Not Your Grandma's Family History: The Funnest Way to Get Kids (& Parents) Involved with Family History

I have a confession to make. I don't really like family history all that much. Or at least I thought I didn't.

Now that I've been to the Family History Discovery Center on Temple Square, I'm not so sure. You see, that place got me thinking about family history in a completely new way—and I'm not saying I had a change of personality or anything.

It's just a completely new version of family history I've never seen before. In fact, I think it's the future of family history.

So for parents out there hoping to get your family more interested in family history or for Church members who want to become invested family history but haven't been able to yet (like me), the Church has a new resource that will change your entire outlook and makes for an amazing family outing.

Currently, the Family History Discovery Center has a prototype open in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, but once renovations on the Family History Library are complete, the Discovery Center will permanently reside there.

But for now, let me tell you a little bit about my experience to show you why the whole family and teenagers especially will love the Discovery Center.

The Future of Family History

First off, they hand you an iPad. You sign up with your lds.org password and presto! Your family tree is already right there. That means all you have to do is wander the interactive, full-wall displays that look like something more out of Star Trek than Temple Square, plug in your iPad, and enjoy.

At one station, I could look up how many people in the United States have my name and where they live. I could discover the song of the year I was born ("Unforgettable"), the Academy Award-winning movie (Unforgiven), and the top grossing movie (Aladdin—Score!).

Not only that, but I could look up my relatives and learn that my mom was born the same year as bubble wrap was invented, my grandma was born the year King Tut's tomb was discovered, and when my grandpa was born, Disney Brother's Studio was formed, gas was 21 cents a gallon, and movie tickets cost 7 cents—you read that right, SEVEN CENTS!

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Image courtesy of the Discovery Center.

At another station, I saw an interactive world map showing where all my relatives come from. And guess what? I have some New Zealander in me. Funny story, when I zoomed in to learn more about this Kiwi ancestor of mine, a lady working at the center stopped me, saying that was one of her ancestors.

Here I was discovering one of my cousins I didn't even know existed! Not only that, but I even found my first ancestor baptized into the Church, who joined in the 1830s close to when the Church was first organized.

But I'm not done yet.

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Image courtesy of the Discovery Center.

In these nifty private theater rooms, you can choose to record your own story or memory to share with future generations. In another, you see your whole family history tree projected on the wall and can select different ancestors to see their life, the major events in it, and how those events crossed with world and Church history events.

While playing around with my tree, my mom and I discovered that my great-grandfather had a long, lost twin who died shortly after birth and my grandma had an older sister we never even knew about who died after only a few days. My grandma was the type of person who prided herself on family history and gave us books of our genealogy and stories about our ancestors for Christmas gifts, so learning she had a sister we never knew about (someone she might not have even known about) was a very spiritual, exciting moment.

The last display we went to I can only describe as an LDS version of Face Swap. It's something you might just have to experience for yourself, but I can tell you I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

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Yes, that is my face mashed onto the body of some English gentlewoman. I guess now I know what my ancestors would have worn!

So for beginners or those who already think you know everything there is to know about your family tree, pop on down to the Family History Discovery Center, and I can guarantee you'll be surprised.

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