Saturday, December 5, 2015

Creating a Family Tree as a Family Project

A guest blog by Suzie Kolber,

A fun activity that you can do together as a family is a family tree project. Tracing your history ancestry is an educational experience and one that helps your kids develop a sense of roots and belonging. By visiting the past, you can prepare them for the future. While this may seem like a big challenge to tackle, it can be quite easy if you follow a few pointers.

Consider Your Kids’ Ages

First, think about how old your kids are to determine how in-depth you want to go with your research. The older your kids are, the farther back in your history you can go. For kids around preschool or early elementary age, you will want to limit the information to only the past two or three generations and keep things simple.

For example, if your child’s grandparents are living, you may want to include the names of their parents. Any farther back and your little one won’t understand the relationships.
As your kids get older, you can trace your lineage farther back. In fact, if your kids are into history, they may enjoy learning about family members who were alive during the Civil War and before. It can bring these stories to life for them.

Consider Visual Aids

While you may want to scan old newspapers and court documents to find out names and dates of your ancestors, kids often learn better with visual aids. Consider using a family tree template to record your information. 

You can find a variety of styles to fit the ages of your kids and your individual needs. For example, some templates use actual trees with the branches listing family member names. Young kids will enjoy this option and help them understand the concept of “family tree.” (Editor's note: The printable chart example shown here is from the website mentioned at the end of this article.) Older kids may prefer an elegant design that can be framed when the project is complete. 

These templates provide choices for how many generations you want to include. Something simple like the three-generational or four-generational family tree is ideal for the younger kids. Older kids will enjoy the ten- and twelve-generational charts if they want to find a lot of information about their history.

Begin with History

While it is common to begin with present family members and work your way back, you don’t have to follow this method. If you have a famous (or infamous) ancestor in your lineage, begin with that person. Work your way backward or forward based on how much information you can find. For kids, it can be a lot more interesting to study about people they have read about than someone obscure from history.

Don’t get stuck trying to find a person with little to no information. Kids gets bored easily, so skip over great-great-great grandfather John if you can’t find anything about him. It is okay to leave a few blanks on your family tree template. The focus should be on helping your kids learn about their past and making it fun. Tracing family history can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience for parents and their kids.

Suzie Kolber created to be the complete online resource for "do it yourself" genealogy projects. The site has a large offering of family tree charts online. The site is a not-for-profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Training with The Family History Guide

It has only been a few days since the new Training Materials were posted on the website for The Family History Guide, but they are already sparking some serious interest among trainers and Family History Consultants. They are currently in Beta stage, with the first official release scheduled for about Nov. 1, 2015.

In this post, we'll take a look at some of the why's and what's of the Training Materials, as well as what to expect as we go forward.

Free, and Freedom

In developing the Training Materials, the first bridge to cross was deciding how extensive they would be. If they were limited enough in scope, they could be provided for free. But would limited make a real difference? The choice was clear, even if a bit illogical - make them top-quality AND free. That went along perfectly with the illogical - but successful - premise of making The Family History Guide free in the first place. Decision made.

The next bridge was figuring out how much structure to include in the materials. Too much would stifle creative delivery, but too little would lead to confusion. Family history directors and trainers are a pretty independent bunch - they want control over what they teach, but they don't want to re-invent the wheel. So the key was flexibility, over an organized framework. 

The Training Strategies Guide is designed to provide that flexibility. It's a master document that helps you design your training approach with the Family History Guide. It covers Presentations, Consultant Training, Group or Sunday School Training, and Individual / Family Training.

And speaking of freedom, some may trainers may develop their own approaches to The Family History Guide - and that's OK, as long as the terms and conditions in the Training Strategies Guide are met.

Power to the Presenters

Along with freedom comes a certain transfer of control. I wrestled with this one for a while: who would be able to give presentations on The Family History Guide? Giving out the keys to drive our presentations meant that Bob and I would likely have fewer opportunities to present; but more opportunities would be possible for others, around the world. We chose the path of enabling presenters who believe in the possibilities of The Family History Guide.  

With a detailed speaking script now included in the Training Materials, any skilled presenter can now deliver an effective and consistent introduction to The Family History Guide.

Looking Ahead ...

We believe the future is bright for training with The Family History Guide. Since the Training Materials are now in Beta stage, there are a few developments still to come:

  • Speaker notes for the Presentation slides - these should be added soon
  • Course evaluation forms - also coming soon
  • Instructor Tips - these will take a little longer, as there's more information analysis to do; but the results should be exciting!
And one more development - we need your feedback! If you have suggestions or corrections, now's the time, as we prepare for the Nov. 1 launch. Send your ideas to or

Here's to successful family history training, with The Family History Guide.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Getting in the Game

It's back-to-school time for many of us, so let's start off with an easy multiple-choice question, just for fun: 

* Which of the following is a common reason (or excuse) for why people don't get involved in family history?

a) "It's too hard."
b) "I don't have enough time."
c) "I wouldn't know where to start."
d) "It's all been done in my family."

If you answered "all of these" - give yourself an A. These reason-excuses have been around for ages, and they have prevented a lot of people from experiencing the joys of family history - from "getting in the game." The irony is that there is a shred of truth in each of those reasons, but it's more fiction than fact. Let's take a closer look at them ...

It's Too Hard

Maybe climbing a mountain comes to mind for the would-be family history beginner - and it all looks pretty much like a vertical ascent. Two things would help here: providing a gentler slope, and taking the journey a step at a time - not all at once.

The Family History Guide offers a gentle slope with plenty of basic tasks to start with. Its step-by-step approach - Projects, Goals, Choices, and Resources - helps the hesitant learner gain confidence and make meaningful progress.

I Don't Have Enough Time

I've heard quite a few people say, "I'll get around to family history when I'm older - I'm just too busy now" - and the joys of family history are postponed, or even lost in many cases. Learning to enjoy family history in small pieces is one of the keys here. Just 30 minutes a week can be a good start for anyone with a busy schedule. 

Small tasks in the Family History Guide are great for week-by-week engagement in family history, helping build stronger connections between the living and their ancestors.

Where to Start ... 

One of the problems with learning family history is that it can seem overwhelmingly large - it can be like trying to swim the Pacific. One advantage of The Family History Guide is that it provides a smaller pool to take the first dip - each Choice has a few steps, connected to articles and videos that help ease the learning process. 

It's All Been Done!

That's a common myth among families with long-time, active genealogists. But if you go back a ways, there will inevitably be missing branches or twigs in your tree - places to start doing research. Even before that, there are likely hundreds of ancestors who need sources and records attached, or who have mistakes or other issues that need correction. And then there's the whole world of photos, documents, and stories ... The point is, there's enough work to do for each person to have his or her own personal connection to family history - without leaving it all to Aunt Gladys or Grandpa Leroy.

Staying in the Game

It's one thing to get more people "in the game" of family history, but it's another thing to keep them in. Many beginners enjoy a few hours, days, or even weeks of success - and then they run out of steam. The Family History Guide aims not only to reach the roughly 90% who are not involved in family history yet but also to help people get farther in their journey - and enjoy it more.

Thanks for listening! The proof, of course, is in the experience - and more people are experiencing family history through The Family History Guide each week. Our challenge is to keep it on the leading edge - growing and improving to meet the needs of family history enthusiasts everywhere. Visit us at and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Story Behind The Family History Guide

Now that we've crossed the "finish line" by officially releasing The Family History Guide website, I thought I'd take some time to describe how it all came to be - or, "how the race was run."

You'll notice the allusions to running in this post, and that's not by accident. Just over three years ago, I decided to do something about my sedentary lifestyle. I had just watched an episode of "The Biggest Loser" where the show's contestants were trying to complete a full marathon - 26.2 miles. I remarked to my wife, "I bet I could do that." Big mistake - the next week I had signed up for a gym membership and was on the treadmill. I thought I was going to die, running four minutes without stopping. But with patience and perseverance - and remembering my old high school running days - I completed my first marathon in June 2012. And in the next two years, I completed seven more - from St. George to Bear Lake and points in between.

What does all this have to do with The Family History Guide? For the past seven months, I feel like I've been running a marathon of sorts, assembling a website from thousands of scattered family history pieces across the Internet. It began with a vision of what might be, continued with many small steps, and culminated yesterday with the website release.

Now let's go back to the starting line to see what kind of insanity must have overcome me to tackle a project like this (The Family History Guide, not the running ... although insanity helps in both cases). In December of 2014 I was volunteering at the new Sandy Granite Family History Center. I noticed that guests would often ask the same questions - some answers were covered in our quick reference guide, and some were not. I decided to put together a bigger reference - the Help File, a document with categories and links to documents on the Web. Then I thought about how few of our visitors were taking advantage of the great family history videos available on the Internet, so I created the Video File - a document with links to videos on the Web. But the two documents were not connected to each other ... what I needed was a central place to find resources, and step-by-step instructions on how to use them. I didn't want to create another link repository - those have been done, from small to large (think Cyndi's List).

I knew what I needed do. I asked my brother John, a professional web designer, to create a website that would be attractive and easy to use. My part, as a professional technical writer and instructional designer, would be to create a learning flow that would layer the family history information well, so as not to swallow the new family history learner in a sea of information.

It felt great - the content, design, and direction were coming together well - sort of like I felt the first few miles of a marathon felt, where your body gives you that runner's high. But there were a lot of difficult miles ahead, sorting through oceans of information while keeping the focus on the easy, the doable, and the meaningful.

After a few months, I shared a link with what I had done so far with Bob Ives, Technology Director at the Sandy Granite Family History Center. His reply - "We need to talk." My first thought was that I was in trouble somehow - but Bob had immediately grasped the possibilities of the site and was quite excited about it. Together we formed The Family History Guide, LLC. The next person who caught the vision was Sue Maxwell, noted family historian and blogger (, who has lent valuable support to The Family History Guide through social media.

And that takes us to this morning - where I'll wrap up the blog post for now, as Bob & I are scheduled to appear on K-Talk radio in a bit, to chat about ... what else? ... The Family History Guide.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

As we get closer to the "finish line" (July 25 website release) for The Family History Guide, the enthusiasm is picking up strongly. We just presented The Family History Guide (FHG) to the UVTAGG (Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group - sorry about all the acronyms in this sentence ...) The response was overwhelmingly positive, with many attendees remarking that this is just what they had been looking for to help with family history training.

The FHG has also been put through a blitz of activity at the Sandy Granite Family History Center, with over 50 consultants finishing the initial phase of training on the site, with several rounds to come. Response has been likewise very positive, both for consultants and individual learners.

And noted genealogist James Tanner had some interesting comments about the solid instructional design of the site and its potential for helping learners get engaged with family history. His blog posting is available here:

To us, these events have been quite encouraging - when people see The Family History Guide in action, they begin to see more possibilities for what they can do. And that's exactly what we were hoping for.

Next milestone: adding The Family History Guide to the FamilySearch App Gallery, which should happen sometime after July 18. We'll keep you updated in our next blog posting.

CEO, The Family History Guide, LLC

PS - Even though we are crossing the "finish line" in a few weeks, our work is never done ... just like genealogy research!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Getting Started ... with The Family History Guide

Have you ever asked yourself, "How do I get started with family history?" Or, "I have a few free minutes - what can I do?" The Family History Guide points you in the right direction, a step at a time, for success.

Note: The Family History Guide is in now in beta testing, with an official release projected for July 1, 2015.

The Family History Guide ( is a free site for LDS and non-LDS users. Its purpose is to help beginners get started with family history in a clear, purposeful way, and to help more experienced users find the resources they need, quicker and easier.
Let's take a tour of the site and see what's it's about ...

Get Started

The Get Started screen has four basic activities:

• Learn about The Family History Guide.
• Learn basic computer skills.
• Try a Top 10 Family History Task.
• Begin a Project.

Learn more ... This explains how the site works and how to use it effectively.

Computer basics ... If you are new to computers, this section helps you with windows, files, the mouse, etc., to get you off to a good start.

Top 10 Tasks ... If you are more experienced with family history, you can dive right in and begin with an essential activity.

Projects ... This is where you will spend most of your time with The Family History Guide. The 6 Projects include Goals, Choices, and Instructions, to divide your family history tasks into manageable pieces.

Project Menu

Project 1: Family Tree 

This project has 12 Goals, such as navigating FamilySearch Family Tree, using fan chart
and descendancy views, updating and adding ancestors, and merging duplicate ancestors.

Project 2: Memories

This project has 11 Goals, such as gathering and uploading photos and stories, interviewing relatives, and writing stories and life sketches.

Project 3: Descendancy/Ordinances

This project is split into two parts: Descendancy, for non-LDS users (3 Goals), and Ordinances (8 Goals), which explains how to prepare temple names. (The Ordinances part also includes the 3 Descendancy Goals.)

Project 4: Discover

This project helps you get started with your research. Click Discover in the main menu (6 Goals) to learn about ways to find new ancestors, or select a country from the drop-down menu to research that area.

Project 5: Indexing

This project has 7 Goals, helping you get started with indexing batches of records to help family history researchers around the world.

Project 6: Help with Family History

This project enables you to get help for your own family history, or join in helping others with theirs.

Goals, Choices, and Instructions

Each Goal in a Project is divided into several Choices (family history activities). You can click a Goal to show its Choices and related Instructions. For example, clicking this Goal in Project 2: Memories …

… will open up Choices A, B, and C (only A shown):

The Instructions for each Choice guide you along in your family history work.


In the Choices example above, notice the video icon. You can click the icon and launch a video clip that gives you additional instruction. You can also click document icons wherever they appear to display helpful articles online.
There are hundreds of videos and articles for use in the Family History Guide, all just a click away.

Project Trackers

To help you keep track of your progress with the Goals and Choices, you can download a Project Tracker sheet for each Project, as well as for each country where you are doing research. The Project Tracker lists each Goal and Choice, with space to type notes and update your progress status for each item. The file can be edited on a PC or Mac, so you can add rows as needed as your note content grows.


Besides the video and document links in the Projects, there are many other such links stored in “The Vault,” which is a large catalog of handy online resources. This catalog will expand over time as new family history videos and articles become available on the Web.


To keep you fresh and motivated on your family history journey, there is an Inspiration page available from Project 4: Ordinances. It has many links to LDS videos, articles, and quotes about family history and temple work for your enjoyment.

Try The Family History Guide and see how easy it can be to get started – and keep going – with your family history activities.

Note: The Family History Guide is not sponsored or endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Welcome to The Family History Guide Blog!

The Family History Guide is a new web site designed to help you succeed with your family history efforts. The web site is currently in Beta testing, with a scheduled roll-out for July 1, 2015.

Check out the site here - - and let us know what you think!

Bob Taylor
Owner, The Family History Guide, LLC