Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family History Fun--------Really!

June has been a month filled with Family History.

 We mentioned in the last blog that we had a wonderful time in the Palmyra Temple with Heather and Mike's family on June 5th.  We no sooner finished our visit with their family and then were so excited to be able to go to Pittsburgh Rootstech on June 13th.  Rootstech is a community genealogical event that is sponsored by the church.  The biggest central event is usually held in Salt Lake each year, but they also have satellite events held in other cities around the United States.  It is ironic, but we have never been to Rootstech in Salt Lake.  In Pittsburgh, though, it is a smaller, free event and it was held in our Oakland church building.  There were many presenters and participants who were not members of the church, as well as many who were.  We both learned alot from classes that ranged from subjects as varied as Beginning Familysearch to DNA testing to Western PA research.  The event organizers did a very good job at organizing and publicizing it.  We helped to distribute flyers and posters to local libraries and also helped clean the church and set up the day before. Then we helped with clean up afterwards. We heard there were about 170 people in attendance.

The next event was held on June 19th (anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves) at the Heinz History museum.  We felt honored to be invited to it.  It was called the "Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign" announcement.  We arrived at the Heinz History Museum and were seated with about 100 other people. Many of the people there were prominent community leaders and leaders in the African American Historical organization here.

 There was a short 1/2 hour program conducted by a very dynamic man, President Ron Paul,  who is member of the Pittsburgh Stake Presidency.  The news

media for CBS kdka 2 news was there. We actually ended up seeing a few shots of us in the audience on the news that night!  A glimpse of fame for us here in Pittsburgh!!

Then they started a Live Video feed from the main event which was held in Los Angeles, California. The Master of Ceremonies at that event was Germaine Sullivan and his wife, Kembe.  He is a Stake President in Atlanta and they are featured in the recent documentary called  "Meet the Mormons".
Elder D. Todd Christofferson (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) was the speaker from the church who announced the purchase by the church of the Freedman Bureau records.

By now you are probably wondering "What in the world is the Freedmen Bureau"? A few short weeks ago we didn't know either!   It was basically a
bureau established by the Federal government when the slaves were freed after the Civil War.  The bureau was meant to help assimilate the freed slaves into normal society since they were in need of so much education, food, employment and many other things.  Records were kept which are invaluable to African American research. They have been so difficult to search in the past.  Now the church has purchased the records from the government and is planning to start the indexing project with help from the African American community.  They hope to have it completed in one year.  One small portion (Freedmen Bank Records-- a tenth of the size) was completed previously by inmates at the Utah State Prison and it took 12 years.  The new website is  With all the advancements in Familysearch and the large number of volunteers now indexing, it is a real possibility that it can now get done in one year or less.

Then on June 24th we organized and held a Family History
Workshop at the Vintage Senior Community Center.  We had 17 people, besides us and ward members, there.  We felt alot of interest and had many positive comments about it.  We had volunteers to help from the two wards we attend and also a set of elders to help.  We did an overview of family history and then we did a demonstration with our computer and projector on Familysearch.  One of the best things about it was that the technology actually worked.  Jim worked very hard on it.  Many people were very interested, especially in the newly released Freedmen Indexing Project.  It was very timely and really seemed more than a coincidence that we planned this workshop right after the announcement about the Freedmen records.  When we set the date we had no idea about the  announcement.  We have two more workshops scheduled soon and then will do more in the Fall if we have enough interest.

Really, we are discovering that Family History is just exploding around the world.  It's like the train is leaving and we are trying to catch it before it is too late.  We have a little bit of a grip so far----so I guess we will just keep trying to hold on and keep learning.

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