Idea List: Starting Your Family History
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“Idea List: Starting Your Family History,” New Era, July 2001, 43

Idea List:

Starting Your Family History

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said doing work for the dead “more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work” (Ensign, Jan. 1998, 73). Here are a few suggestions on how to get started on your family history:

  • Start with you. A personal journal is a simple and easy way to begin.

  • Find out from your parents and grandparents about their own lives and about the lives of the ancestors whom they remember. If it hasn’t already been done, be sure to record the information you get (see comment on Personal Ancestral File below).

  • Get a box. Use your file box to organize the items you will need to begin your record. These items include your birth certificate, baby book, journals, photos, achievement certificates, and anything else representing important events in your life.

  • Create a photo album. Remember to include the dates and names of people pictured.

  • Keep gathering. Once you have all your own information recorded, you can begin to work on organizing your parents’ and siblings’ information. Family group sheets and pedigree charts are the best way to keep your information organized; you can ask your ward or stake family history consultant about how to get them and fill them out.

  • Read A Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. It is available in your ward library or through Church distribution centers.

  • Become familiar with the programs and Internet sites produced by the Church to help you in your efforts. Personal Ancestral File is the program you will use the most to organize your information, and you can download it free from

  • Always remember the main ingredients in your family history work will be prayer and commitment. And your main goal is to ensure your ancestors receive the ordinances of the temple. You’re never too young to start.

Photography by Mark Cannon