The investigation into one’s ancestry can be a fun and challenging process that reconnects people with their roots. Those interested in genealogy services can now book an appointment at the Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre.
The services started in Fort Frances this early March and are led by Richard Cluff and his wife Ann Cluff, two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in Rexburg, Idaho, who are serving a two-year mission in Fort Frances and Winnipeg.
Richard said that he and his wife are happy to help people find their ancestors, and to continue on the work of former missionaries Jim and Erin Curtis who were in town in 2019.
“We heard so much about the Curtis’s and what they were doing and we just knew that we had to continue that,” Ann said. “We’re excited to be here and in doing what we’re doing.”
The decision to embark on a two-year mission was one that took a lot of prayer, she added, noting that her husband was nearing retirement and it seemed like the perfect time.
“I was working at Brigham Young University in Idaho, Chair of the Psychology Department, and we both were listening to our church leaders and their call to older couples to be willing to serve missions. And we both felt it was right,” Richard said.
“It was about almost a year ago,” Ann added. “We were kind of in that time period where my husband was coming up on retirement. And your health, you just don’t know if you’re going to have your health in five years. And so we thought, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it.”
Richard and Ann will spend two weeks in Winnipeg and then two weeks in Fort Frances. “So every two weeks, we are doing the back and forth. And so we were really happy to connect with Joan and at the library. And yeah, we’re just kind of getting our feet wet,” Ann said.
She added that they are also trying to offer help where needed at the senior center.
The church has many resources to help people find their ancestors, Richard said. “It’s an opportunity to really get to know who they were.”
“In genealogy, we’re interested in finding our ancestors and making those connections because it’s our identity, right? Our family, our roots, who we are, it’s a great opportunity to learn about our ancestors, the struggles they had and how they were able to work through those challenges.”
Richard said they will help people successfully navigate through genealogy websites such as ancestry.com and familysearch.org.
“It’s like a major holding tank for information,” Ann explained. “So I mean, you’re talking birth, baptismal confirmation, death, you’ll see military records and employment records and who was registered to vote, I mean, just any kind of record. And then people will also submit stories.”
Ann said she once discovered old journal entries from her great aunt, which opened her eyes to the hardships faced by a relative from a different time.
“By the time I was done, I was sobbing because I have no idea that her life was as difficult and that she’d been through such difficult trials, losing a husband in the first three or four years of her marriage and just what she went through,” she said.
“So if anything, [genealogy] binds us, it connects us with our families, so that they’re not just a name and a date that they become real. And you can see, oh, they struggled with this. And, you know, you know, we’re not that we’re not different. We just live in a different time. And so, it does give you a connection that helps you kind of navigate your own life in a way.”
Ancestry search often feels like an investigation made difficult when there’s only a limited amount of clues, said Richard.
Ann added that sometimes “clues” are found in the least expected places, such as a name or date written down on the back of a photo.
“And sometimes, not everything that’s written down is 100 per cent accurate,” she said.
Sometimes information will be found right away, and other times it may take time, Ann said.
“We hit some brick walls. And so we keep seeing other routes and other methods to see if we can find some clues and help them get that link that will open things up for them,” Richard said.
Ann said it becomes a fun challenge seeing how far back into the records they can go.
To avoid misplacing records, Ann recommended everyone to store an extra copy in a “holding tank” such as one of the genealogy resources.
Those who book an appointment are encouraged to come prepared with a list of information including names, dates, birthdays, cities, and any other basic information relating to their relatives.
“That could get us a faster start for them to make those connections,” said Richard.
Photos can be brought in if the individual would like to learn how to add it to the database.
Joan MacLean, CEO of the Fort Frances Library, said representatives from LDS have volunteered at the library in the past and is glad to continue offering the services at the library.
“I was quite pleased when [Richard and Ann] came to the library and told us that they wanted to do the traditional volunteering,” she said.
MacLean added that the library is interested in connecting people with information and is not affiliated with any religious organization.
Those interested in booking an appointment for genealogy services are welcome to call at 807-274-9879 or email at email@example.com.