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National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Has a FamilySearch Center

DOWNTOWN [Cincinnati] – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made family genealogy a mission.

And sharing thousands of records of births, deaths and marriages with non-church members has been a part of that vision. In Cincinnati, the LDS Church is taking that a step further.

Through a partnership with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the LDS church has a FamilySearch Center – staffed largely by Mormons – at the museum. More than 1,500 people have used the center to find their family history.

The number is climbing, with about 10 people each day researching, many of them drop-ins.

“It’s really groundbreaking and unique for the LDS Church to do this,” said Darold Olson, public affairs director for the LDS Church in the Cincinnati area. “We saw an opportunity for us to volunteer and to share, to help the community.”

Project Reveals Details of Slave Life

The information she has could help someone find that missing branch in their family tree. That’s what Marguerite Ross Howell thought each time she came across new data taken from centuries old court petitions.

"Genealogists may know their family history and that they were enslaved by so and so, and their ancestors lived on this plantation, but they may not know that one of their relatives was a cook or a carpenter or suffered a disease. These documents tell a lot of personal detail," Howell said. "They fill in the gaps a little bit and give a face to the individuals."

Howell, a former student of UNCG history professor Loren Schweninger, has helped him compile 14 years worth of data taken from court petitions submitted by Southern slave owners, slaves and free blacks. Schweninger’s Race and Slavery Petitions Project 1776-1867 is a compilation of 17,487 legislative and court documents from 200 county courthouses in the 15 former slaveholding states and the District of Columbia.

You can read more about this story on the News-Record.com web site at http://www.news-record.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050828/NEWSREC010101/508280333