Family history is something that fascinates people of all ages. There is something about wanting to know stories about your ancestors. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has one of the largest record systems in the world. And access to this is not limited to church members.
“Really, it comes down to families,” Jon Davies, the Family History Center director for the Queen Creek East Stake, said. “The church as a whole is really focused on families, both those that have passed away and those who are living.”
There are many motivations for doing family research.
“Good, bad or indifferent, we all have a family,” Jeanne Koniuszy, a missionary at the Mesa Family History Center, said.
“I just like to feel connected to these ancestors, who have made me who I am,” Rebecca Pofahl, a church member said. “They’ve lived and they matter and by doing this, by keeping the records, I feel like that shows that they matter.”
“It’s important to look up our ancestors and do the temple ordinances that they are not able to do for themselves, and I have finally got to a point in my life where I can work on this,” Linda McLennan, a church member, said. “I love it; it’s great.”
“We are able to help them obtain blessings through the temple, to be able to be, through our beliefs, returned to our heavenly father,” Mr. Davies said.
Family history is a popular hobby not just with the Latter-day Saints in the U.S., but throughout the world.
“It’s the third largest hobby in the world,” Ms. Koniuszy said. “Coin collecting, stamp collecting and family history or genealogy are the top hobbies world-wide.”
And the Internet has made the search even easier. Genealogy is the second most searched category on the Internet.
“The only thing that has edged it out is pornography,” Ms. Koniuszy said.
There are about 4,000 Family Search Libraries in the world, Ms. Koniuszy said. Until recently, the second largest Family Search Library was on the grounds of the Mesa Temple, 101 S. Lesueur. The largest is in Salt Lake City. The Mesa FamilySearch Library center was closed because of multiple problems with the building, Ms. Koniuszy said.
“We were getting ready to do a renovation and when they got in there, they found multiple, multiple problems,” Ms. Koniuszy said.
In a statement sent to the Independent from church Public Affairs Specialist Jennifer Wheeler; Sherrill Harmon, director of the Mesa Family Search Library, said, “While the Mesa Family Search Library was being remodeled, structural problems were discovered. The church is currently deciding how to proceed to best meet the needs of community members who are interested in connecting with their ancestors.”
Ms. Wheeler declined to explain further on the structural problems during a phone interview on Aug. 27.
The center has been closed for nearly a year. According to the FamilySearch Library’s Facebook page, the original closure was scheduled from Nov. 24 to Jan. 3 with a large re-opening celebration scheduled on Jan. 5. On Dec. 24, the page posted that the closure was delayed to the third week of January. On Jan. 14, another post was added that said that the library had no date for opening. The most recent post on the status of the closure, on May 25, said, “The news is that the brethren are evaluating the possibility of an even more extensive expansion for us.”
“We are going to be having a meeting at the end of the month,” Ms. Koniuszy said. “Now they’re in the process of looking at the longer vision of what will best serve the valley.”
Just because the FamilySearch Library in Mesa is closed, does not mean that a person cannot use the resources of the church. The library is using a training center on the west side of the Mesa Temple from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday mornings until the Family Search Library is open for patrons.
The temple centers have been accessible to the general public since 1933, when the training center building opened. In 1993 the library moved to the east side and stayed there until it was closed for the renovations, Ms. Koniuszy said.
While researching one’s family, a person often discovers stories of ancestors he or she may never have heard of. Mr. Davies found out that one of his relatives baptized George Washington.
“It was neat to be able to see that connection and how close he was to George Washington, one of the founding fathers to this country,” Mr. Davies said.
Ms. Koniuszy has found out that she is related to Roger Williams, who was one of the puritan founders in Pennsylvania.
“He is actually my direct line great-grandfather like 20 or 18 or 17, something like that,” Ms. Koniuszy said. “But the best thing was being able to tie the family together and to find the documents that said this is little pieces of their lives.”
Ms. Pofahl grew up hearing stories of a great-grandfather who was a horrible man, she said.
“But as we studied and learned more about him, we have learned how he served in the war for a long, long time. He experienced horrible things and there’s more to him and these people than a little bit,” she said. “We learned that he actually was a good man and to me that matters. I want to share that with my kids.”
But not everything a person finds will be good stories.
“You find lots of in-laws and outlaws,” Ms. Koniuszy said.
There are six stakes in Queen Creek listed online. To find one near you, visit www.lds.org/maps
For more information on the Mesa Family Search Library, visit www.mesafsl.org. On the library’s website, there are free research templates to help get started. To conduct research while the center is closed, visit the training center on the west side of the Mesa Temple grounds.
The library is also sponsoring a Family History Conference on Oct. 24 at the Church’s Tempe Institute of Religion, 1000 S. McAllister on Arizona State University’s campus. Registration will open on Sept. 9 at www.mesafsl.org and those interested can sign up for any of the 55 classes being offered free of charge.
To access the church’s free family research website, visit www.familysearch.org. The Family Search Library has a phone number that is updated with information on the renovations; call 480-964-1200.
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