Melanie Parton, from the Sydney suburb of Minchinbury, is one of a vast army of Latter-day Saints committed to bringing the world's ancestry to light. She has recorded facts from the original birth and death records of 21,115 people in less than two years. That is not remarkable for a Mormon, except that Melanie suffers from Spinocerebellar Ataxia. Over time she has lost most of her physical dexterity.
With resolute determination to catalogue ancestral information for others, Melanie continued this work, known as "indexing," with one finger. It was a painstaking process--a single keystroke calling for her utmost concentration and willpower, as she transcribed images from historical records.
What drove Melanie to join the thousands of Mormons who give of their time and energy to the project? In a word, Service. At the heart of Latter-day Saint beliefs is the desire to follow Jesus Christ--to go about doing good as He did in his life. In family history work, they find joy in knowing that what they do helps others discover their ancestral roots.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the largest reservoir of genealogical date in the world. Church representatives travel to all possible nations, asking permission to film archival records. In return, a copy of the microfilm is given to the original record repository. Census, military, marriage, cemetery, immigration, birth and death records are sought.
After the filming, indexers take over. The records are translated, if necessary, and then digitized into a searchable format so they can be found electronically by name and so the original image of each document can be viewed without searching through reels of microfilm. The work requires untold amounts of time from Church volunteer indexers and translators.
The original microfilms are stored in a temperature and humitidty-controlled storage facility carved out of a granit mountain in Utah, USA. See the Granite Mountain facility on this brief YouTube film:
Copies of information on the films are made and can be shipped on request to genealogists in most countries. The Church resources are offered at no charge at www.FamilySearch.org and at any of the 272 Family History Centres in Australia.
The preservation of family history and other records by the Church has proved to be a boon in times of disaster for some countries. One Pacific island nation suffered a cyclone, in the early 1990's, which destroyed all of its local records. The Church was able to restore the data from its archives.
Latter-day Saints are also committed to tracing their own genealogies. They gather what information they can in order to preserve their ancestral lagacy, believing that the more they know about their ancestors, the more they know about themselves.
Though Melanie can no longer index, she is an avid genealogist. With help from the director of the Family History Centre near her home, she is uncovering her ancestry and that of her husband.
To locat the Family History Centre nearest you, go to Family Search Centres.