Thursday, July 9, 2009

Around Town: From Zvenigorodka to Ancihuacuaro

Thanks to Denise Hovland, a local historian who has discovered La Cañada’s forgotten heroes and heroines — casualties of World War II and Korea. Thanks to Denise, we’ve been bitten by the genealogy bug.

The new online databases are outstanding. Many of them are free of charge. Others charge a fee.

My friend, Zelda, has traced her roots all the way to the American Revolution. I gave her a friendly phone call to announce my new obsession.

Zelda gave me some advice. She said, “You work for years to find the missing link in your family history. When you finally find it and tell your family, Uncle George says, ‘Oh, I knew that!’”

“But Zelda,” I said, “I don’t have an uncle named George.”

Zelda sighed.

The trouble with these Daughters of the American Revolution people is that they’re all related to Washington. It’s mathematical.

I ordered a genealogy program from Amazon. Started the tree. My husband’s cousins came over, with scanned photos and lists. Now we’ve all been bitten by the bug.

Meanwhile, I began to check out some free websites from the Church of Latter-day Saints. Their “Family Search” (, launched a few years ago, provides “free family history, family tree, and genealogy records and resources from around the world.”

And now, there’s a new site. They’ve introduced a pilot project which will be the prototype for searching millions of indexed records. New records keep going up, every week.

I tried it last weekend. Amazing. Stunning.

Suddenly, Ancihuacuaro, Mexico, and Zvenigorodka (near Kiev) seem closer.

We found Rachels on both sides of the family, and another Andrew Torres. I am sure that if we go back far enough, any day now, we’ll find priests, prophets, poets and warriors.

On both sides — from the Puerpechas to the Sephardim. From Spain to Poland to Vienna and back again. They all came here. To the United States.

Census records. Birth records. Lists from the Holocaust. The exile from Spain. Lists of Tarascans converted at church. Others who didn’t.

Who were these people? Do they sense our searching? What do they think about us? About our world?

And here’s the neat thing: everyone can help. The LDS pilot project contains thousands of scanned records, waiting to be indexed. It’s all computerized. Volunteers are invited to register, download a program and extract family history information from the scanned images to help create searchable indexes. Check it out at

There must be a gangster in here somewhere


No comments: