Mesa center helping families discover roots - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa center helping families discover roots

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Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014 12:48 pm

Family is at the heart of the Mormon religion, so their dedication to genealogy should come as no surprise.

But, did you know that one of the greatest resources to trace your own ancestry is right here in the Valley?

There's a unique library in the heart of Mesa where dozens of century-old photographs adorn the walls and shelves.

They portray fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, each one depicting the very reason this library exists -- the family.

"If you don't research and find these family members, within a generation or two they are forgotten," Elder Adrian Kuzdas told us.

As I learned, what you can find can be extraordinary.

"I think it's really exciting to have a picture from that far back," says Denise Crawford, a volunteer at the Mesa FamilySearch Library .

If someone wanted to trace their family history, they can do so on the internet. So, why come to this library?

"Because of the 150 missionaries," Kuzdas answers.

Missionaries like Crawford. She and others complete an intensive training through the LDS church on how to navigate 21st century technology on a journey to the past.

"There is no one-stop shopping for family history," Crawford says.

The reason? There are thousands of ancestry websites containing millions of historical records.

"They don't all work the same," warns Crawford.

In addition, many have a yearly subscription cost. But at this library every website can be accessed for free and it's open to anyone of any faith.

"We've had people shout on the floor say ‘I found him! I found him!’ It's, it's a pretty amazing thing to see someone leave, finding someone they've looked for for so long," Kuzdas says.

With Crawford's help, I type in my grandfather's name into the search engine.

"He's going to be found in the 1920 census with his family, as just a little guy," I discover.

And once we found him, I embarked on a thrilling trip through time.

We discovered the original log recording my great-great grandmother's voyage from Austria to the United States in 1906. We also found a photograph from the mid-1800s of my great-great grandfather and muster cards from the Civil War, detailing my great-great-great grandfather's military service.

Each document provides new clues, which grow into new branches on this tree of life.

"And that helps verify this link that this is a true connection," Crawford explains.

But when connections can't be made because records aren't online, you can search the hundreds of thousands of physical documents stored inside the Mesa FamilySearch Library.

"Census records, historical, vital records about families back as far as you could imagine," Kuzdas says.

It's what ranks this Valley location as one of the top three genealogical libraries in the world.

"Family history is really what it's about today, turning that name into a person," says Kuzdas. "You find out what these people were, what they did."

And piece together the past to discover the family who made it possible for you to be here today.

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