Cheap Date Night in Utah: the Familysearch Discovery Center on Temple Square

Last fall, I was sitting by my accident-prone child at the physical therapist’s office. This is the son who loves taking physical risks and lives for body slams in football. This is the son who thinks that skiing is for wimps and that the only worthy snow sport is snowboarding. Oh, and did I mention, this is the son who in utero was so active that I could hardly sit still during the last two months because of his constant gyrations. During my labor for his birth, he was so eager to come out that the contractions came back to back. Thank goodness I was at home for his birth. I could do whatever I wanted to deal with them during labor. I vividly remember getting on all fours in my living room, singing hymns in a very low guttural voice (I’m sure nobody could tell I was actually singing hymns) while I spread all my limbs outwards and sank into the floor. Eventually I got into a birthing tub and gave birth to him.  He was a bouncing baby boy at 9 lbs. plus and he hasn’t stopped bouncing since. My husband and I have been to the doctor’s office more often for his injured body than all of the other six children combined.

Anyway, while said son was getting treatments, a fellow patient who was sitting nearby at the physical therapist’s office mentioned to another fellow patient that he had recently attended  a center on Temple Square that involved iPads, stations, family history, and the youth group from his ward (neighborhood congregation). I was totally intrigued by his description. He said that each youth was given an iPad to use for the activity. Then they went from station to station, docking the iPad on a stand, and then they would instantly see totally interesting family history stuff on the screen, like what their name means, how many people share their first and last names in the U.S., or the different migration patterns of their ancestors. Ever since this news I have been Googling on and off to find out more about this and how I could experience it.

The marvelous news is that my wait is over! Dennis Brimhall announced at Roots Tech 2015 that the Familysearch Discovery Center is open. I am thinking that perhaps the youth group I heard about was part of the beta testing? I was so excited to hear that it is officially open to the public. You can bet that as soon as I could, I hotfooted it over there to try it out. I used a date with my husband as an excuse to get there. I have to say, it was a perfect date night. It was free, fun, and we learned a little more about each other, in terms of each other’s family history. What more can you ask?

You get to do different stations involving the following:

  • see how many people in America have your first and last names

  • see what your ancestry ethnicity is (I am 37% U.S. American, 33% Scandinavian, 29% English, and 1% German, at least for my 8 generations back)

  • see what you would look like if you wore traditional costumes of my ancestors countries, or other nonancestral countries

(I don’t know why it says 32% Scandinavian when in the other picture if you add up the Sweden and Denmark percentages it comes to 33%)

  • create a digital recording of an interview with a virtual interviewer
  • see what was going on the year you were born

  • see photos of your ancestors (as long as their pictures are in Familysearch) and see where your ancestors lived on a map of the world, back to eight generations. Mine generally lived in the western U.S., New England, Canada, England, Denmark and Sweden. We were surprised to discover that one of my dh’s ancestors was born on the island of St. Helena. I got to read a story about one of my ancestors who, while in Winter Quarters, loaned his team of oxen to another pioneer family so they could cross the plains to Utah, with the promise that the father of the family would bring the oxen back. He never did, so my ancestor’s family prayed and prayed, asking God to give them a new set of oxen. Guess what? They woke up one morning, and they found a team of oxen and a wagon in front of their house! God provided for them! They made the trek to Utah and lived happily ever after. 

There were some stations I didn’t get to because I spent so much time on the map of migration station, because I wanted to read the stories. The stories are on familysearch.org so I can read the rest there. I am going back to the Familysearch Discovery Center and taking my kids! I highly recommend everyone going! I love seeing all of this amazing technology! This is what technology is for, to bind families together! The Center even emails you all the information that you see on the screens at each station so you can have your own copy when you get home. 

Here are some tips for going:

  • Make reservations if your group is more than 2 or 3 people. Their capacity is 24 people at a time. If your group is only 2 or 3, you can probably just walk in. We went on a Friday night and it was not crowded. Go here to make reservations, just scroll down to the bottom of the page to do so.
  • Bring a USB drive if you want to record the interview from one of the stations
  • Know what your Familysearch login credentials are, or what your LDS church membership number is so you can create a Familysearch account when you get there, or better yet, beforehand. (Just remember what the credentials are or write them down to bring with you). You log in to the iPad with those credentials and then it pulls all your data from whatever you have on Familysearch
  • Give yourself at least two hours, even if there’s just two of you. We arrived at 7 and when we left at closing (ten minutes to 9) I still had not completed all of the stations.

So what are you waiting for, go meet your ancestors! If you can’t go there in person, check the info about your family at familysearch.org.

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