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Family History Center Can Uncover Patriots, Mobsters, Everyone Else in Your Past

Candra Kerbow looks through family history documents at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Llano Family History Center, 1675 RR 261 in Buchanan Dam. The center lets people trace their family tree at no charge. People don’t have to be a member of the church. The center is holding a grand opening/open house from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21. Call (830) 613-7181 for more information. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

BUCHANAN DAM — Candra Kerbow didn’t pay much attention years ago in high school history, but now, as she digs into her family’s own past, she wishes she did.

“It’s really amazing,” Kerbow said in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Llano Family History Center. “I’ve learned so much about my family, where we came from … the incredible things some of my family did.”

Her eyes really lit up as she brought up her connection with the American battle for independence.

“I have ancestors that were captains and generals in the American Revolution,” Kerbow said. Then, she paused for a moment while a little grin crept across her face. “On my mom’s side, my great-grandfather was a mobster.”

Welcome to the world of family history research. It’s not just looking up dates, places of birth, and deaths. Through the Family History Center, people can really bring their past to life.

“Genealogy is building your family tree,” said Kris Richins, the center’s director. “Family history is making your family tree come alive.”

The center is holding a grand opening and open house from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at the church, 1675 RR 261 in Buchanan Dam. The event features several speakers, including Richins, who will discuss “How to Use” from 9:15-10 a.m.; Paul Grinager on how to use “Make Memories” in the search program from 10:15-11 a.m.; and Lily Merx, who will share tips on indexing your family information from 11:15 a.m.-noon.

Every program is free, and the public is invited.

Richins said many people might have the idea that the Family History Center is just for church members, but it’s a service for anyone interested in discovering their family history.

Kerbow isn’t a church member and has even begun assisting others in their search.

Beginning genealogy and family history research can seem daunting, especially with all the websites and services available. The Latter-day Saints, however, provide great research resources, assistance, and expertise — at no cost.

Kerbow started her search with no experience, but through some guidance, she’s become quite adept at uncovering the trail of her relatives — both maternal and paternal.

“I love it. I can’t get enough of it,” she said.

Kerbow has become somewhat of her family’s historian, passing on information she learns to others in her family. “I tell my family about everything I learn. They’re just amazed at some of the things our family did. It’s incredible.”

The Family History Center doesn’t just come up with dates. Through a wide and vast database, available through a number of genealogy and family research sites, people can find documents, photos, letters, and even share their own stories and recollections for all posterity.

During one search, Kerbow found a handwritten will from a relative who served in the American Revolution. Through that piece, she was able to begin to put together a better picture of the man and how he lived.

“When you find these documents, pictures, and even stories by other people, you really start to get a sense of who these relatives of yours were,” Richins added.

Through, where the center volunteers conduct most of their research, everything a person adds to their family story and line is kept and stored. The entire site gets backed up four times a day in different locations around the globe: Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., and London.

“And there’s one more place, but we don’t know where,” Richins added. “And, as you know how things change, how we store information changes, this is changed with it as well. That way, it’s always there.”

One of the big projects the Latter-day Saints is tackling now is digitizing all the microfiche and microfilms of information gathered over the years. Much of it has already be changed, but that which hasn’t is still available to search.

Sometimes, a search takes you in a direction you weren’t expecting. Richins recalled a local 82-year old man who began his search, even took a DNA test. When the results came back, Richins was able to connect him with a stepsister he never knew existed.

The two met for the first time this year in Waco.

Finding relatives one didn’t even know they had is a small — though amazing — part of family history. The main thing is giving people a chance to connect with their relatives from years past, even centuries ago.

“I’ve always had pride in my family and who we were, but learning some of this, what they accomplished, that just makes me even more prouder,” Kerbow said.

Along with the grand opening and open house, the Family History Center is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon. Call (830) 613-7181 for more information.

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