Reconnecting roots

An old Russian adage champions research going on right here in Columbiana.

“We live as long as we are remembered,” it reads.

Pauline Williams, a volunteer with the Family History Center at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Columbiana, aims to bring family members long passed back to life.

“As people have gotten away from their family, now they are realizing what they are missing,” Williams said. “People want to find out who they really are.”

Williams said this desire has caused the popularity of genealogy research to spike. There are even shows about family history like “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC, which has traced the roots of athlete Emmitt Smith and actor Susan Sarandon.

It’s not just celebrities who are interested in reconnecting with their roots. Volunteers with the Family History Center are a vital resource for everyday people ardently seeking more details of their past.

“We want people to know the family history center is here and the kind of information we can help them learn to do for themselves,” Williams said.

The center offers computers to help people search through free Web sites like Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org, as well as other resources.

Volunteers recently spent several months piecing together the family histories of Lowe, Calera Mayor Jon Graham, Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven, Montevallo Mayor Ben McCrory and Wilsonville Mayor Rosemary Liveoak.

“It provided another forum for our family to bond,” Lowe said. “It’s just some other link we can share with our kids —where they come from, who we are and the troubles we faced.”

The binder given to each mayor included a pedigree chart with information on ancestors’ birth, death and marriage dates, if and when they served in the military and where they purchased property.

Lowe said the project seemed appropriate with the census occurring this month. Much of the records used to dig up background on family members originate from census information.

“It’s amazing how much you can see how a family changes in 10 years,” Lowe said.

Church member Clem Muck said its also interesting to make characteristic connections among family lines. He said your great-grandmother may have passed more down to you than curly hair or bushy eyebrows.

“It’s amazing to see the similarities between family members, even those who have never met,” Muck said.

After participating in the genealogy project, Lowe discovered his military background reaches further back than simply his own 20-year service.

He had always known his uncle Clyde Foster, on his mother’s side, was a decorated war veteran in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

What he didn’t know was the urge to serve also ran deep on his father’s side. The military line in this familial branch extends back to John Lowe who served in the Revolutionary War. Lowe’s great-great-grandfather James Mickle served in the Civil War.

“There was a rich history there on my mother’s side, but I never knew much about my father’s family,” Lowe said. “You could rationalize through that if somebody in my lineage felt called to serve, I’m sure they could have impressed that desire onto their sons and so on.”

Muck said many people easily miss the opportunity to capture this sort of information when elder family members pass. He suggested people interview older members of their family to discover more about their heritage and look around their home for information jotted down in records like family Bibles.

“What we don’t realize is we lose those connections if we don’t make a point to talk with our loved ones before they pass,” Muck said. “Personal stories add to the names and numbers.”

Anyone interested in digging deeper into their own genealogy can visit the Family History Center on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The church is located at on 190 Egg and Butter Road.