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Posted 30 Apr 2001   For week ended April 20, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 17Apr01

By Kent Larsen

Efforts of 12,000 LDS Volunteers Bear Fruit Today

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of three guests of honor at the Ellis Island National Monument this morning for the dedication of the Island's American Family Immigration History Center. The ceremony today, which also features US Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Ellis Island Foundation Founding Chairman Lee Iacocca, will also mark the official availability of a 22-million record database compiled by 12,000 LDS volunteers.

The center is the Ellis Island genealogical library, a state-of-the-art computer facility located in the Island's main building. It will house the huge database of every immigrant that legally entered the US through Ellis Island and other New York ports between 1892 and 1924, the peak years of the immigration. In the center, the data will be available through 31 computer terminals, and users will be able to then take the information discovered to 10 special booths that will allow users to create web-based genealogical scrapbooks. Access to the terminals and booths in the center will cost $5 per half hour. The database will also be available for free on the Internet starting today.

The celebration held today recognizes the importance of the collection, which includes at least one ancestor of an estimated 40% of all Americans. It is timed for April 17th because today is the anniversary of the day that Ellis Island processed the most immigrants ever -- 11,747 on April 17, 1907. As a result, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the National Genealogical Society and America's Governors have declared today "Ellis Island Family History Day."

For LDS Church members, including the 12,000 members from 2,700 congregations in the US and Canada, today represents the culmination of their labor as the database comes online. According to the LDS Church, those volunteers logged over 5 million hours during seven years transcribing the records from ship passenger manifests that often were photocopies or microfilm copies of faded and damaged hand-written documents. The documents were also sometimes difficult simply because of the nature of the immigration. "You might be transcribing the names of individuals who were immigrating from Greece, then a couple of lines later there's someone who's coming from Italy." said Wayne Metcalfe, who helped direct the project for the LDS Church. "When your native language is English and you're trying to transcribe these names, it presents a real challenge."

Metcalfe also oversaw a group of 100 full-time volunteers at the LDS Church's Family History Library in Salt Lake City, who coordinated the efforts, ensuring accuracy and making corrections as necessary. He estimates that the project would have cost up to $10 million without the volunteer labor.

"Our volunteers really put their hearts into this project," said Peggy Crook, who oversaw volunteers from an LDS ward in Sandy, Utah. "The incentive for many of them was knowing they had relatives who immigrated to the United States and arrived at Ellis Island."

Given the breadth and size of the data, the demand for the information should be huge, "There are a lot of people who are anxious to see this information," said Metcalfe, "This is the tool everybody's waiting for to go back to Ellis Island and find their ancestors." Elder Richard Turley Jr., managing director of the Family and Church History Department of the Church says that the Church is pleased to have compiled the data, "It's a marvelous way of helping people in this nation of immigrants to establish a tie."

Meanwhile, the Utah Genealogical Association's 2001 conference ended this past Saturday at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. An article on the conference in Monday's Salt Lake Tribune reports that Genealogy is the fourth most popular hobby in the U.S and the third most popular topic on the Internet. "It's the third most popular topic people hit on the Internet, right after pornography and finance," said UGA conference chairwoman Marilyn Markham.

The conference helped visitors learn about the newest technology available to genealogists. Markham says that technology has transformed genealogy, allowing researchers to gain access to information once available only to genealogists in seconds instead of years. "The Computer Age has been a boon to genealogy," she said.


Searching for ancestors gets easier with Ellis Island database
Boston Globe (AP) 17Apr01 I6
By Hannah Wolfson: Associated Press

Sec. Norton to Participate in Dedication of History Center
USNewswire 16Apr01 N6

Family Trees Get New Link
(Long Island) NY Newsday 16Apr01 I6
By Mae M. Cheng: Staff Writer

LDS Church Helped Create Online Ellis Island Records
Salt Lake Tribune 17Apr01 I6
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

Passing Through, They Left a Mark
Los Angeles Times 16Apr01 I6
By Robert Strauss: Special to the Times
Ellis Island immigrant manifests will be available online and at the national monument.

Genealogy Becomes Third Most-Popular Hobby
Salt Lake Tribune 16Apr01 N6
By Mark Eddington: Salt Lake Tribune


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