SACRAMENTO, Calif — Karen Massie put her eyes on the bill of sale for one of her relatives when he was a slave in the 1800's.
"Anthony Mack, which was my forebearer, was 17 years old, 5'3," Massie said as she read the paperwork at a local Family History Center. "I've been able to get back to 1803."
Finding that type of information in the early 19th Century is pretty much unheard of, because most family searches for African Americans hit a brick wall in 1870.
That's the year that there was the first federal census after the Civil War. It's also the first time every black person was included in a census.
There has been a recent push to find out where you come from with the growing interest in companies like Ancestry.com or 23 And Me. But as we found out, there's one church that's been helping people connect with their history for decades — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Thom Reed is the Deputy Chief of Genealogical Search for Family History International. He said there's a host of resources available for those who want to find their roots.
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"Maybe a draft registration for a grandparent who served in one of the world wars," Reed said. "Or you can find immigration records for a relative who came to the united states in the early 1800's."
But why does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe people need this kind of access?
"Being able to connect with your ancestors and understanding their lives, where they came from and what they endured and the legacy that they left for you gives you a greater sense of purpose for your own lives," Reed explained. "When we connect with each other and we realize we belong to each other, we treat each other differently."
As Massie continues to dig into her history, she said her family continues to grow as they find new connections. "We have a saying that goes, 'You family now. You only get away because you want to get away.'"
The Family History Search Center has a few locations throughout Northern California. If you're interested in using their resources, it's free and open to the public.
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