More than 325 African-Americans learned more about conducting genealogical research at the sixth annual "Discover Your Roots" conference at the Los Angeles California Stake Center on Saturday, March 15.
The conference was sponsored by the Church in conjunction with the African-American Historical Society of Long Beach and the California African American Genealogical Society.
The Reverend Cecil Murray, formerly of the First AME Church of Los Angeles, opened the Roots Conference by stating, "We are all branches of the same tree.... Our roots go deep through many generations." He added, "If you don't know what your roots are, how can you know where you are going?"
Keynote speaker Darius Gray, a well-known African-American Church member, told participants, "Life is a circle." He continued, "For most of us here it began in a slave cabin and parts of our family history are the stories."
Brother Gray, who is the co-author with Margaret Young of a series of books about early African-American members of the Church, said, "Knowledge of self brings respect for self and others."
A signature quilt was made and given to Brother Gray to take to his next family reunion for all of his family to sign and date. The quilt was made and hand quilted by the senior missionaries from the Los Angeles Family History Center and Public Affairs office, said Keith Atkinson, director of public affairs for the North America West Area.
Participants at the conference attended workshops led by 15 instructors on a variety of topics including "Slaves in Your Family," taught by Margaret Lewis, and "Death Records," taught by Richard McBride, head of the Family History Center in Los Angeles.
Many participants expressed enthusiasm at being able to learn more about their heritage from the instructors who volunteered their time and knowledge to the conference. Jackie Smith, a conference attendee, exclaimed, "My head is stuffed with knowledge!" as she made her way from class to class.
"I am so glad that we have been able to offer something for everyone each and every year," said Lillian Glover, chairman of the African-American Roots Committee, Southern California Public Affairs Council.
"Beginning genealogy classes are valuable, but for those who come year after year, I find them to be the most enthusiastic as they almost always derive new information, techniques or resources they can apply to further their research," said Sister Glover.