At the Y

Find Your Relatives

Ever wonder if you’re related to the Y’s name-sake? To a U.S. president or English king? To your best friend?

It’s a smaller world than you might have thought. Take the BYU-developed app Relative Finder for a spin, and you may feel starstruck upon finding famous ancestors, or you may realize why you and your college roommate always clicked so well—you’re distant cousins.

A young man taking a "selfie" photoshopped into an old photograph.

Photo courtesy Harold B. Lee Library, Illustration by BYU Photo

Relative Finder launched as a Facebook app limited to Church members in 2011. Now, as a sort of crowning jewel, the app has received certification from and access to the Church-owned’s Family Tree database, which contains almost 10 times more information—connecting you to even more ancestors.

“This app allows you, in three minutes of time and effort, to discover how you are related to all these people,” explains computer science professor Thomas W. Sederberg (BS ’75, MS ’77), who began Relative Finder 15 years ago. While its initial conception was Sederberg’s idea, the current version was written completely by undergraduate computer science students. Having mastered technologies not taught in college courses, the students continually improve the app with the guidance of Sederberg and William A. Barrett, another computer science professor.

Simply log in to Relative Finder using your FamilySearch username and select what connections you want to find—LDS leaders, U.S. presidents, Declaration signers, royalty, and more. Or invite friends (or your significant other—at your own risk!) to a private, password-protected group to see your mutual connections. “Relative Finder can really change the dynamic of a ward or work office,” Sederberg says.

Relative Finder may be the spark that kindles family history enthusiasm, he continues. “If we can just introduce people to family history, they might get more excited and more willing to go out and do more of it on their own.”

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