Youth Teach Leaders, Who Teaches Youth?

I watched the Leader and Consultant Training session of Family Discovery Day held in conjunction with RootsTech. The session provided a lot of encouragement on how LDS church leaders can focus their energies on incorporating more family history work with their ministerial efforts.

This session was LDS focused, but the positive feelings and the messages could apply to any family or church group who wants to strengthen ties and help individuals overcome challenges they face. There is something powerful that happens as we work on family history, that isn’t reserved for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as they combine family history work with temple attendance.

If you’re still reading, I thank you. There is something I wish to point out that wasn’t addressed, and hasn’t been addressed, in many presentations by LDS leaders or genealogy leaders.

Regularly, leaders in genealogical circles champion that the youth will teach the older generation how to do family history work. Why? Because they know how to use technology. The reasoning goes something like this:

  • They can index, because they can use computers.
  • They can find cousins, because they can use smart phones.
  • They can do this or that, because they can use iPads.

Knowing how to use a tool does not a expert make

Just because I know how to use a weed eater doesn’t make me a lawn care expert. Knowing how to use a power drill, does not make someone a carpenter or architect.  Knowing how to use a tool for entertainment does not translate into knowing how to use that same tool for academic pursuits.

Youth need teachers to learn family history
My daughter is research family history under the watchful care of my husband

Just because my son knows how to find his way around the neighbor’s xBox system doesn’t mean he knows how to Index. He knows his way around the neighbor’s xBox because we showed him the way around our xBox. Coincidentally, he knows how to index because I walked him through the process of indexing. Once he has experience doing something (because he had a teacher), he can then do similar experiences in other settings.

Interestingly, when he indexes, he only looks for typed records. He doesn’t know cursive and most of the cursive is hard even for me (who knows cursive) to read. If the typed records dry up, will he still be able to index? Maybe. But he didn’t necessarily know how to index because he knew how to use a computer. He had a teacher and training.

Knowing how to use record suggestions the recommendations

Hinting and green temple icons are nice features on The shaky leaf on have made finding records easier. Other websites have source recommendation features that are helping folks find sources to support their family tree conclusions. The programs have done much to make initial research so much easier. I am so appreciative, lest anyone think I am not.

The Green Temple Icons doesn’t equate to a name that hasn’t been taken to the temple. It’s an opportunity to investigate further. The research suggestions (blue) and record hints (brown) also should be examined.

What are we doing to teach folks, including youth, how to use these tools rather than assume they are truths?

Just because a youth can navigate their way around a Smart Phone, doesn’t mean that once they’re presented with hints and temples that they’ll know what to do with them. Young people aren’t better researchers because they know their way around an electronic device. Don’t kid yourself. Unless they have a teacher or mentor, they’ll make the same rookie mistakes and older research would make who hasn’t been taught how to evaluate records that they find.

Pushing a button is easy, making a recording takes talent.
Taking Selfies start at an early age, but can they really make good recordings or conduct decent interviews?

Knowing how to record doesn’t mean knowing how to interview

Many youth know how to record themselves once they’ve had a little experience with a recording device. Once my children discovered how to record videos on my camera, they have made some interesting ‘movies’. They are cute but I certainly wouldn’t distribute them widely. Why? Just because you can press record doesn’t mean you know how to make an entertaining video. There are skills to learn and these skills are often taught by a mentor of some kind.
My children learned this as they attempted to make a stop-action video using Legos to tell a familiar scripture story. They knew how to press a button, but they needed someone to teach them about lighting, movement, story boarding, voice recording, editing, and so on.
Just because a youth knows how to record themselves with their iPad doesn’t mean they know how to record family stories worth putting on’s memories page. First, someone needs to teach them that the possibility is there. Second, someone needs to mentor them in what questions to ask or stories to record. Teenagers don’t know anymore than adults what stories matter. Then need help getting the ball rolling, just like their older counterparts. Finally, there is an art to interviewing someone and getting the stories that matter most out of them. Who is there to train them? Unless they have a father or mother who work as interviewers in their professional life?
Youth have power, but they need teachers

I’m not doubting the capabilities of young people to do amazing things. Once they are exposed to possibilities and inspired to participate in family history, they have the power to do amazing things. The hope of this post is to point out that youth need teachers and mentors if they are to succeed. Don’t say, “Let’s have the youth teach us how to use” and then wait for them to figure it out to teach you. There must be an action plan to help youth, young adults, middle adults, and seniors learn how to do family history so they can teach others.

If we want youth to rise to the occasion, they need someone to help guide them at first and and then support them along the way.


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