The 2017 National Genealogical Society conference wrapped up last Saturday, and after a couple of articles, so will I. Diane Loosely of FamilySearch spoke at the FamilySearch luncheon. Her title was “FamilySearch: A Global Experience.” She described three definitions of global for which FamilySearch is global.
One definitions of global refers to world-wide global reach. Diane showed us a FamilySearch booklet, My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together. It is available in 66 languages. FamilySearch has 5,000 family history centers located in 33 countries. They offer support to patrons in 13 languages.
FamilySearch operates cameras in countries across the globe. They have 5.6 billion names published online from many countries. They publish an additional 2 million names a day.
Diane showed a video, “Preserving and Accessing the Records of the World,” documenting record destruction in the Philippines resulting from super-Typhoon Yolanda. One town’s records, indeed all the town offices, were completely destroyed. All that was left was the cement floor of the building. Because FamilySearch had photographed their records, FamilySearch was able to restore all the records to them.
Diane said that FamilySearch is gathering the genealogies of villages in Africa that, today, are preserved only by “Rememberers.” Aging village elders have memorized the genealogies of the village. Many are old and their knowledge is perishing with them. In the case of 95-year old Opanin Kwame Nketia, FamilySearch interviewed him and documented 12 generations and 1,000 people. A couple of days later when they returned to thank him, they discovered he had passed way.
Diane said that 50 years ago FamilySearch canvassed Mexico, filming their records. It is thought that today 15 to 20% of those records have perished.
Another sense of the word global is the idea of operating on a whole set of things. To find and search all of FamilySearch’s records, you have to know a few ways of accessing the records. Diane showed a Kentucky probate collection containing 12,000 names and nearly a million images. Obviously, FamilySearch had not completely indexed the collection. To access all the records, you have to be prepared to browse through the images like you would microfilm. She also pointed out that some records are accessed only through the catalog.
Another sense of the word global is embracing the whole of something. “We feel a responsibility to help everyone discover their family history,” she said. She shared the quote from the Emory university study stating that the more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. FamilySearch recently remodeled the first floor of the Salt Lake Family History Library to appeal to a younger generation.
Diane shared the well-known quote of Alex Haley:
In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.
She then challenged us to choose a person we would like to introduce to family history. Prepare beforehand. Then go and give them a meaningful experience with family history.
Note: I was interested in where one might find Alex Haley’s original quote, as very few people cite the source. Barbara Renick in her book Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage (Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003) is the only source I could find who cited a source: “What Roots Means to Me,” Reader’s Digest (May 1977), 73-74.