Church Assists in Family History in South Africa

  By Sister Ruth Naylor

  • 4 September 2013

A Church-sponsored family history presentation held at the House of David Jewish Centre in Johannesburg

Knowing who you are and where you came from is like finding a piece of a puzzle-- it gives you identity.

The Genealogical Society of Utah was established in 1894 to encourage Church members to research their family history.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the largest genealogical library in the world and provides access to many collections of records, with more than two billion names of deceased people. Recognizing that millions of people throughout the world have their own reasons to be interested in family history, the Church makes its collections of microfilmed and digitized records freely available to everyone.

The Church also operates one of the most popular genealogical services on the Internet  free of charge.  The site contains a billion names from over 110 countries and territories including the 1880 United States Census, the 1881 Canadian Census, the 1881 British Census, the Ellis Island database, and the Freedman’s Bank Records.  However, most of the Church’s vast collection of genealogical resources is yet to come online. The Church is undertaking a massive digitization project to bring most of the additional collection of the Family History Library, worldwide, online over the next few years.

Recently the Church actively participated in two events to help the people of South Africa understand the importance of family history. 

The first event was a Family History Conference held in Bloemfontein on April 6, 2013. Nontuli Makhetha hosted the event. President Moroole, second counselor of the Bloemfontein District of the Church, stated that the objective of the Family History Conference was to know what family history is all about, why we should do it, and how we can get started.  Knowing who you are and where you came from is like finding a piece of a puzzle-- it gives you identity.

Another speaker was Dr. Mathole Motshekga, African National Congress' Chief Whip, and member of the African National Congress' Department of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He said, “What you are doing as a Church” (namely Family History) ”is something we should be doing as a nation and a continent as a whole.”  He stated that many wars have been fought because of problems of identity. 

Dr. Mathole Motshekga speaking at Family History Conference in Bloemfontein

Vicky Heunis from the War Museum in Bloemfontein thanked the Church for helping them digitize their records.  Full-time senior missionaries worked in the museum for four months digitizing records and photographs.

The black role in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 was discussed by Rodney Constantine.  He compiles records of those who served in wars, including records from century-old African cemeteries.

The second event was a presentation held at the House of David Jewish Centre in Johannesburg on June 2, 2013. Sister Naylor led a discussion and showed family history slides and a video. She was assisted by Sisters Taylor and Kraczek. They informed the participants about the Church’s website The presentation was very well received, with a question and answer period following.

Those wanting more information on researching family history can call the Family History Centre at 001-645-1461 or visit the centre at 5A Jubilee Road in Parktown.