The Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Newsletter
A Selected Article from the December 98 Issue

Organize Your Large LDS Family
Make a Resolution That Will Really Do Some Good

An Editorial by Eileen Phelps

    Of all the people in the world who use the FamilySearch program put out by the LDS Church, no group abuses it like the LDS descendants of the Mormon Pioneers. There seem to be two reasons for this:

- Our Pedigrees are full of errors and we submit the errors to the Ancestral File. We pat ourselves on the back for doing this and never check to see what happens when it merges.
- We rely on TempleReady to tell us what temple work needs doing. We estimate dates differently and the names clear over and over. Later, other ordinance work from the past is extracted. Some of our ancestors ultimately end up in the IGI/OI five times or more.

    Not only do we abuse the FamilySearch program, but we misuse the temple resources.

- We redo work that was done before.
- We spend our temple time doing the work for strangers, while ancestors that were overlooked fifty years ago are still overlooked.

    We also cheat our descendants, and then wonder why they're not interested in genealogy.

- We lose the wonderful stories that our parents forgot to tell us, or we forgot to write down.
- We have no idea what pictures our fourth cousins may have in their possession, or if someone writes a family history and prints it privately, we never heard about it and never got a copy. And no one thinks of making a new edition, because it's too expensive to pay the printer.

    How did this come about?

- We have Books of Remembrance filled with lengthy pedigrees copied by hand that have no documentation and many typographical and research errors. We no longer remember who did the original work. The ancestors who built these pedigrees did not have the resources we have now, nor did they have the training in making well-reasoned decisions. If they found a record for an individual with the correct name, they often accepted it unconditionally. Remember, temple work was their goal, not fighting a court case for an inheritance.
- We've lost touch with each other. Most of the early pioneers have a really large descendancy by now. Our grandparents didn't have photocopy machines, telephones, computers, E-Mail and easy travel. Even the descendants who stayed in Utah didn't manage to keep in touch beyond first and second cousins. Printing a newsletter was beyond the resources of most people a hundred years ago. We've had a hundred and fifty years to get scattered.

    Are we preaching to the choir?

- All right, so we're trying to do our research. But have we shared our work? Are we hiding our light under a bushel until it's "complete"? Do we really have the money and time to do it all? Can we write the book, create the Web Site, organize and run the reunion, gather the pictures, produce the newsletter, manage the address database, distrbute temple names to relatives near the temples, research all the lines, collect all the obituaries as cousins die, restore the gravestones, erect the monuments, catalog all the heirlooms, and correct the Ancestral File over and over?

    It's time to become more efficient and share the work. We need more and better family organizations.

    Based on observations of family organizations that seem to be making progress, here are some suggestions for creating a core group to grow from. If we don't have the right kind of leadership our organization will not win acceptance, but not all the people in the essential core group have to have the same talents. If we spend some of our holiday time talking up the organization idea with the cousins we visit, who knows...?

Start with:


- Must be a diplomat. Knows many family members and gets along well with them. Must be a people person who likes to work a room. A networker. A good spot for a man (sorry). Someone who's been a bishop, mission president, etc. will find this easy.
- Must really care about having a family organization and be willing to stick with the job even if he goes off on a mission. This job should not rotate every year or two.
- Need not be a family history researcher, or genealogy software expert.

Membership Secretary, Newsletter Circulation Manager:

- Must be meticulous. Keeps records of names, addresses of all known descendants as well as who is currently a dues- paying family organization member.
- Some computer expertise greatly preferred. Database knowledge is ideal, but WordPerfect's Merge and Sort and Label printing features can do the job. Must understand how to back up the files in case of hardware problems. Internet connection helpful for finding lost relatives from online directories.
- Need not be a "genealogist," but will be doing "research."


- Must be good with math, handy with a checkbook. Able to issue financial reports.
- Must understand simple bookkeeping, to track funds for various purposes. Ability to use spreadsheet software helpful. If the family has applied for non-profit status, reports for IRS will be required.
- Needs to have some sense of what various projects will cost and whether there is enough money coming in.
- Need not be a genealogist.

Newsletter Editor:

- Must be a confident and fluent writer, able to create articles from news tidbits, summarize news clippings, obituaries. Most submissions are not ready to put in the newsletter.
- Must be creative. Have ideas for articles when no one sends anything in. Be willing to ask for submissions or interview someone for stories. The newsletter is the payback everyone gets for paying their dues. The more interesting the better, but not offensive.
- Must understand the copyright law and be willing to ask permission to use other people's work.
- Reasonable grammar and spelling skills. An eagle eye for proofreading can be recruited to help.
- Must be dependable about getting issues out on time and willing to do the job for several years.
- Computer equipment very desirable. Having a laser printer and scanner and E-Mail makes this job much easier.
- Needs a general understanding of everyone else's job but does not have to be an expert.

Family Database Manager:

- Must know the PAF program and have a capable computer. Extra genealogy software and expertise a plus.
- Must be meticulous. Accuracy counts most here. Must also be willing to enter extensive notes. Must make a clear distinction between known and documented ancestors and those who are connected to the family only by tradition. Must be willing to knock a U.S. president or a Mayflower Passenger off the family tree if the connection is not good enough. Have the goal of publishing the family book someday.
- Must be willing to share the information with the family. Must know how to make a GEDCOM file of parts of the data. (Certain family branches, LDS or non-LDS versions, how to cut out living relatives when needed.)
- Need not be an extrovert, but must be a good correspondent. Must respect the privacy of living relatives.


- Must know many family members, and who has the deep pockets. Seed money is needed for postage and paper to contact family members, to start up the newsletter and plan the first reunion. A first mailing can cost a thousand dollars in a big family.
- Must have a vision of what the money can do and be able to sell the dream.

Family Members:

- Must be enthusiastic, willing to do various chores.
- Must be friendly, willing to attend funerals, wedding receptions, write letters, stay close, talk up the family organization.
- Must love everybody in the family, warts and all.

Then add:

Reunion Chairman:

- Must be a good organizer, recruiter, and delegator. Must be a good host or hostess. A people person, salesman.
- Must have good ideas for place, activities. Experience attending reunions is required.
- Must know many family members and their talents.
- Need not be a genealogist.

Temple Work Coordinator:

- Must know the FamilySearch program, especially the LDS Ordinances section and TempleReady.
- Must be a good recruiter and delegator and follow-up person. Appoints a person to be in charge at as many temples as possible, sends them diskettes or cards, and checks to see that the cards are returned and the dates are forwarded to the Database Manager. Must be consistent.
- Should live somewhere near the database manager.

Genealogists and Historians:

- Must be accurate.
- Skills needed vary with specialty. Some genealogists will collect information for a specific small branch of the family, perhaps only four generations. No research skills needed, just willingness to follow-up with cousins until they get the information. Others who may have a specialty for LDS Pioneer Archives and records, or New England Records, or Southern States, or German research will need highly specialized skills. Internet genealogy research is a specialty of its own.
- Need for computer hardware and skills varies.
- Need not be extroverts, but must have sensitivity. Understand privacy concerns, also be willing to agreeably disagree with others who are working in the same area as you.
- Must be good correspondents, willing to help people who are not certain whether they are related. They may turn out to be, later.
- Must be able to work well with non-LDS genealogists and tactful about temple work.
- Must be willing. It is better to let the genealogists pick their area of interest, if possible.

Curator and Archivist:

- Must know many family members. Must be interested in photos and understand photo preservation.
- Must be a good archivist. Will maintain copies of certificates, old deeds, photos, and information about who has various heirlooms.
- Must be trustworthy with other people's treasures.
- Camera skills and portable scanning equipment a definite plus.
- Must work well with the database manager when the time comes to produce the book and illustrate it.
- Must be willing to order copies of photos for family members who want them.
- Knowledge of Utah pioneer museums and archives a definite plus. Living in Utah also a plus.

Ancestral File Editor:

- Must know the FamilySearch program, especially how to follow the links and search for individuals in the Ancestral File. Also how to edit the Ancestral File.
- Must be able to work closely with the Database Manager.
- Must work toward getting permission from the Family History Department to approve all changes made to the part of the Ancestral File that concerns the family.

Legal Consultant:

- Must be able to draw up bylaws.
- Must understand or be willing to learn the process for gaining non-profit status with the IRS, so that family members who make large donations can deduct them on their tax returns. (There is an LDS temple work status and a non- LDS status for history and preservation.)


- Must have technical computer skills and an Internet connection, with Web Server space (or know where to get it).
- Must know or be willing to learn about genealogical software and how data is shared on the Web.
- Must have contact with others who have Web sites, for feedback and updates on how to publicize the Family Organization Page.
- Must understand and respect copyright and privacy issues.

Workers, extractors, temple-goers, tombstone scrubbers, game planners, interviewers, videotapers...

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