African-Americans search for their roots

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles stake center recently became home for a day to the African American Heritage Society and some 500 investigators searching for their "roots."

The occasion was the annual Los Angeles African-American Family History Conference hosted by the Church. The conference welcomed hundreds of Los Angeles residents interested in learning how to trace their families. Computer banks were made available, and top genealogy experts were on hand to give personal help to visitors. The Family History Conference offered seminars on everything from searching the Internet to planning a family reunion.

Until now, black Americans have had great difficulty in tracing their family trees. Today the Church's computerized releases of the 1880 U.S. Census and Freedman's Bank records are receiving broad thanks from African-American leaders who hail the gifts as "a ray of light" in their communities.

KABC Television News anchor Marc Brown, who has made his own family search, addressed the conference and shared his family history. He encouraged African-Americans to "take advantage of the records now available to you to find your people, because by doing so, you will discover yourself."

The 1880 Census marks the first time in American history that African-Americans were "counted." The work of the Church in computerizing these crucial historic records is making it possible for those of African descent to delve into their lost pasts and will aid in preserving many treasured African-American histories.

"We have found that in this community, people are truly hungry to learn about their families," said event organizer Steve Gilliand. "The blessings of the gospel are reaching out into the world in new and remarkable ways."

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