Youngsters search for roots and history

May 12, 2011 5:38:53 PM PDT
What started as s black history event in Oakland, has become a catalyst for long-term research. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the largest collection of genealogy records in the world.

"To find our ancestors -- and we do work in the temples -- to bind families eternally," said Carol Holladay with the Mormon Temple Family History Center.

Their three billion pages of documents cover more than just their ancestors and the records are open to the public. It's at the Mormon Temple Family History Center in Oakland that a group of East Bay youngsters has come to trace their roots.

"Not a lot of people in my family know where they come from, so I say I should be the one to start," said 18-year-old Elliot Spillard who is part of the ancestry project involving students from two high schools plus foster youth. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson came up with the idea.

"It kind of goes back to the old clich? about knowing where you're from helps you determine your future, so we've actually seen the youth become empowered," said supervisor's assistant Aisha Brown.

Staff from the History Center along with members of the African American Genealogy Society are volunteering their time, and in this technological age more information is readily available, but it's not that easy for everyone.

"If you have relatives who were enslaved, then you have something called the brick wall and it takes you some time to get over that," said Nicka Smith with the African American Geneaology Society. "You need to be really creative."

The Youth Ancestry Project began during Black History Month in February, but organizers were determined to move it beyond a one-time event.

Those who are searching deeds, Census records and old Bibles are now discovering a family tree with more branches.

"So you can walk down the street and know that today, 'This is who I am,'" said Spillard.


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