Young adult woman holding temple cards

Family History: How Do We Even Start?

We know we need to do family history, but the mere thought can be overwhelming. What should we do?

Why should we care about people who exist as little more than names on a piece of paper? Recently, President Russell M. Nelson has emphasized the importance of gathering Israel and how that gathering affects both the living and the dead. In order to participate in the gathering of Israel for the living, we do missionary work and help people receive saving temple ordinances. For the dead, we can’t personally teach the gospel to them.. However, we can offer them a chance to receive temple ordinances by acting as their proxy. In a video about the importance of family history work titled “Unto All the World: Putting Family Back into Family History,” President Nelson says, “We want to rescue [our deceased ancestors] from their spiritual drift into a focus that will lead them to eternal life and all the blessings that God has in store for His faithful people.” But in order to rescue our ancestors, we need to find them first.

"We want to rescue [our deceased ancestors]...and lead them to eternal life and all the blessings that God has in store for His faithful people." —Russell M. Nelson

Photo by Michael Pulsipher

How can we do that? The first step is to go to, create an account, and see what family history work has already been accomplished. FamilySearch is an online program with the goal to create one main family tree that goes back as far as possible. Therefore, it enables all of us to collaboratively work on our family history together. After we log on to FamilySearch for the first time, it will try to connect us to the main family tree, which is where our relatives may have already entered information about our ancestors. If this is the case, we will be connected to the main family tree and hundreds of names will appear. However, depending on how much work our relatives have done, we may not be able to connect with the main family tree right away, thus resulting in a family tree that either is completely blank or contains very few names.

But in either case, the second step is the same: refer to FamilySearch’s recently created collection of articles that contains easy-to-follow steps for beginners. 

  • For those who were able to connect to the main family tree, there is an article on how to preserve memories and photographs for those names already included.
  • For those who were unable to connect to the main family tree, there is an article with instructions on how to start filling out a family tree, with the goal of eventually connecting to the main family tree. Another article discusses how to find temple names.
  • There is also an article that lists some fun family history activities.

The goal of the Church is to make family history approachable and easy to accomplish. As President Nelson says, “Everything we do in the Church…is done with one objective in mind…to get our people into the temple.”

Read the full collection of “How Do You Want To Get Started?” articles to learn how to make family history approachable and enjoyable.

Source: FamilySearch

—Michael Pulsipher, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights

Read Emilee Pugh Bell’s Latter-day Insights article titled “Family History: Level Up” on the benefits of using FamilySearch.

Read Shantel Fitzgerald’s Latter-day Insights article titled “Computer Screens and Big Blessings” to learn more about the blessings of family history work.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Each comment will be reviewed by a staff member before it will appear on the site. We reserve the right to not approve any comments that do not meet our community standards. View our community standards here.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *