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Family history becomes 'Primary' interest

The pursuit of family history information probably isn't a "primary" interest of most 11-year-olds. However, more than 13,000 Merrie Miss A and Blazer A Primary students have received an introduction to research through a special program at the Utah Valley Regional Family History Library.

And many of them are returning for more.

Initiated four years ago, Primary Day at the Library attracts about 300Primary students and their leaders each month. F. Haws Durfey, president of the family history library, had the idea for the program in a presidency meeting several years back. He was then serving as first counselor to Alma P. Burton in the library presidency.

"I'll never forget that morning in presidency meeting," Pres. Durfey explained. "We got talking about children, about the disturbances they sometimes caused in the library, and I thought of Proverbs 22:6: `Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.'

"I had a strong feeling about involving children in family history research. I went into the Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City and asked for permission to implement a new program. They thought it would be great if we could do something for the children. We went ahead with this program four years ago after clearing it with our regional representative. We've now had more than 13,000 children go through this library.

"There can't help but be some good that will come out of this program for a lot of these children and some of their parents. We've got testimonies and thank-you letters and living testimonies of parents who now come to the library as a result of their children."

Pres. Durfey related a story shared with him and the staff by the father of a boy who toured the library with his Primary class.

When asked by his son if he could participate in the tour, the father said he "didn't care if he went or not, didn't know where the library was and couldn't care less."

The boy participated and took home information about many of the father's ancestors.

"I saw those ancestors of mine, and I had a change of heart," related the father. "That boy's mother and I are now doing research."

"It's a story of inspiration," Pres. Durfey noted. "We've had different accounts like that."

Children who go through the program spend an hour in the library and do much more than sit and listen. Following a brief orientation, they roll up their sleeves and get to work. And that's when the excitement begins.

"I found him!" one child shouted, after coming across his grandfather's name on microfilm during a recent session.

"I found my grandma," added Monica Patten, 11, of the Lakeridge 4th Ward, Orem Utah Lakeridge Stake. Eleven-year-old Donivan Killpack of the Windsor 1st Ward, Orem Utah Windsor Stake, uncovered information two generations back beyond that for which he was searching.

"I found my grandpa and am looking for my great-grandpa," chimed in Courtney Ferguson, 11, also of the Orem Windsor 1st Ward. "He's been dead a long time. I don't know if they had BYU when he was alive."

"This is great," commented volunteer Helen Anderson. "These are our future genealogists."

Housed in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, the family history library includes a staff of about 350 volunteers and one full-time secretary.

Sister Anderson and Leah Johnson provide a 10- or 15-minute orientation for the children and their teachers, then the group works on the library's 68 microfilm readers.

The program for the children is publicized in bulletins and letters sent to 61 Utah Valley stake presidencies.

Scheduling the Primary groups is no small task and begins two or three months before a visit. Visits are initially scheduled through stake Primary presidencies.

Children are asked to take with them to the library a family group sheet or pedigree chart. They use the microfilm readers to find missing information - with amazing success.

"I have a testimony of what the program is doing," Sister Johnson said. "A counselor in my ward's bishopric once came in with me. We were visiting when a young man shouted, `I found him, I found him.' We stood behind the boy as he recorded the information he was looking for. That child was so excited. These children from the Primary then go back into the home and bring their parents back. I've had some really rich experiences."

And so have the children.

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