Here are the steps a consultant takes:
- The high priests group leader gives the consultant an assignment to work with a family or individual. In our stake, we encourage the consultants to work in pairs and have found that to be a really good option.
- The consultants get together and prepare spiritually for the meeting and talk about what role each will take.
- Learn what goals the person or family have in the area of family history. Really listen with both your ears and the Spirit. Those goals will be as different as the people you work with, and it is vital that you start there (remember "What desirest thou?").
- Ask if you may sign in to FamilySearch.org as their helper in order to see Family Tree as they see it. This is key! See below for how to sign in as helper and plan the lesson.
- Preview the tree and find ways to help the person meet their goal and have a successful experience. This takes time and work!
- Use the editable PDF you can find at https://fh.familysearch.org/system/files/team/ait/images/blog/HelpingOthersLoveFH_Editable.pdf to write out a plan for the lesson. Make it detailed enough to leave with the family so they can use it to remember how to do things.
- After the lesson, ask for a follow-up meeting if you and they feel that more help would be useful.
- Ask for referrals--who else do you think might benefit from a visit?
Let's look at steps 4-6 in a bit more detail, using some examples from people I have worked with (details are changed to protect privacy).
First, here is how to sign in as a helper:
- Ask for the username of the person (or a member of the family). This is the user name used to sign in to FamilySearch.org or lds.org. If they have no idea or have no account, ask instead for the first and last name and birthdate (day, month, year).
- Ask for the helper number. There are multiple ways to find this. Sign in to FamilySearch.org and click your name in the upper right corner. Click Settings and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the 5 character helper number. Or, look on their temple recommend to find the last 5 characters of the Church Membership Number. Or, ask the ward or branch clerk for the last 5 characters of the Church Membership Number. Some end in a letter. If so, be sure to capitalize the letter.
- Now you are ready to sign in. First go to FamilySearch.org and sign in with your own username and password.
- In the upper right, click Help Others--it's right under your name.
- Enter what you know: either their username and helper number or (by clicking the Full Name tab), the name, birthdate, and helper number.
- Click Sign In.
- You'll know you are helping someone because you see a green banner along the right side of the screen saying "helping [person's name]".
Now you are ready to explore Family Tree. What you do there depends on the goals of the person or family. Some examples follow.
Fixing Tree Problems
Suppose the person just wants to straighten out some tangled things on Family Tree. They can describe the problem to you till they're blue in the face. But if you sign in as the helper and go to the person or family that has the problems, you'll see the problem and the solution much faster. See the table of contents of this blog for the solutions to most kinds of tree problems. Don't fix it! Just look and write down the steps for them to take to fix it. Then, when you meet, walk them through the changes. Leave that list with them so they have it for future problems.
While you're there, you might glance around for other opportunities, such as record hints or temple opportunities, but focus on what they want to do and help them feel good about fixing things so they feel that they can use Family Tree.
One person I worked with didn't want to work on Family Tree to add to the family or find temple opportunities. But he did want to add photos and scan and add documents he had for his ancestors. So, for this I didn't need to sign in as his helper. I did need to be sure he knew how to sign in so we could work together on uploading items. In this case I needed to review how to upload photos and documents and audio files. Then, list the steps on the form. Use that to help him accomplish his goal and leave the form with him so he can continue on his own.
Sometimes people see things on Family Tree that they are pretty sure is not right, but they are reluctant to make changes. They want help to understand how to evaluate what they see and decide what is the most accurate information. Sign in as a helper. Look at the records they want to evaluate and do some evaluating yourself. Look at sources already attached. See if there are notes and/or reason statements for the information already showing. See if people who entered information included contact information. If sources and reasons are missing, do some basic research to see what conclusions you would come to. Write down what you did. When you meet, help the person evaluate things. Suggest contacting contributors to ask them (POLITELY) about their conclusions. It is not unlikely that the other contributors have knowledge that is helpful. Don't make decisions for the person--just help him or her look at things and make a decision. Then, if they decide to make some changes, you can help them do it.
My Tree is Full
Many LDS folks have very full trees and it looks like temple opportunities do not exist. Often, as far as their direct line goes, this is true. For these, you'll need to do more exploring and poking about to see what you can see. This is one area where that spiritual preparation really pays off. Ask for direction and then explore. Go to the fan chart and pick an ancestor on the outer rim. Click to put him/her in the center. Then switch to the descendancy view. Maybe expand that view out a bit more. You want to get out to someone born before 1830. Then start opening up the descendancy view and watch for record hints, temple opportunities, people not showing spouses, people with spouses but no children. These are research opportunities or temple opportunities or records the system found that might help uncover more family members. Decide what to pursue with the person or family and write down all the steps you take in your plan so you can leave it with them to use after you are gone. There can be a lot of steps in your explorations, so write them down as you go along or you'll get lost for sure!
Hopefully you get the idea. Make it personal. Help them meet their specific goals so they feel the Spirit and their hearts turn in love to their families. Offer to return to help them some more. They felt the spirit and the joy of the work and will probably either be delighted to work with you some more or feel confident and excited to continue on their own and just contact you if they need more help.
This is fun stuff! This is where you can see that you are changing lives and helping to bring families together for eternity. What can be more satisfying than that?