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‘Gift of Family History’ project kicks off with presentation to library director

Buzzy Nielsen, director of the Hood River County Library, was recently given a “Gift of Family History” by the staff of the Mid-Columbia Family History Center in Hood River. The gift was two volumes of his compiled family history.

Thirteen staff members, all volunteers, worked on the project for eight months, and spent approximately 175 hours completing the research. Each volume was separated into multiple families, with pedigree charts, birth, marriage and death records, census records, military and land records, ship passenger lists, and even family pictures.

The “Gift of Family History” project was conceived by Scott Webster, owner of The Fruit Company, and Linda Colton, volunteer director of the Mid-Columbia Family History Center, as a way to let the community know about the services and resources available at the Family History Center. The Center is a branch of the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This project will be ongoing, with a recipient chosen from the Hood River Valley and White Salmon area every six months or so; the Center is for the benefit of community members on both sides of the Columbia River. Family history books are currently ready for presentation to Joe Petshow and Kirby Neumann-Rea, publisher and editor of the Hood River News, respectively.

Most of the research for Nielsen’s gift was done using the online subscription databases available for free at the Family History Center in Hood River, such as Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest and World Vital Records. In some cases, the family history staff was able to trace Nielsen’s ancestral lines back eight or more generations, all documented carefully with copies of the original records.

Nielsen was very grateful for the “incredible” work done by the volunteers. “It was fascinating. The pictures were great. I have shown the documents to my family, and plan to share it with some other relatives down in California.”

He was particularly amazed by pictures of his paternal grandparents in their youth — “the first photos I’ve ever seen of them at any age. That was quite powerful.”

The volunteers who staff the Family History Center live in Hood River, Parkdale, Odell, Mosier, Mt. Hood, White Salmon and Lyle. The Family History Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

All of the services and databases are free to the public, and community members can receive help with whatever they would like to accomplish with their family history, such as tracing Mayflower and Revolutionary War ancestors, or preparing beautiful heritage books to share with their families.

“While the staff can’t fly people all over the world to find their family, such as in (television) programs like Who Do You Think You Are?,” director Linda Colton says, “the skills and resources available at the Center will allow people to trace their families and find records from almost every country in the world. Who knows what interesting stories and surprises you may find about your family?”

For more information about the Mid-Columbia Family History Center, or to suggest local recipients for the Gift of Family History project, community members may call 541-490-0344 (Director Linda Colton) or 541-386-3539 (during Center hours).

The next community workshop will be on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Family History Center, with classes available for beginners and advanced researchers.

For details on this free workshop, call 541-490-0344. The Mid-Columbia Family History Center is located at 18th and May streets in Hood River, at the side entrance of the LDS Church.

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