Lots of energy—and money—behind genealogical projects comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons. The church’s efforts are a boon to family historians everywhere.
The LDS church has amassed extensive genealogical records and offers free access—plus a host of services—to anyone. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is open to the public. There are over 4,500 Family History Centers around the world. Free online research is available from LDS’s FamilySearch.org. They also fund major public projects, for example, helping the National Park Service sort out the records related to Ellis Island. Family History Week is the end of April, with many sponsored conferences and events.
Why do they do it?
For 2,000 years, Christianity has preached the possibility of resurrection after death, a belief celebrated this week at Easter. Mormons go further than that to describe vivid scenes of family reunions after death. This teaching is so strong in the LDS church that Mormons in good standing are encouraged to perform rites that will help ancestors from long-ago reunite with families. Finding those family links in archival records helps Mormons perform their sacred process of trying to reunite or “seal” the entire family tree.
I’m grateful for the LDS church’s free online services, and I’ve used them in my own genealogical research. I’ve found—at least for my paternal line—that they can be inaccurate. But that’s the way it goes with all sources of genealogy.
If you are interested in family history, is there a religious angle? If not, what motivates you?