Family History - Genealogy BA

Program Purpose

The overall purpose of the BA in family history is to educate students in methodologies and resources used for historical family reconstitution in order to explore from the perspective of the family how human societies function and change over time so as to prepare them for careers in family history related fields as well as to more broadly understand and appropriately analyze their world with an historical perspective in a manner that spiritually strengthens each student.

Students successfully completing a family history major should demonstrate a significant range of skills and abilities in research and critical thinking. They should also possess a command of the key historical and genealogical terms and have the ability to identify and solve historical and genealogical problems through primary and secondary source research. By the end of the program, students should produce work that is clear, precise and well-written. The program provides students practical family history research skills as well as theoretical background in the discipline. Additionally, students gain content knowledge and knowledge of historical sources in the United States, generally and in selected geographical region in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world.

In terms of careers, the family history program is designed for the student who desires to have the specific skills of a genealogical researcher coupled with the broad educational background that history traditionally offers. Family history can also be valuable training for someone who plans to serve in a library or archive or as a supplemental income source for those who plan to teach or raise a family. A growing number of family history graduates are going on to do graduate work in history, library science, archival studies and other fields.

Curricular Structure

  After completion of Religion C 261 (Introduction to Family History) and Rel C 293R (Specialized Studies in Family History), all Family History majors take History 217: The Family Historian's Craft, as their introductory class, providing fundamental family history methodology and writing, particularly focused on census and vital records around the globe. They also enroll in History 200, the Historian's Craft, which provides the historiographical background and the research, writing, and analytical skills that help students succeed in upper-division courses. The students then complete History 317 (Family and Law in American History) that emphasizes genealogical and historical research in US probate and property records. It also emphasizes advanced genealogical methods in the context of  American history. Each student must also take two 300-level history courses. Family History Majors are also required to take History 220 and History 201 and 202 as part of their GE requirements.


Students then select courses from geographic-specific family history methodology courses. One of those courses must come from History 280, 281, or 282 (Northern US, Southern US, and Colonial US, respectively). The students then take three additional methodology courses, drawn from the remaining among 280, 281, 282, from additional geographic-specific courses: History 350, 351, 352, 353, and 354 (British, Germanic, Scandinavian, Hispanic, and Slavic, respectively), and from two skills courses: History 396 (Writing Historical Narratives) and History 434 (Computers in Family Historical Research).

Students choose a paleography course that best compliments the research courses they have taken, or plan to take. That course is drawn from History 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425 (Latin, English, Germanic, Slavic, Romance, and Scandinavia Language Handwriting and Documents).

In their senior year, students take three culminating courses: History 439, 490, 496R. History 439 (Professional Family History Research) emphasizes analytical and evidentiary skills and covers professional pathways and opportunities in family history. History 490 (Capstone research seminar) is the senior thesis class for all majors housed within the history department. It focuses on historical research and writing, demonstrated through an expository paper that develops and proves a historical thesis.

Students enroll in History 496R (Internship) typically in their last semester, or the term following the completion of all other coursework. Students work under direction of a librarian, archivist or professional genealogist and a faculty supervisor who mentor their experience. Students work at such institutions as the British Library, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the LDS Church History Library, the Society of Genealogists (UK), the Folger Shakespeare Library, and state or national archives in the US and Europe. Other students complete 6-week field studies in European or UK archives, gathering documents for inclusion in the Immigrant Ancestors Project housed at the Center for Family History and Genealogy at BYU.

Catalog Information

Major Academic Plan

Learning Outcomes

Effective Genealogical Research

Demonstrate proficiency in using genealogical research methodology through informed and honest use of primary and secondary sources and by incorporating knowledge of the historical context.

Courses that Contribute: HIST 200 HIST 217 HIST 239 HIST 244 HIST 280 HIST 290 HIST 300 HIST 301 HIST 317 HIST 318 HIST 319 HIST 320 HIST 322 HIST 323 HIST 350 HIST 352 HIST 353 HIST 358 HIST 378 HIST 384 HIST 420 HIST 424 HIST 439 HIST 496R
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Competence
Historical Knowledge

Gain a historical consciousness by demonstrating a knowledge of major developments in American and world history and understand key historical terms and theories.

Courses that Contribute: HIST 217 HIST 244 HIST 280 HIST 317 HIST 322 HIST 350 HIST 352 HIST 420 HIST 424 HIST 425 HIST 439
Linked to BYU Aims: Human knowledge, Competence
Genealogical and Historical Analysis

Acquire the ability to analyze genealogical and historical questions and issues clearly, assess historical and genealogical information accurately, and distinguish between questionable and valid historical and genealogical assertions.

Courses that Contribute: HIST 200 HIST 217 HIST 239 HIST 244 HIST 290 HIST 300 HIST 301 HIST 317 HIST 318 HIST 319 HIST 320 HIST 322 HIST 323 HIST 350 HIST 353 HIST 358 HIST 378 HIST 384 HIST 422 HIST 434 HIST 439 HIST 481R HIST 490 HIST 496R
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Competence
Effective Communication

Skillfully integrate data into a coherent argument expressed through a clear, well-written style and through oral communication.

Courses that Contribute: HIST 200 HIST 217 HIST 244 HIST 280 HIST 290 HIST 317 HIST 318 HIST 323 HIST 353 HIST 358 HIST 384 HIST 422 HIST 434 HIST 439 HIST 481R HIST 490 HIST 496R
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence

Evidence of Learning

Assessment Tools

This Family History program's assessment strategy seeks not only to measure whether students are achieving the department's learning outcomes, but to improve teaching and learning in our programs.

The keystone of our program assessment strategy is the student portfolio. By requiring each student to compile a portfolio with a representative sample of the work they have completed during their course of study the department has the potential to assess how students are meeting most of the program's learning outcomes.

The History department also indirectly measures how well students have met learning outcomes for all majors and minors in the Department, including family history students, through program specific questions on the college exit survey and through evaluation of History 200 and History 490. These questions ask students to report how much they have learned in the history program.

All assessment information is kept in files of the associate chair.

Direct Measures

Major Portfolio: The contents of the portfolio allows faculty to directly measure student success (using a locally created rubric) in the majority of learning outcomes as outlined below:

1. Gateway course paper: Each family history student includes the final papers from Hist 217 (The Family Historian's Craft), the program gateway course. Among other goals, Hist 217 seeks to provide students with the skills needed to work toward proficiency in all the program learning outcomes.

2. Capstone course projects: Each student includes their reports from Hist 439 (Professional Seminar in Family History) which includes Compiled Lineage(s) and Research Report(s). This course allow students to demonstrate proficiency in all learning outcomes.

Indirect Measures

Senior Surveys: The History program has partnered with the College of Family Home and Social Sciences to administer a survey to graduating seniors. The BYU Senior Survey is also used as an indirect assessment.  The surveys ask students to rate various aspects of their experience in the program focusing on questions related to teaching and learning. Data are compiled by the college and forwarded to the department for review and evaluation.


Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement

Analysis, Evaluation, and Improvement Process

The history department has a curriculum committee that is responsible for assessing and evaluating teaching and learning in the department and for reforming departmental curricula. The curriculum committee for the family history program consists of the Associate Chair, Undergraduate Coordinator, Family History Coordinator and appropriate family history faculty.

Under the direction of the curriculum committee, family history faculty review student portfolios using a standard rubric and report on general successes of student learning as well as areas where faculty should redirect their efforts. The curriculum committee also reviews the data gathered from the Senior exit survey and the FHSS surveys. The committee recommends to the chair and department faculty areas that need improvement.