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Course Overview

Each lesson in this course is introduced by an Advance Organizer which will list all the required readings, websites, media, and assignments which you will need to complete for that lesson. The Advance Organizer will help you calculate how much time you will need to spend working on each lesson and give you easy access to all the articles, tutorials, and presentations which are required for each lesson. As you work through each lesson, you will be expected to complete all of the readings, work through any tutorials, watch video presentations, and then review what you’ve learned by answering short answer questions, completing flash activities, and answering self check questions.

Early on in the course you will need to select a family or families that you wish to research for this course. As you learn various skills and about various record types, you will actually use the knowledge you gain to do research for your own family. Each lesson will teach you about some aspect of family history work, and you will be expected to complete practical, hands-on work, and keep track of your research in an organized fashion. We will speak about individual assignments and exams specifically in the “Assignments and Exams” section of the syllabus. Once you have mastered the material in a lesson, you will complete some sort of assignment related to that lesson content and submit it as instructed in your course materials.

BYU Course Outcomes

  1. Learn and understand the scriptural and doctrinal basis for family history work.
  2. Learn the different ways that you can contribute to family history and genealogical work.
  3. Be able to identify family history research problems and frame appropriate research questions.
  4. Know the best methods for tackling a family history research problem.
  5. Learn how to properly document your research.
  6. Know how to use a personal family history database program.
  7. Learn how to use the FamilySearch web site to enter family information and submit names to the temple.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Recall and identify the foundational and factual information essential for a basic understanding of family history and genealogical research
  2. Become proficient at using current family history resources to identify their ancestors and prepare names for temple ordinances
  3. Comprehend, analyze and interpret family history records and resources in seeking after their dead ancestors
  4. Gain a testimony of family history and temple work as they seek the Holy Ghost as an aid in studying and pondering scriptures and doctrine associated with redeeming the dead

Course Materials

Textbooks, Software, and Equipment

For this course students will need the following:

Note: Students should have at least two data storage systems (e.g., CDs, flash drives, etc.) when using computers. Always make a back-up copy of your genealogy data. Losing your data is not a sufficient excuse for late assignments.

Other Materials Students Will Be Accessing

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Major Websites Students Will Be Accessing

Other Resources Available to Students

BYU Family History Lab

This website for the Center for Family History and Genealogy is for Religion C261 students and includes information on specific computer programs, workshops and resources that you will be learning throughout the course. The physical lab is in room 1031C of the Joseph F. Smith Building on the BYU campus. You can email chat with a labTA during lab hours using the email familyhistorylab@byu.edu. If you happen to be in the Provo, Utah area, check the website for the Open lab hours and take advantage of this great resource.

BYU Family History Library (2nd floor of HBLL)

Open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 10:00 am to 6:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. FamilySearch computers are available there, along with microfilms, maps, books, and other resources. On Sundays, they have a 20-minute orientation of the facilities every half hour. View their schedule at: https://sites.lib.byu.edu/familyhistory/contact-information/.

You may also want to visit their home page to help with your research at: http://www.lib.byu.edu/sites/familyhistory/. Some of their resources are only searchable with a BYU log in, and others may be used only on campus.

Family History Library

The LDS Church houses the largest collection of family history records in the world. If you have the chance to visit, the location is: 35 North West Temple, Salt Lake City (directly west of Temple Square). The hours are 8:00 am–5:00 pm Mon., and Tues.–Sat. , 8:00 am–9:00 pm. For more information, go to https://familysearch.org/locations/saltlakecity-library.

Family History Centers

The LDS church has family history centers throughout the world. You may order microfilms, research on the computers, and obtain help from family history consultants. To find the nearest family history center to you, go to https://familysearch.org/locations/centerlocator.


Learning family history requires doing family history work in the course assignments. The assignments focus on practicing what you learn in the online classes. Electronic submissions are required. Complete instructions are provided as you work through your course materials. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and make sure your submissions are complete.

Though you will only submit it twice, you should be keeping a research log throughout your course. How to set up your research logs and organize folders or research notebooks is covered in the Organization section of your course and reviewed again in Lesson 1.

Grading will be based upon college level requirements including following directions for each assignment, using proper content, sources, grammar, and spelling. Students will not be allowed to resubmit assignments. Please turn in your best work. You should keep a copy of all of the assignments you submit in your Class Assignments folder until you receive a grade for this course.

Thought Questions

At the end of some sections in each lesson, you may find a thought question(s) with a box underneath to feel in your answer. After you have entered your answer, you can click the checkmark next to the thought question to receive feedback from the instructor.

Your Research Family

For this course you will ideally be selecting one or two ancestral families and doing all of your assignments and research for that family. If you do this, by the end of this course you will know your family very well, and likely you will have found many wonderful things for your family. However, sometimes students get “stumped.” If this happens to you, there are several options. If you’re generally happy with your research experience but you just can’t find anything about your family in one particular record source or with one particular search, simply record “nil” in your research log. If you do this, I will know you did the search and you understand what to do if nothing shows up.

If you find you are recording “nil” all the time then you may want to consider the following:

Do your best. And remember, these assignments are to demonstrate to me that you know how to do something, not a test of how well you research one particular family. It’s alright if you switch some of the families you are researching to accomplish the assignments.

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Midcourse Exam

There will be fifty objective questions based on your readings and assignments. The test is closed book and closed note, and takes an average student one hour to complete. There is no time limit.

Final Exam

The final examination will be cumulative and will consist of multiple choice questions, short answer questions, short essay questions, and a practical test. You will be presented with a pedigree chart which has been filled in with a variety of information. Your task will be to analyze and list any problems you see on the Pedigree chart with specifics about how to remedy the problems. If you have worked hard in this course you shouldn’t have any problem finding the errors and suggesting appropriate corrections for them. A portion of this exam is instructor graded.

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Grade Breakdown
Lesson Assignment % of
Final Grade
Lesson 1 Correspondence log/NewFamilySearch sign-on 2%
Lesson 2 3 Page Essay 5%
Lesson 3 FamilySearch Training Speedback 2%
FamilySearch Discussion 3%
Lesson 4 RootsMagic Family Group/Pedigree 5%
Lesson 5 Census Research 8%
Lesson 6 Family History Library Catalog Training Speedback 2%
Family History Library Catalog Searches 2%
Lesson 7 Local Records Survey/Research Notebook Check 3%
Lesson 8 Indexing Exercise 3%
Midterm Examination 15%
Lesson 9 Personal History/Oral History 10%
Lesson 11 Family History Project of Choice 10%
Lesson 12 Research Log Final Submission and Goals Sheet 10%
Final Examination 20%

Grading Scale

The final grade will be based on a percentage system and the scale is as follows:

A 95–100% C 77–79%
A− 92–94% C− 74–76%
B+ 89–91% D+ 72–73%
B 86–88% D 70–71%
B− 83–85% D− 67–69%
C+ 80–82% E 66% and below

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


2 computer-graded assignments, 36 instructor-graded assignments, may not be resubmitted.


1 computer-graded exam, 1 proctored final exam (multiple-choice, short answer, short essay, practical test), may not retake, must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514