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For week ended February 06, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by 'Joyce H Feustel'

Family Centers Open Doors to Self-Discovery
Washington Post pgV03 6Feb00 D1
By Maria Glod: Washington Post Staff Writer

ASHBURN, VIRGINIA -- Joan Sanchez slowly scrolled through a list of names memorialized in a long ago census, searching for links to her past. Each name, Sanchez said, could fill another gap in her family tree. It is a journey began nearly two years ago to satisfy a longing to learn more about her roots. By delving into resources available through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she has forged ties with family members past and present she never knew existed.

"I was curious because I didn't know too much about my family. Sometimes you just want to know where you come from. I get so focused on this, it's almost an obsession. You find some information, and you want to know more. Sanchez, who had visited the Hamilton center at least once a week and now plans to help out at the Ashburn center, said that she stumbled upon a mention of her great-grandfather Alexander Troxell early in her search and that now she feels a bond with her ancestor. "When I first found him, he had just gotten married; now he's an old man with kids and grandchildren. I feel like I know these people."

Michael Roueche, a local church leader, said that the Mormons' resource center in Hamilton, which opened about 10 years ago, has been increasingly busy and that members in the eastern part of Loudoun expressed interest in a second center. "There's so much movement of people around the country and around the world that people are just interested in knowing where they fit in. It's about being part of a family." he said.

The Ashburn chapel has about 800 members, and the local stake--which includes Loudoun, Fauquier and Warren counties--has about 3,000 members, Roueche said. Both of Loudoun's Family History Centers as well as all other Family History Centers allow immediate access to the church's International Genealogy Index, a database that includes birth and death information for more than 285 million people worldwide.

The centers also can link users to military records, periodicals and the church's Ancestral File, which contains family histories submitted by members. For a nominal fee that covers shipping costs, visitors can even order microfilm or microfiche copies of census lists or other records so they can examine the documents for clues to their past.

Walt Scott said "These records have been accumulated from all over the world," The original records are a great resource to verify information passed on by family members or discovered through an Internet search. Scott carries a family history his mother started in the 1940s in a thick loose-leaf binder. The collection dates to 1300, and last year Scott made copies as gifts for his five children.

"The first place you start is with yourself," said Bruce Orr, who helps run the center. "You put in the information about your mother, or your father or grandfather. You're looking for all these little clues to let you put the pieces together."

During the grand opening at Ashburn, the church is offering seminars in beginning genealogy, more complex searches and genealogy tools available on the Internet.

Judy Spring, a church member who volunteers at the center, who has been studying her family tree for about 10 years, said "I love genealogy, You eat, sleep and drink it. I can't get enough."

Spring said that after years of painstaking seaching through marriage and death records, census data and old newspaper clippings, she even has had dreams about her relatives. "I see my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Carter sitting at a table with a candle, She's just a little girl. She's telling me I can find her people someday."

"It's really exciting, no matter what you find," Sanchez said. "You just dig deeper and deeper. I feel like I've just gotten started."


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