NEW YORK, N.Y. On a sunny, but cold, afternoon in New York City on Feb. 19, more than 75 members and others gathered in the Harlem Branch meetinghouse on West 129th St., as part of Black History Month where the New York New York Stake sponsored a one-day African-American Genealogical Conference.
Using a format that encouraged interaction and participation between the audience and presenters, Linda Cameron Myers, the New York stake family history director, gave a presentation explaining how to make a systematic approach to getting started in family history research.
She highlighted the resources available, particularly resources in the African-American community. Attendees received the FamilySearch disc, "African-American Family History Resources," which includes genealogical guides, worksheets and the complete Freedman's Bank Records, an extensive searchable database, as well as other aides.
Sister Myers' knowledge and enthusiasm for genealogical research piqued the interest of many participants and prompted many questions.
Gloria Talley Wilkinson, speaking next, called genealogy "a great learning experience." Sister Wilkinson, vice president for public relations of Zions Bank in Salt Lake City and mother of stake high councilor Winston Wilkinson, shared her experiences of searching family history and the impact it has had on her children and family. The audience responded to her warmth and charm.
Yurwildy Sealy, branch family history chairwoman, urged participants to get busy identifying their ancestors.
Visitors came from the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and Afro-American History and Genealogical Society, as well as other churches and the neighborhood. The Harlem Branch choir sang a spirited rendition of "I Need Thee Every Hour."
Refreshments were served in an area that included materials and displays of family history searches. Contact information was exchanged among the participants and presenters with appointments scheduled for follow-up meetings.
Interest in the conference remained high late into the day. "It's always a good sign when no one wants to leave a conference," noted Claudia Bushman, chairwoman of the Harlem Bridge Builders, a committee organized by the stake to befriend residents of Harlem.
Organizers plan to enlarge the conference next year in the new Harlem meetinghouse, which is under construction around the corner from the current meetinghouse location.