Canal town days visitors search family histories in the grandin building


"THE FAMILYSEARCH PROGRAM BROUGHT PEOPLE HERE WHO HAD NEVER BEEN IN THE GRANDIN PRESS BUILDING BEFORE."With "Canal Town Days" turning people's thoughts to their heritage in upstate New York, it seemed appropriate to tie the Church's FamilySearch program into the celebration.

The Canal Days event commemorates the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and an estimated 50,000 people participated.Through newspaper articles, the Church advertised that during Canal Days it would be transporting its FamilySearch computer program from the Family History Library in Pittsford, N.Y., to the Old Grandin Press Building on Palmyra's Main Street. The Grandin Building is where Joseph Smith had the first copies of the Book of Mormon printed.

People from seven upstate counties were lined up early at the Grandin Building door on Sept. 18 in anticipation of the 10 a.m. opening of the FamilySearch demonstration.

"The FamilySearch program brought people here who had never been in the Grandin Press Building before," said Murray Woods, supervisor of the building. "Prior to Canal Town Days a quick search had been done for the ancestry of the mayor, the newspaper editor and one of the members of the [localT historical society. That created interest as well."

Marily Dahneke, a member of the Palmyra Ward and a worker at the Pittsford library, said, "It was good to meet some of my Palmyra neighbors and to share with them, not only the Grandin Press Building, but the FamilySearch program as well.

"They were all excited. Most of them did not realize that we had a program that could give them such quick access to the records in Salt Lake. They will definitely be coming to the library in Pittsford. This made our presence felt here in a very strong way."

Steve Kuntz, a young Palmyra resident with a strong background in another church, read the story about the FamilySearch program in the newspaper and showed up at the Grandin Building with great anticipation. He had been doing research on his family for several years and was looking for a breakthrough on one of his lines.

When he sat down at the computer, he was amazed at how quickly the information spilled out. He wanted to know why the Church was spending so much money and effort in such a program. When told that the genealogical research is rooted in theology which holds that the family relationship is eternal and that God cares for all of His children equally and wants them back with Him through baptism, Kuntz was thoughtful.

Then he said, "I belonged to a religion club at Cornell [UniversityT and do you know, that is the very question I asked: What about all the people who have not had the opportunity for baptism?"

He was at the Pittsford library the following Saturday and made a breakthrough on his genealogy.

Thom Bartow of the Pittsford Ward was one of the Family History specialists on duty at the Grandin Building and was pleased to see the level of interest and excitement generated by the people who took part.

"They all came because they had read the story in the newspaper," he said. "In the first hour, a Palmyra resident requested a search of his direct ancestor. Together we found this individual's birth record in the British Isles section of the [International Genealogical IndexT.

"After he left, Barbara Black and Agnes Black Turner, two sisters from Port Byron, N.Y., a town located two counties east of Palmyra, asked me to look up the exact same 18th century ancestor. I was delighted to give these ladies not only their ancestor's information, but also the address of their cousin."

Brother Bartow told about another area resident. "He was nervous when he came in. He had never been in an LDS building before and expected to be indoctrinated. He had mountains of family records and wanted to know what to do with them. I told him to meet me at the Pittsford library on Wednesday night and I would show him what could be done with them.

"He brought his young son with him who was computer literate. We showed them how to enter the information on disks for Salt Lake. They stayed for 21/2 hours and will be back again next week. What a great experience that was and how grateful we are for that information."

The man, talking later to an LDS friend, said: "When I was driving home from the library that night, my son said, `You know, Dad, that man was really a professional. He never preached Mormonism even once.' "

Brother Bartow said that while assisting these people, he was impressed by the historical surroundings.

"We had set up the 20th century information-age computer next to the early 19th century printing presses displayed in the Grandin Press LDS Visitors Center," he said. "Thirty minutes away at Xerox Corporation's main facility, the engineers have developed a book-binding process that allows any family history buff the capability to publish hard-bound copies of their family history, using only a personal computer and the local quick-copy center. We've come a long way from the old Smith press that printed the Book of Mormon here."

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