Want a happy family? Research indicates that one of the strongest predictors of relational success is knowledge of family history. An understanding of who and what we come from can provide us with the tenacity and heart to create or carry on a legacy of goodness.
“When children know who they are, where they came from, why they’re here, and where they’re going, their lives take on a sense of purpose, enabling them to grasp tightly to truth,” said Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President, at the 2016 Family Discovery Day.
“How do we make our ancestors real? We tell their stories. Too much courage, faith, and real-life challenges have gone into their lives for us to let their examples dissolve like faded ink on paper.”
Here are some fun ways to make sure their legacies live on.
Know Who’s Who
One of the easiest ways to get started with family history is simply to know who’s who, and a decorative family tree is a great way to do that. The Family Tree Printable Keepsake pulls names from your FamilySearch account and automatically creates your family tree in the design of your choice. It will help you customize your keepsake tree even if you haven’t done family history before or don’t have a FamilySearch account. Print it, hang it, and let the names of your ancestors intrigue and beckon you.
Play 20 Questions
Small, engaging activities are also terrific ways of getting started with family history, and they make perfect ideas for Primary, youth, and family time. Get to know your family better by asking questions about their lives. What did your grandpa study at the university? Was Grandpa Grandma’s first love? Where did your parents meet? Do you know the story about that time your dad skipped school and was chased by the truancy officer? Ask the questions, and record and save the answers.
For question ideas, download the sheet below and play the game at mealtime, during a Sunday phone call to family, or at an upcoming family home evening.
Take the “Do You Know Scale” Quiz
Social media has no shortage of quizzes. They’re easy and accessible, but their accuracy (and actual usefulness) is debatable. But they’re fun; that’s why we do them. Why not take a quiz that’s not only fun but can also have a more lasting impact on your family’s happiness? Try the “Do You Know Scale” quiz.
Step 1: Introduce the Activity
Research has shown that one secret to having a successful family is knowing your family stories.
The “Do You Know Scale,” created by Marshall P. Duke, Bruce Feiler, and Robyn Fivush, tests what children know about their families. Testing well on this quiz also indicates higher levels of self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems, and lower levels of anxiety, as well as other positive results.
Step 2: Take the “Do You Know Scale” Quiz
Ask members to see how well they know their family story by taking the “Do You Know Scale” quiz.
You can either read the quiz questions out loud, or you can pass out printed quizzes to each individual or family. Have individuals answer yes or no for each question on a piece of paper.
Step 3: Share Results as a Group
Once everyone’s completed the quiz, have each person score how many “Yes” answers they got on the scale. Allow each person to share one question he or she answered “No” to with the group, and if other family members are present, ask if they know the answer. If no family members are present or if no one knows the answer, challenge them to find the answers and then save what they learn on FamilySearch.
Step 4: Enter Information in FamilySearch
Allow time to write down the answers to the questions and upload the answers to FamilySearch so that present and future family members can learn more about family stories.
Step 5: Invitation
Invite participants to seek more information about any questions that were answered “No.” Encourage them to learn more stories about their family, to keep these stories recorded on FamilySearch, and to share these stories with others.
Knowing about your ancestors will ground you (and your kids) in goodness.
Play "What’s in a Name?"
Find out what your name means and why it’s yours. How did your parents choose your given name? Are you named after an ancestor? Does your surname indicate an ancestor’s occupation? Does it suggest a country or culture of origin?
Ancestry is a great resource for surname information. For instance, I already knew that my maiden name, Duncan, is Scottish, but I learned that it means “brown-haired chieftain.” And baby name books tell me that my given name, Hadley, is also Scottish and means “fields of heather.” This must be why I cry whenever I hear bagpipes!
See? Family history isn’t fuddy-duddy; it’s FUN—and it brings blessings. Telling stories leads to seeking more information, which leads to sharing the blessings of the temple with those we’ve come to care about. Meanwhile, we (and our children) grow more closely connected emotionally, feel more gratitude for each other, increase our desire to relate successfully, and improve our ability to turn away from all kinds of temptations.
Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, told the 2016 Family Discovery Day audience that family history and temple activities strengthen youth and “help keep them on an eternal perspective and help them become resilient through their earthly trials.”
“You can increase in love and help your family heal, going in both directions—toward your ancestors and toward your posterity,” he said.
Family history activities are for everyone, in every stage of life: decorative memorials, simple games and activities, research and temple work—it all counts! And it will all invite the Spirit into our lives, blessing past and future generations, as well as ourselves, right here, today.