultant to have all the answers. Genealogical research is a subject that is broad and deep. They may have to consult others to help with your problem. They can, however, help you with the basics, and connect you with the resources that can answer your question. They can be a listening ear and an advisor to get you through the rocky places until you find a firm footing in research.
As I said above, nearly all successful genealogists will tell you about the person that took them under their wing, helped them, and taught them the basics. Your local family history consultant can be this mentor for you. Give them a call and ask them for help. You’ll be glad you did.