Suggestions and Best Practices for AFOs
Officers of member organizations of the LDS Ancestral Families Association (LDSAFA) offer the following suggestions and best practices to LDS Ancestral Family Organizations (AFOs):
Suggestions and Best Practices
Have a Unique Domain Name and Public-Accessible Website
I suggest that all LDS Ancestral Family Organizations (AFOs) have a unique domain name and public-accessible website. Having a "members only" or "propriety website" significantly hinders people from quickly searching and finding family history information on deceased individuals within an AFO database or website. (R. Clayton Brough, Brough Family Organization)
Involve Young People in Family History Work and Family Organizations
Getting younger family members involved with genealogical and family history work will be key to the current and future success of any family organization. They still have energy and most of their lives still ahead of them. They understand technology and the Internet better than many of their parents and grandparents. Yet they still need to be trained, mentored, and prepared to step in and help with the work. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has recognized this need and has created a great website to help get youth interested, motivated, and energized in accomplishing this work:
Youth and Family History.
Interestingly, on February 17, 2013, the Parade magazine (www.parade.com) that appeared as a supplement in the Deseret News newspaper of Salt Lake City, Utah, published an article entitled "One Big Happy Family" which stated the following: “When a team of psychologists measured children's resilience, they found that the kids who knew the most about their family's history were best able to handle stress [over those who played team sports or attended regular religious services]. The more children know about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of intergenerational self--they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.”
At first, young people may not like working on "history" and may shy away from it. But they likely would like to sit with a grandparent or great-grandparent to hear and record their life story (that is so easy to do now with modern technology). They would probably enjoy collecting, scanning (digitizing), labeling, and organizing old family pictures. Indexing could be fun with the right project that aligns with their interests. Youth love stories! Take the time to share family stories with them. They might like to participate in utilizing existing (and future) technologies that enable real-time virtual reunions and other family meetings. They might even like to set up a social network dedicated to family members. Youth love to visit new places so taking a family history vacation and letting them help find locations (using GPS navigation apps on their smart phones) where ancestors lived would be appealing to them. They could even use their smart phones to take pictures and document those places and what they learned there.
Here are a few websites with ideas about getting youth involved in family history:
Family History Activities for Youth
How I Learned to Make Family History Fun for Our Youth
Engaging Youth and Teens in Family History
Involve Children and Youth in Family History
Blessings of Family History for the Living
Family History and Temple Work
Pulling young people away from their mobile devices to do family history work is certainly a challenge but finding ways to get them involved using their mobile devices will pay big dividends and keep this work moving forward around the world. (R. Shane Brough, Brough Family Organization)
Hold a Successful Family Reunion
To complete a successful family reunion you need contacts, support, planning, and lots of answered prayers. In this day and age contacts and getting the word out is easier with social media, but I believe personal contact is still the best. Creating interest in the reunion is the challenge.
This past year the Braithwaite Family Organization held a successful three day reunion in Manti, Utah. The reunion is held every five years. We sent out seven hundred forty email invitations, advertised on the radio, and set up a facebook page. Three hundred and eighty-five people pre-registered for the reunion. In 2011 five hundred and fifteen pre-registered for that reunion. (For the 2011 reunion I called over 200 family members and personally invited them to the reunion. I believe that to be the reason for the larger turnout.)
The most important thing we do regarding our reunions is attending the temple. One large advantage for us is over five hundred of our email contacts are worthy recommend holders.
We feel that having something for everyone is the second most important thing. Creating good childhood memories plays an important part in keeping Ancestral Family Organizations alive. (I have very fond memories of my own Ancestral Family Reunions as a child.)
We sent out reunion announcements fifteen months in advance so families could schedule other reunions and vacations without conflicting dates. Reminder emails were sent every three months. Fifty invitations were sent for a Committee meeting six months prior to the reunion (32 showed up). We attended the Mount Timpanogos temple, a catered dinner, and then the meeting. The following committees were set up: Advertising, cleanup, displays, fundraiser, games, meals, musical program, pictures, power point presentation, registration, and setup. The more people involved in committees the more it helps to get people enthused about the reunion. We offer catered meals but invite anyone to bring their own food if they prefer.
Day One: We had reunion registration (registration packets included a map of the ancestral homes in Manti, a schedule of events, and tickets for the meals.), unveiled a Braithwaite Memorial in the Manti cemetery (150 attended), and held a catered dinner at the Manti Tabernacle (120 attended). A few families held individual reunions that day. All catered meals were prepaid along with the book orders.
Day Two: We started at the Manti temple. We supplied family names for all who attended. Some brought their own names. Over one thousand ordinances were performed at the temple by family members. Reunion registration, social hour, catered dinner, and power point presentation were held at the Manti Tabernacle. We rented the city pool that night.
Day Three: We started with registration and a skit at the city park. It was written by a family member about our family arriving in Utah. Awards were handed out: the oldest, the youngest, the largest family attending, the person traveling the farthest, etc. A group photo followed by pictures of the descendents of the six siblings was taken. Next was a game with questions about our families’ history. We finished with more games and a catered lunch the rest of the day. A cannon that shot candy over thirty feet in the air was a big hit.
One of the big surprises at the 2011 reunion was how many people came to me and said: I have known this person most of my life and had no idea we were related. The Lord's help was seen over and over in our preparations for the 2011 and 2016 reunions. (Rich Braegger, Braithwaite Family Organization)
More suggestions and best practices will be forthcoming.
In the meantime please visit the following links:
How to Start and Sustain LDS Ancestral Family Organizations (2017 LDSAFA article)
Email inquiries about LDSAFA to: