Gypsum church helps locals trace genealogy
The Family History Center is growing family trees.
Located at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gypsum, the center provides assistance and information to people researching their genealogy.
The local center is a branch of the Mormon church’s Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City. The library, founded in 1894, is the world’s largest genealogy library and offers most of its services free of charge. The center provides access to data and public records via the Internet and on-site microfilms, books and periodicals. The local service also offers historical information about people and families from the Eagle Valley and provides guidance in the research process.
“There is probably something about everybody’s ancestors here,” said Lorynda Fowler, the center’s volunteer supervisor. The library expands its resources every year, recently adding rare pre-Civil War records of slave purchases. Records of Cajun families are another new acquisition.
Genealogy buffs can rent most film records for $3.25 or make copies of records for 5 cents, but, Fowler added, the center’s resources cannot be used by a professional who is getting paid to research.
Joy Mayne, another volunteer, has been researching her own family and helping others with their genealogy searches for more than 25 years. The church encourages members to preserve their family history and Mayne’s interest in genealogy was sparked after church members were challenged to trace four generations, verifying the information through documents including birth, death or marriage certificates.
“It was a challenge and a fun thing to do,” said Mayne, noting that genealogy helps people better understand where they came from.
Fowler and Mayne both said they have found interesting information about their families’ history through the center.
Fowler, for instance, learned about her father’s family, including the location of a great-great grandmother’s 1891 grave. Fowler’s mother used the center’s resources to write a biography about a prominent ancestor, William Wood, who served in the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican American War.
In 1846, the battalion made what was then the longest march in U.S. Army history, traveling 2,400 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, Calif.
Mayne discovered an ancestor who fought and was injured in the Civil War and eventually, located his unmarked grave in Illinois. She petitioned the government to provide a veteran’s tombstone and had the honor of placing the marker on his grave.
The vastness of researching family genealogy can be discouraging. Mayne advised people to start within their own families, gathering records and talking to relatives to get additional information. From there, the library’s resources can help fill in missing pieces and assist with verification.
Families who have already compiled their history can also add the information to the library’s collection by archiving the information on a CD-ROM and sending it to the center.
“It is interesting to know about the people that got you to this country and what they went through to do it,” Folwer said. “We come from a lot of different people and places. It’s a great American melting pot.”
The center is open by appointment only. For information call 524-7194 or log onto http://www.familysearch.org.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.