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Family History Internships

Internships (History 496R) that provide exposure to the real working world of the family historian or genealogist are an integral part of the BYU family history experience. The basics about that program lie in the answers to several questions:


All BYU Family History majors must complete an internship. The internship is also one of the capstone course electives for Minors, Certificate Candidates and those doing the Family History emphasis in the Bachelor of General Studies.


Literally, an internship can be done anywhere in the world. In recent years interns have served in England, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Mexico, and other countries all over the world. Each year for four years we have placed a student as a paid intern at the prestigious New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. Opportunities are available in national facilities in Washington D. C. and in libraries, historical societies and archives with major genealogical interests all over the United States. Many who need or choose to remain in Utah serve in an excellent program at the Family History Library in Salt Lake, the world’s premier genealogical research venue. Opportunities are also available to serve at the Utah State Archives, the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah Valley Family History Center in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU.

In deciding where to do an internship, two key concepts should be considered:

  1. All internships must relate, at least in part, to the student’s geographic area of emphasis.

  2. The internship should expose the student to the type of family history work in which she or he is interested: research, library work, family history center service, archival work, etc.


Rigorous practical experience in the world of genealogical activity is the key purpose of an internship. The intern should plan to spend a minimum of 120 hours, plus report-writing time, for a three-credit-hour internship. The internship should involve practical experience in the genealogical community beyond the University. Ideally there will be both research and service (indexing, cataloging, etc.) components. The experience should be an intense, in-depth exposure that challenges the students to go beyond what they have learned in the classroom. They should work under the direction of a librarian, archivist or professional genealogist who mentors their experience and spends at least ten hours during the course of the internship instructing and directing the student's efforts. Learning from these mentors is a key part of the internship experience. Recognizing that beacause genealogical professionals contribute to the progress of the field as a whole, interns are asked to spend about fifteen to twenty percent of the internship time on a special project that will have lasting value. Past projects have included indexes to key collections or reference books, guides to genealogical use of a special collection, genealogical research guides to a county or province, and access materials to county histories. The special project should be selected by the intern after consultation with the mentor and supervising faculty.

During the internship the student will prepare two or three written reports:

  1. Report on the Internship Experience: In a coherent, well-written report of 2000 words or more, the intern must describe the internship experience in detail.

  2. Report on the Special Project: 2000 words or more describing the special project done as part of the internship, such as indexing, collection description, reference material creation, etc. In cases where the special project is a guide or publishable paper, the written material accompanied by a letter of submission would meet this requirement. In those situations where the mentor or supervising faculty deem it appropriate, the following essay may be added to the requirements or be assigned to replace the second report above if the entire internship is a special project or one is not possible.

  3. Beyond-the-Family-History-Library Report: 2000 words or more on using the materials found in the Family History Library to facilitate understanding of and access to one or more collections, archives or libraries located in the geographic area of emphasis. This report may be prepared at the beginning of the internship, if an intern will be spending the internship time in their geographic area of emphasis.


The internship is a capstone course taken in the last year of the BYU Family History experience in the final year. Selection and planning of the internship is the individual responsibility of the student. Planning should begin early in with the Family History Coordinator and a faculty member who specializes in the student's area of emphasis. With advanced planning, the student can arrange funding where needed, take appropriate classes and plan for the concentrated time necessary for an internship. This kind of planning will bolster the internship as an integral part of the total educational experience in Family History experience.


As early as the first interview with the family history coordinator, the student should begin to consider what type(s)of what internship experience would best meet his or her needs and circumstances. Early planning is the key to having the best internship experiences. During both planning and completion of the internship, the student will have the direction and assistance of three mentors:

  1. A librarian, archivist or professional genealogist who mentors the experience and provides a written evaluation to the grading faculty member. The work of this on-site person or persons is crucial to the success of the intern. The on-site mentor(s) will spend at least 10 to 20 hours over the course of the internship instructing and working with the intern, as well as providing access to other needed resources. The on site mentor will, at the end of the term or semester, send a report evaluating the intern's performance to the faculty grading supervisor. This report should be a narrative, qualitative evaluation. Though the mentor may include a recommendation for a letter grade, the determination of the letter grade is the sole responsibility of the faculty grading supervisor.

  2. A faculty consultant for the geographic area who will serve as a resource in selecting and planning the internship and as a potential liaison with librarians, archivists, professional genealogists and other experts in genealogical or historical research in the geographic area of emphasis.

  3. The faculty grading supervisor who is assigned during the particular semester or term of the internship. This faculty member will review the reports prepared by the intern and the evaluation of the on-site mentor(s), taking into account the experiences of other interns in similar situations and discussing the intern’s work with the faculty consultant for the geographic area of emphasis, assign a letter grade for the internship course. The student should contact this faculty member when registering during the semester before the internship for final approval of the internship plans.

How to Finance?

Internships often disrupt normal employment patterns, and when outside of Utah, there are also extra costs associated with travel and short-term lodging arrangements. Planning for these is the student's responsibility. While early planning can allow for the use of traditional sources such as funds from saved earnings and assistance from family, other opportunities may also be considered. Each year during the winter semester the Center for Family History and Genealogy offers several scholarships for which interns going away from Utah are given special consideration. Internship special projects may also qualify for ORCA grants. Pell Grants can be used by those who qualify financially, a real possibility for married interns. Study Abroad/International Field Studies office also offers some small scholarships for early applicants. Most interns travelling overseas or to the eastern United States use a combination of these sources. Internships for credit are not paid, but some interns work extra hours beyond the 120 hours required and those can be compensated, if the on-site mentor offers that opportunity. The annual internship at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston is an example.

For Additional Information

Contact the Family History Internship Coordinator Amy Harris, at (801) 422-6408 or