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Conference brings the past into the present

West Linn resident learns family's past at history conference


by: SUBMITTED - West Linn resident Shirley Briggs and Hillsboro resident Ruth Smith look at family history items on display at the Mount Hood Family History Conference held in Boring earlier this month. An estimated 500 people from the greater-Portland area attended the community event that included 55 classes taught by family history experts.When Shirley Briggs’ great-grandfather was adopted as boy in the early 1800s, little was recorded about that life-changing event or the circumstances that left him orphaned at a young age. But with a few clues about his life, Briggs managed to find genealogical records for her great-grandfather’s biological parents.

Curiosity about the life her great-grandfather lived prompted her to keep looking for clues that would connect her to the past. And it changed her life.

“It turns out, after my great-grandfather was adopted, he only lived a few blocks away from his biological father, but never knew it,” Briggs said. “It’s been fascinating to learn about him and my ancestors. After I found the records of his biological parents, I was able to connect with living relatives from that side of my family. I love family history. I heard someone say that there’s at least one historian in every family each generation, and I guess that’s me this time around.”

Briggs, who lives in West Linn, was one of 500-plus people from the greater-Portland area who attended the Mount Hood Family History Conference in Boring earlier this month. The free two-day conference, hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, featured 55 classes taught by family history experts and award-winning genealogist Stephen P. Morse.

In Boring, community members can visit the Mount Hood Family History Center, 12300 SE 312th Drive, and use free resources to access genealogical records. The LDS Church manages the largest genealogical collection in the world with records for more than 3 billion people. The collection also includes billions of records for births, marriages, deaths, land transactions, military service and more.

Briggs isn’t alone in her pursuit to discover her own family history. Popular genealogical sites like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com receive more than 10 million hits per day. And an entire industry has emerged surrounding family history that includes fact-finding vacations, computer software, photo preservation and restoration, and even a series of reality television shows.

In addition to classes, the Mount Hood Family History Conference included free help from trained family history consultants to help people locate information about their ancestors. For years, Portland resident Andrea Heim has wondered about the events that brought her great-grandmother to the United States from Denmark in the 1890s. Heim came to the conference to see if someone could help her learn more about her great-grandmother’s life.

“We were able to find out that she came to the United States when she was 9 years old,” Heim said. “She was a bond girl, which meant she was committed to work for someone for seven years after she arrived. And at 17 years old, she married the man she had been working for. It was really interesting to find this information. Now I have even more questions about her life, and I’ve got three shelves of family history records, books and materials of other people I want to know more about.”

Throughout the two-day conference, family history consultants helped dozens of people like Heim locate information about their ancestors.

“When you look at your own family history and try to find out all you can about a person, it deepens your relationship with them and adds meaning to your own life,” said Gresham resident and Mount Hood Family History Director Patti Paxson. “I owe a lot to my ancestors who made great sacrifices that still bless my life often. When you learn about your own family history and find out about their struggles, sacrifices and successes, it changes you and can make you a better person.”

The Mount Hood Family History Center is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and from 6 to 9 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, call 503-663-1982.



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