Lynn Turner has been named the new director of the FamilySearch Family History Library, FamilySearch announced Monday.

Turner has served as the assistant director for the last three years under the leadership of director David E. Rencher. Turner will replace Rencher, who will continue as FamilySearch’s Chief Genealogical Officer.

“You need somebody who understands family history and genealogy, and they need to be part of the genealogical profession because the genealogical world looks at the director as as one of them,” Rencher said. “Lynn fills that space but he also has an incredible business mind.”

Turner expressed gratitude for those who have helped him prepare for this new opportunity.

“I’m excited to stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before me and paved the way,” he said.

Who was the previous Family History Library director?

Rencher has been serving as both the director of the Family History Library and FamilySearch’s Chief Genealogical Officer since the fall of 2018.

Rencher’s top focus as director of the Family History Library was to provide high quality customer service and help patrons to have a “heart-turning experience” as they discover and learn about their ancestors, he said.

Rencher and Turner also worked together in overseeing the latest upgrade to the Family History Library before it reopened in July 2021.

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Rencher will miss being around the shelves of books and library operations in general.

“I love looking at things and seeing if we can improve the experience,” he said.

Rencher will also miss working with an “incredible staff” at the library.

“Probably the best team I have ever worked with my 40-plus years at FamilySearch,” he said.

Turner’s interest in genealogy started in El Salvador

Lynn Turner is the new director of the Family History Library.
Lynn Turner is the new director of the Family History Library. | FamilySearch

Turner’s interest in family history developed at a young age with stories, memories, and photos his parents and grandparents shared with him.

His interest in genealogy as a possible career came when he was serving as a Latter-day Saint missionary in El Salvador from 1998-2000. A man he had befriended was not sure of his actual birth or marriage dates, which wasn’t uncommon.

Turner helped the man by finding copies of his records in the local archives. Soon he was doing similar favors for other people. These experiences of finding records fueled his interest in genealogical research and helping others to make personal discoveries. His Spanish language skills, gained as a missionary, have also served him well as a professional genealogist.

Turner’s education

Turner graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in Genealogy and Family History in 2004.

During his studies at BYU, Turner focused on the history of Spain and was mentored by George Ryskamp, a pioneer in Spanish genealogical research.

In 2006, Turner became the first person in more than 30 years (since Ryskamp) to become an accredited genealogist in Spanish (Spain) research.

Lynn Turner looks at a map in the Family History Library.
Lynn Turner, new director of the Family History Library, shows a historical map of New Jersey in the new map room at the library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

What has Turner done at FamilySearch?

Turner started his career at FamilySearch shortly after graduating from BYU.

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  • Turner has supervised all outside correspondence for Spain and Latin America for the Family History Library. He has worked extensively with co-workers in Latin America and Spain to increase access to more records in these areas.
  • He and others developed the foundation of the FamilySearch Wiki, a rich genealogical resource guide online.
  • As assistant director of the FamilySearch Library from 2019-2022, Turner has led the creation of state-of-the-art patron workstations and new customer service experiences, such as the launch of free online genealogy consultations, the Record Lookup Service and new webpages for the library.
  • Turner has also worked with FamilySearch software engineers to develop systems and processes to help facilitate the publication of millions of images and indexed records online.

Turner has the right combination of family history experience and knowledge, as well as business and managerial skills to be successful as the director, Rencher said.

“A lot of us who grew up in the genealogy side of the house, the social science side, don’t come with the business skills needed to run an operation. Lynn had both of those skills,” the former director said. “He also has one other key aspect that most managers don’t understand, and that’s the ability to say no. If a manager can only say yes, they get into trouble because they promise things that we can’t deliver. ... The library is in good hands.”

Lynn Turner shows the floor plan on a sign at the Family History Library.
Lynn Turner, new director of the Family History Library, shows new signs that reflect changes in what is located on each floor after a recent remodel at the library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Future of the Family History Library

Looking forward, Turner hopes to continue to make the Family History Library a top destination for genealogists and family historians.

The Family History Library is working on three projects this year:

  • Expand the memories preservation, also known as family archive space, one of the busiest parts of the library.
  • Refurbishing and making all restrooms ADA compliant.
  • Refurbishing the elevators.

The Family History Library will continue to focus on making resources and personal patron discovery experiences more available globally through technology.

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The Family History Library is already sharing knowledge and support virtually, making more and more books available online through the FamilySearch Digital Library. They also want to use technology to enhance the in-person experience.

Turner has a goal to reach 1 million people. Rencher believes he can do double that — 1 million globally and 1 million in the library.

For now, Turner will focus on just 1 million. He can’t fathom what it will be like when the Salt Lake Temple renovation is completed and an open house is scheduled.

“I want to reach millions of people and I don’t want to require them to come to Salt Lake to take advantage of all the resources that we have,” Turner said. “That’s where we will be heading is expanding those services and making our resources more available.”

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