Course Syllabus

Welcome to REL 261: Introduction to Family History 

This class will be a life-changing experience for you. You will gain vision and purpose for your life from your study of the doctrine of temple and family history work, together with learning practical skills to participate in this work. Please remember that there are a variety of resources, methods, and approaches to family history. You might imagine yourself gathering numerous tools for your toolkit. You will use some tools often; others may be used less frequently; and some will require the use of additional tools. As this course will introduce you to many family history tools, you will determine those that are most helpful to you, as some will be more relevant to you at times than others. Many tools and skills are so interrelated that you cannot use one without the other, so please be patient as you learn and develop the skills you will need.

Here is a basic list of the resources you will learn to use in this course:

  • Family History Centers and Libraries
  • Gathering and Organizing Information
  • Family Tree
  • FamilySearch
  • Ancestry
  • MyHeritage
  • Findmypast
  • Temple Submissions

As you learn about each of these resources, we hope you will avoid the temptation to rush ahead of schedule, even if a later topic is mentioned in something you read. As you proceed through the lessons in this course, you will come to see what you should do and how you should do it. You will soon know how to save your ancestors through temple ordinances and will have the opportunity to engage in spiritual experiences.

Course Overview


This course introduces students to the doctrine behind family history and temple work. Students will develop skills associated with gathering, preserving, researching, and sharing family records, as well as doing temple work for their ancestors.

Information for Those of Other Faiths

This course contains assignments or specific instructions that are directed towards members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the Church have free access to websites used throughout this course. Read the Information for Those of Other Faiths page for information on how to address assignments, instructions, or to sign up for free access to websites.


Students will be able to do the following:

  1. Describe and teach doctrines related to family history and temple work.
  2. Gather, organize, add to, and share information about themselves and their extended families.
  3. Demonstrate how to use their local family history center and other resources.
  4. Demonstrate how to use family history websites for research and service.
  5. Demonstrate and explain various forms of family history service.
  6. Explain and demonstrate the family history research process.
  7. Demonstrate leadership skills to help increase family history participation in wards and other community settings.
  8. Demonstrate a commitment to life-long family history and temple service.
  9. Identify and demonstrate knowledge of ancestors and their historical settings.

Textbooks/Required Materials

  • All readings are provided free electronically.
  • During the course, you will sign up for free Church accounts at FamilySearch, Findmypast, MyHeritage, and Ancestry. If you do not yet have a Church account, please contact your ward clerk (or look on your temple recommend) to obtain your membership record number. You will need this number to create your accounts. If you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then please contact your instructor to find out how to get access to these pages.
  • Microsoft Word and Excel. If you do not already have access to this software, you may download it for free. Please refer to the correct instructions to obtain your free copy:

Proctored Exams and Assessments

This course will use an online proctoring software called Proctorio. This makes it possible for students to take assessments and exams without a human proctor present. This is a University requirement for this course. No other proctoring options are available for this course. 

Proctored exams can be accessed like any other exam, once the software has been installed. Exams will be recorded by Proctorio and reviewed by the BYUI Testing Center. Any questionable exams will be forwarded to the instructor for further review.

For step-by-step instructions on Proctorio installation, please refer to this help guide article (Links to an external site.).

Course Outline

Week Doctrine Lab
Week 01: Introduction Understanding the Course Understanding the Doctrine
Week 02 Personal Revelation and Family History Family History Centers
Week 03 Interviewing and Finding Help Gathering and Organizing
Week 04 The Plan of Salvation Indexing
Week 05 The Abrahamic Covenant FamilySearch Introduction
Week 06 Pitching Tents Toward the Temple Personal Histories
Week 07 Introduction to Research Research and Sourcing
Week 08 The Spirit of Elijah FamilySearch
Week 09 Heritage and Connection FamilySearch Partner Sites
Week 10 Sacred Ordinances and Temple Worship Finding Ancestors Who Need Ordinances Part 1
Week 11 Being Part of a Miracle Finding Ancestors Who Need Ordinances Part 2
Week 12 Leadership in the Church Helping Others
Week 13 Lifetime Commitment to the Work Temple Submission
Week 14: Course Conclusion

For more details, refer to the Modules tab.

Course Structure

Time Commitment

We hope you will approach this class with a different perspective than is required in most other classes. We require a set amount of your time rather than a specific amount of work.

You may be accustomed to trying to get through a set amount of material as quickly as possible, but you will be frustrated if you maintain that perspective with this class. It seems unfair for a slow reader to spend twice as long as a fast reader to try and process the same material. Typically, requiring a set amount of reading to be done leads to speed reading.

Our philosophy is that everyone will progress from where they are to where they can in a reasonable time frame. Since there is enough work for everyone to keep busy, we want the same sacrifice of time from all students with the expectation that they will use that time as effectively as possible. Each student will invest six hours each week to grow and produce as much as they are personally able to. Some students may make more progress than others. Those who read slowly or struggle to master skills will not be penalized or required to sacrifice more time to succeed. Once you make this paradigm shift, you will come to appreciate some of the principles that support it. In this course, the six-hour sacrifice of time is the same for all and progress differs based on personal ability.

You may come to understand a concept in twenty minutes and then be asked to work on it for two more hours. Get comfortable shifting from learning to practicing during your homework time. There are many forms of service that you will be learning where you could spend hundreds of hours performing the work for your various ancestors. For example, you can learn how to attach Record Hints in 15–30 minutes but then will have thousands that need to be attached. Enjoy being given time to do work rather than just learning about it. At the beginning of each assignment, survey the things you will be doing and make sure that you complete the essential things first. You don't want to spend all of your time practicing a skill and fail to participate in a discussion board or complete a report. If you complete all the work for a given assignment and still have time remaining, perform tasks from the list of Family History Activities. You may not be able to do all of these skills at the beginning of the semester, but you will learn all of them through out the semester.

The online class policy is that for every credit hour, you should expect to spend three hours of work per week. Therefore, in this two-credit course, you should plan on spending six hours per week. As you can see, each student can stay busy doing productive and enjoyable things throughout the semester. The time you should spend on each class is a necessary guideline so students don't spend too much time on a course.

Each week you will be graded on the assignments that you complete and take a quiz verifying the time that you spent working on family history. For full credit, you must spend at least six hours a week on this course.


Each week's material (with the exception of Week 01 and 14) has been divided into two sections: Doctrine and Lab. The assignments in each section contain readings, videos, discussion boards, activities, etc. For the Doctrine section, all of the assignments are due at the same time. For the Lab section, all of the assignments are due at the same time. Please pay attention to the due dates on the assignments. At the end of each lesson, you will complete a quiz to report the amount of time you spent on that lesson. Thank you for abiding by the Honor Code as you complete each quiz.

Discussion boards will deepen your understanding by allowing you to teach concepts you have learned to other students and to reflect upon their thoughts and perspective. You must come to the discussion board prepared. Each discussion post should demonstrate depth of analysis for the subject material. You will need to read at least 4-6 of your peer's posts and make at least one meaningful reply. Each post should give meaningful insight to the discussion.


Your grade will be determined by the number of points you earn throughout the semester.  You will see your assignments grouped by lesson in the Grades tab. Smaller assignments will be worth about 4–6 points each, the section quizzes in which you report the time you spent are worth 8 points each, and discussions are worth about 10 points each. There are a few larger assignments that are worth 15 points each (in Weeks 03, 04, and 06). The total points possible in the course is about 755 points.

Practice good study habits and be honest as you complete your assignments. Take full advantage of the learning available to you in this course.

Late Work

Late assignments will not be accepted. Discussions or quizzes, for example, are not reopened once missed.

Grading Scale

Letter Grade Percentage Range
A 100%—93%
A- 92%—90%
B+ 89%—87%
B 86%—83%
B- 82%—80%
C+ 79%—77%
C 76%—73%
C- 72%—70%
D+ 69%—67%
D 66%—63%
D- 62%—60%
F 59%—00%

University Policies

Students with Disabilities

Brigham Young University-Idaho is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office at (208) 496-9210 or visit their website and follow the Steps for Receiving Accommodations. Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with students and instructors by the Disability Services Office.

Other University Policies

Student Honor and Other Policies

Please read through the document called University Policies. It gives important information about the following topics:

  • Student Honor
    • Academic Honesty
    • Student Conduct
      • Sexual Harassment
  • Student with Disabilities
  • Complaints and Grievances
  • Copyright Notice

Go to the Student Resources module to review further resources and information.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due