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“I Knew You Guys Were Coming”

February 2020

Photo taken in a village in Africa shows an elderly man with. colorful robe draping one arm. He is looking into the distance. Donations like yours are helping us connect millions to the histories of their families and homelands.

Following are a few stories from the African Oral Histories Project, as told by Seth Ogoe Ayim, operations manager for FamilySearch International over six West African countries (Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Benin).

A few days after Seth interviewed a village elder in the Ashanti region of Ghana, the elder passed away. “If we would have been there only a week later, we would not have been able to record his history,” says Seth. “Many of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren came from far away to attend his funeral. While there, these relatives learned of his interview and wanted a copy of the recording. They were very excited to hear that we were able to capture that history before he died.” During the feast held after the funeral, the family traditionally gathers together to give a life sketch or share some-thing about the person that passed away. This time, they listened to the recording of this man telling the story of their family. “It was very exciting for them to hear this in his own voice and in their own Twi dialect of the Akan language,” says Seth.

When Seth and a team of contracted employees arrived at a village that doesn’t allow anyone to enter that is not a member of their cult, the others with him were afraid to enter. “When we explained why we were there, they just took us through with-out any rituals whatsoever that they usually do and took us straight to their high priest,” says Seth. “The high priest told us how he’d had a dream that there would be some young people coming to his town to collect his family’s story.” The high priest told Seth, “You come with a special spirit, and I saw you in my dream and I knew that you would come and take my story. Is that why you are here?” Seth quickly told him that that was exactly why they were there and that his descendants would now be able to remember him and his traditions when he was gone. The chief’s relieved response was, “Yes. I knew you guys were coming.”

Photo of a mother, father and two daughters smiling as they look down at something out of frame.

How Are Donations to FamilySearch Used?

Donations have made it possible for FamilySearch volunteers, contractors, and employees to operate around the world digitizing and preserving vital family history records before they are lost. As records are rescued, they are indexed and made freely available online.

Donations to FamilySearch are currently going to the following records-capture projects.

RECORDS AT RISK. In many of the world’s most remote areas, irreplaceable family history records are being destroyed by the ravages of time, neglect, political turmoil, or poverty. Even when records are available, capturing these records and making them accessible is a daunting challenge.

CHINESE RECORDS. More than 20 percent of the world’s population traces their roots to China. We are helping the great Chinese family worldwide connect to their families and homeland. However, the vast number of Chinese genealogies that need to be captured exceeds the current available resources of FamilySearch.

ORAL HISTORIES. The passing of village elders who possess the historical knowledge of their families, combined with urbanization and modernization, threatens the disappearance of African oral histories. This initiative will interview over 700,000 people before its completion, generating audio, photos, and recordings of names from each person.

Photo taken in a village in Africa. Two men walk toward each other on a dirt road while a crowd of men, women, and children sit outside under the shade of a roof. FamilySearch International is making it possible for millions of vital family history records to be rescued and preserved.

A Note from Steve Rockwood, CEO, FamilySearch International, Managing Director, Family History Department

Our mission is simple. We are reconstructing the family tree of all mankind. Once we know who we are, from where we come, and more importantly, from whom we come, we make a connection. It’s truly amazing what happens when a person feels the unique emotion and spirit associated with this work. Millions worldwide are feeling this joyful desire and are personally participating in this gathering. Your contributions are enabling FamilySearch to provide the tools and opportunities that these inspired people are using to discover the family trees, vital records, and histories of their families and homelands. We are so grateful for your help, and because of you, many of God’s children are connecting to their families across generations and around the globe.