Why the Ukrainian director of state archives and a Chilean genealogist came to RootsTech

FamilySearch has partnered with director of Ukraine’s state archival services to accelerate the preservation of records in the conflict-torn country

Since 2019, Anatolii Khromov has served as the director of Ukraine’s state archival services and partnered with FamilySearch to preserve millions of images. 

During 2022, the 47-year-old who holds multiple graduate degrees collaborated with FamilySearch to triple the number of cameras digitizing records in Ukraine due to potential destruction as part of the country’s ongoing conflict.

“We need many years to digitize all our archives,” Khromov said. “Preserving records is very important for us.”

Khromov was one of many notable visitors who traveled to RootsTech 2023, March 2-4, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Gonzalo Luengo, a professional genealogist from Chile, was another distinguished guest at the global family history gathering.

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Saving records in Ukraine

In the past, FamilySearch has devoted digitizing resources to countries following a natural disaster to help preserve records. For example, cameras were sent to the Philippines after a typhoon wreaked havoc on one area, said Greg Nelson, a content strategist at FamilySearch.

“The only copies that exist now are those digitized records,” Nelson said. “But in periods of active conflict, this [Ukraine] is our first big example.”

During 2022, FamilySearch worked with Khromov to increase the number of digitizing cameras in Ukraine from 12 to 35 to help accelerate the process of preserving records.

Nelson praised the work of Khromov and his team for their work and generating awareness about the importance of record preservation. Khromov has at times been shorthanded because those working with him were called up to military service. 

Anatolii Khromov attends events at RootsTech 2023.
Anatolii Khromov serves as the director of Ukraine’s state archival services. Khromov has partnered with FamilySearch to help digitize millions of records. He attended RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, March 3, 2023. | Trent Toone, Church News

“A good camera operator will do about 500,000 images per year. We are getting 750,000 to 800,000, even during a war,” Nelson said. “To operate like he has with all of this, under these circumstances, is incredible.”

Khromov made his first-ever trip to the United States to meet with FamilySearch to discuss moving forward at an accelerated pace.

Khromov hopes to see an event like RootsTech in Ukraine some day. 

“Genealogy is important for Ukraine,” said the father of three sons, with the youngest born one month ago. “We are in a difficult part of our history, but we have an amazing history.”

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The Chilean genealogist

Luengo said it took him three flights over a span of 35 hours to get from Santiago, Chile, to RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gonzalo Luengo, a genealogist from Chile, shows off a custom-designed hoodie featuring his family tree at RootsTech.
Gonzalo Luengo, a genealogist from Chile, shows off a custom-designed hoodie featuring his family tree at RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, March 3, 2023. | Trent Toone, Church News

“With all the Latter-day Saints going to Chile to serve missions, why is there not a direct flight from Santiago to Salt Lake City?” he said. 

The 36-year-old has lived his entire life in the city of Chillán, a five-hour bus ride south of Santiago. There he works as a professional genealogist, an English school teacher and serves as a volunteer in the local FamilySearch center

What is unique about Luengo’s FamilySearch service is that he isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — he is a Catholic. Latter-day Saints who frequent the center are often surprised when they learn he isn’t a Latter-day Saint, although he says he is a proud graduate of the Church’s local Institute of Religion and has learned a great deal about the faith and its doctrine.

“I understand and respect all that the Church calls you to do,” he said.

Luengo was 12 years old when his father died. He and his mother struggled for several years. A positive turning point came when a relative sent them a box full of family photos and the young man began to learn about his family history.

While researching his family heritage, Luengo was led to FamilySearch and its vast archive of records. He felt warmly welcomed at the FamilySearch Center and enjoyed his experience so much that he asked if he could be a volunteer consultant, a request that was granted. He said his service in the FamilySearch Center has helped him to heal from many social wounds.

“This is my 15th year working at the FamilySearch Center, and I have made many friends,” he said as tears escaped the corners of his eyes. “The Church has made my life.”

Gonzalo Luengo, a genealogist from Chile, attends RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, March 3, 2023.
Gonzalo Luengo, a genealogist from Chile, attends RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, March 3, 2023. | Trent Toone, Church News

As a genealogist, Luengo has researched the family trees of several Chilean celebrities, including musical artist Paloma Mami and actor Pedro Pascal, known for his role in “The Mandalorian” and other films. 

This was Luengo’s first year attending RootsTech in person. He has appreciated the opportunity to meet many people in person for the first time.

“For me, genealogy is another way to see the world from above for a moment and understand that we are all together, connected, that we cannot live apart,” he wrote in a FamilySearch guest blog post.

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