By Angela Wallace
OAKLAND, Calif. ? For a first time ever, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Bay Area have established a program to promote family history among Black members as well as members of the community.
In fact, while a handful of members attended a genealogy workshop titled ?Family
History Research for Beginners? Saturday at the Oakland Temple Stake Center, the majority of participants were nonmembers from the community. Organizers also had the workshop broadcasted to a local community center in Eastmont Mall as well as churches in Sacramento, San Francisco and Fresno, Calif.
?Our vision was to cover more people than one workshop with a message on family history,? said Ron McClain, director of the project. ?We?re pleased with the numbers and those who have come, but our main objective is to test this and make it work. To me, making it work is more important than the numbers.?
Because many of the people in the inner cities use public transportation or do not drive, the telecast enabled many more Blacks to hear the message of family history than the group of 60 people who came to the Stake Center.
?With this being telecasted, everyone is on the same playing field and it?s all at the same speakers at the same time,? said Martha Swisher, a member of the African American Historical Genealogy Society. ?This was awesome, and I hope each year it progresses. Next year, we will have a good base.?
With the help of McClain and a public affairs committee, this program should spread to Black communities across the West via Church satellite transmission feeds in the next few years.
?Next year, we?ll go to other cities in the rest of the West like Seattle, Portland, L.A., Albuquerque, Phoenix, Dallas and wherever we can go,? McClain said.
Along with publicizing to senior citizen centers, libraries, high schools, middle schools and different churches in the area, missionary efforts also contributed to the success of this project.
While organizers started planning this program last summer, approval from church leaders in Salt Lake City helped make this dream a reality and gave organizers confidence and support to move forward.
Betty Stevenson, who attended the workshop at the Stake Center, said doing her genealogy had been a tough road after joining the church in 1981, and she had been confronted with resistance from her family.
?I didn?t really know about genealogy when I joined the church, but I realized it in a class,? she said. ?I had some hard times because none of my family was members and they didn?t know about it either. I had a hard time learning because I couldn?t find anything, but once I found my grandfather, I got hooked.?
Although she enjoys researching her own family and enjoys learning about the history of Blacks Latter-day Saints, she said family history is such an essential part of the church.
?That?s the whole point, that we are all related by blood,? she said. ?I have realized that the mission of the church is connect all humans together.?