Event offers guide to the past

March 07, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - "I started out on my own and I need a little help," Allie Kohler said.

Kohler, a retired Waynesboro school teacher, wasn't the only one in need of help Thursday, the first day of a three-day seminar on genealogy research at the Fairview Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints outside Waynesboro.

Hundreds of amateur and experienced family history researchers are expected to attend the event at the church at the intersection of Old Forge and Mentzer Gap roads east of Waynesboro. It runs from 1 to 9 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The event, the first of its kind sponsored by the church, is called Unlocking Your Past, A Family History Community Event.


Ronald Williamson of Waynesboro, chairman of the event, said people research genealogy to learn why they exist and to get a sense of their place in the world.

"It tells you what genes are flowing in you," he said.

The Mormon Church, which believes families are the core unit of society, is a world leader in collecting and storing worldwide genealogical records. The church carved a huge depository into a granite hillside in Salt Lake City in the early 1950s to store microfilmed records.

The vault is open to genealogists as are the 1,500 local family history centers around the world, including the one in the Waynesboro church. They all are connected to the Salt Lake City repository.

Every 10 years, the United States government releases 70-year-old census records. This year, the 1930 census figures became available to genealogists.

But it's the Internet that's turning things around, researchers say.

"It's a fantastic device," Williamson said. "You can type in a family name and go right to a genealogical site. You get organized facts without going through tedious paperwork. They have revitalized the research."

Mark Wisner, 45, of Quincy, Pa., was sitting at a computer Thursday ready to help anyone who needed it. He's been involved in genealogy research for 10 years.

"I'm researching my family history. I've gone back to 1739 in England on my mother's side and to 1793 on my father's side in Germany. I've found cousins I didn't know I had. We swap information," he said.

Noel DeLuna, 57, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., has been dabbling in genealogy for a few years.

"I never really jumped into it," she said. "I've never had much information at my fingertips until I came here today."

She said she learned what the center has to offer, learned about its computers and which Web site to visit.

Paul and Pat Fogle, who live at Quincy (Pa.) Village, were two of a dozen presenters at the seminar. Paul has done 25 years of German ancestry research and Pat has just published a family history.

"In genealogy, you start with you and work your way back," said Paul Fogle, who traced his lineage on both sides to the early 1600s. "This is about knowing from whom you evolved. You develop a family history that you can pass on to your children."

One of a dozen signs posted around the church for the seminar reads: "Only a genealogist regards a step back as progress."

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