Learning about genealogy helps people better understand themselves.
It is the reason a group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are helping church members and non-members to connect with their ancestors through easy access to historical records.
Sister Schwenke is a Temple Family History Consultant. Yesterday in Pesega, they held an information session for their church members to increase awareness of this online resource available for Samoans all over the world to use.
The website, Familysearch.org, which was historically known as the genealogical society of Utah, is dedicated to preserving the records from all around the world, including Samoa.
“The church has access to all of these informations,” said Sister Schwenke. “Our family’s church too they have catalogues that have all this information at family search in Utah. Headquarters in Utah will send out all these information to family histories so you can view all those things and you can gather information that you need.”
According to Sister Schwenke, there are family history consultants at every chapel in Samoa who can help people put together their family genealogy.
“We are out here to reveal to the families that there are resources that’s available to them and we just want to teach them how to tap into those resources.”
“For some of us, we don’t know who our grandparents or great grandparents are so this will help them search for their family members and so every Chapel has their own family history consultant and that’s the responsibility of the consultant to help those individuals. This information is not only available to members of the church but non-members are welcome to use it.”
In order to start your family tree and have access to information’s to build your genealogy, people must register on the familysearch.org website to ensure privacy.
However, once your family tree starts to go back several generations, it will link to other members’ family trees that you are connected with.
“As you fill in the family members that you know, a lot of our families are doing this and so once you’ve gone three or four generations back, automatically your tree will connect with other relatives who around the world are doing this, next thing you know you’ll have 15-20 generations. So what happens is you’re going to start pulling your family tree sideways.”
“All of Samoa is included, Manu’a, Tutuila and Savaii. The church have massive amount of information but we can’t be going out there and giving out people’s information because there is sensitivity around the information especially because our people are fighting over lands, the church does not make this information available on Google, you will have to register before you can see all of it.”
Photographs, documents and digital films are available through the family search website and Sister Schwenke says this genealogy library is going to be a valuable resource especially with family disputes over land in Samoa.
“We’re fighting for our lands and this could be a resource and bridges for this, a lot of families overseas are reaching out to find out about missing generations. The Mormon Church and the Government worked together over generations in Samoa to collate the information and the church were able to digitise all these films; it’s all in the vault in Utah, a mountain of information that’s in there for safe keeping.”
Sister Schwenke is aware of the sensitivity around sharing of information regarding genealogy but she encourages those who feel that way to come forth and have a consultation because it’s important for the younger generation to know who their biological relatives are.
“We will be more than happy to meet those people and then we can talk about it. There’s secrecy because firstly it’s about land. Secondly, title and third reason is because there are lots of out-of-wedlock family members and people not wanting to have information out there in the open to reveal names of the father. There are grandparents who had many marriages, some of them don’t want that information out there but what they don’t realise is that there are children involved.
“There is a new generation who are very open and longing to claim their identity, people want to know who am I? Where did I come from? Who is my mother, who is my father? They have that right to find out their background because they are old enough.”
Before it went digital, FamilySearch was historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah which was founded in 1894.