Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Records Preservation Missions

Photo From Deseret News
There are many different types of mission experiences.   One of the Family History assignments that is possible is a Records Preservation Mission.  

This type of mission involves working with various churches, county, state or federal government archives,  or private organizations, to photograph the documents in their archives for sharing with the world.

Our boss, Mike Higgins, negotiates with government leaders throughout the Pacific Area to seek permission for access to various records.   Once a particular record set has been identified as valuable for being rich in genealogical data (such as birth, marriage and death records, probate or land records, etc) then talks are opened between the Registrar or whatever other official person has authority to make rules about those records and the Family History Department managers from the Church.   Careful agreements are worked out which specify exactly which records the Family History Department of the Church may gain access to for preservation and what the terms will be for how those records may be shared.

In some instances, whole archives may be photographed, but only those 110 years old or

Photo  from LDS.Com
older can go online.  In other cases, certain records can be made available in family history centers but not on the internet.  There are privacy and security issues at stake.  Beyond that, many governments charge substantial fees for copies of their records.  If the LDS church starts giving free access to all those records the governments will lose a lot of precious resources they depend on.

However, there are good reasons for governments to open their records to FamilySearch.  The church does not pay for access to records.  However, they do provide all the 
complicated equipment and missionary / staff hours of labor to get the work done - which equals a very substantial investment.  Once the church has recorded any data set, the group or government who owns that data generally gets full access to the records for their own use in a way that can be safely retrieved for many years to come.   Particularly here in the Pacific where cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters can wreak havoc on physical buildings and all that is stored within them, having a back up of key information stored safely in the "Granite Mountain" back in Utah is clearly a major advantage.

A classic example of how the Church's records preservation efforts paid off is when Niue lost many of their records in a cyclone.  Because the church had already photographed many of those records, they were able to replace the majority of the destroyed information from backups in the Granite Mountain:

 FamilySearch has worked with more than 10,000 archives in over 100 countries. They "started preserving and providing access to the world’s historical records for genealogy purposes in 1938 using microfilm and distributing copies of the film through its global network of 4,600 local family history centers. In 2007 it made the shift to digital preservation and access technology and began publishing its massive historic records collections online.

It took 58 years to publish the first two billion images of historic records on microfilm—which was limited to patrons of its local family history centers and affiliate public libraries. In the past seven years, one billion images have been published on FamilySearch.org, which expands access to anyone, anywhere, with Internet access. DeGiulio projects the next billion images should take about three to five years to publish."  (Church News 2014).

There are currently two different teams of records preservation missionaries working in New Zealand - one in the North Island and one in South Island.  The ones we know here are on North Island are Gill and Evelyn Brunson.   We don't see them often since their work is entirely focused off site in the Auckland Archive building.  But they do come to our twice a month Senior Missionary Family Home Evening, and we always enjoy catching up with them there.  At our last FHE the Brunsons gave a terrific presentation about the work that they do.

Sister Evelyn Brunson

Elder Gill Brunson

"Since 2012, FamilySearch has been working with Archives New Zealand to preserve the records of 320,000 probate cases, including wills, court pleadings, family letters and estate inventories. The archive tracks the number of cases, but not the number of documents in each case. Using a very conservative average of 10 pages for each case, there are at least 3 million documents to be photographed, probably many more than 3 million. As of now, after nearly 3 years of effort, a little over 25% of the cases have been photographed and placed in the FamilySearch database. It will likely take another 5 years or more to complete the project at current production rates". (Notes from Elder Brunson)

When the Brunsons arrived here in April of 2014, only one camera was in operation and one other couple (the Murdocks) were working on the project. The Brunsons set up a second camera and worked with the new camera until health issues forced the Murdocks to return to Utah last October. Since then the Brunsons have kept both cameras running in separate rooms within the archive building.  They are really busy people!

This is where they work:

In addition to preserving paper records against the ravages of time, weather, rats, or other destructive forces, the Church also sends missionaries to record oral histories in various parts of the world.

See Article HERE

The Church has an ongoing need for Senior Missionaries who are willing to serve records preservations missions for the Family History department.    Particularly for any who speak Spanish, Portugese, or Italian there are foreign missions very eager to find new folks ready to work camera crews.   There is also a great need all over the United States for those willing to take on this sort of mission.    Here is a video showing what others have to say about records preservation missions:

For more information about Senior Mission Opportunities of ALL sorts, see Senior Mission Opportunities  HERE.

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