Family history and genealogy conference helps searchers connect with their roots

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PROVO, Utah -- Genealogy is often thought of as something done mostly by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but a professor at Brigham Young University said there are more people doing family history work outside of the LDS Church than from within it.

A conference held recently at BYU is a great place for beginners and experts to work on their family histories.

John Best, program administrator in conferences and workshops at BYU, described the appeal.

“Genealogy allows you to see some of your family heroes and to see who you are and see where you came from,” he said.

The 47th annual conference on family history and genealogy just wrapped up at BYU, and this year's theme was: "strengthening ties that bind families together forever."

About 750 people attended the conference, where they shared their enthusiasm for family history.

"It's exciting for them when they start to connect the dots and find their ancestors, to be able to find who a grandfather or a great-grandfather was and to put the story together, what that person did, and to step in their shoes for a time,” Best said.

The conference featured 150 classes, offering training to everyone from amateur to professional.

The event attracted 62 youth from Canada to Texas and California to Florida, who were camping for a week at BYU to learn about genealogy work.

“And that's exciting to see youth excited about family history," Best said.

Mary Hill was among the presenters at the conference, and she said many people don’t know where to start. She told the story of one woman who thought her family was from France or Germany and arrived with the materials available to her.

"She came to the family history center and brought a stack of old photos,” Hill said. “On the back of one of the photos was the name of a town where the picture was taken.  We went to a map and pinpointed it. We now know exactly in the Alsace-Lorraine area where that family came from."

And the purpose of genealogy is not just to learn about long-lost ancestors.

"Really, more than anything else, you get to learn about you, because the more you learn about your family the more that you learn about what makes you you, the more excited you get to realize that you're an amalgamation of many generations,” Genealogist Barry Ewell said.

For more information about family history and genealogy conferences carried out in conjunction with BYU, click here.