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About Utah: Utah — the land of family history

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 12:34 p.m. MDT

And a big howdy to the more than 2,000 visitors in Salt Lake City for the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference that starts today at the Salt Palace.

And if we do say so ourselves, excellent choice of venue.

Us and genealogy, we go way back.

We were cool with genealogy before genealogy was cool. OK, maybe it still isn't cool, but nevertheless, looking up your ancestors has been a local pastime here ever since the arrival of the first locals.

No sooner had Brigham Young gazed out the back of his covered wagon in 1847, scanned the valley and announced, "This is the place," than he added, "and start doing your family history."

That's because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, over which Brigham Young presided, believes that you can't get to heaven without bringing along the entire family. Emphasis on entire.

LDS temples wouldn't be very busy if they were only concerned with the living. Most of the rites performed in the temples are for people who have passed on.

Hence, the plethora of genealogical resources that have sprung up in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the LDS Church, over the past century and a half.

Where else are you going to find a mountain vault encased in granite crammed full of microfilm with records that go back to William the Conquerer?

Or a Family History Library with more than half a million books and a database of over 600 million names?

Or a FamilySearch Center in the heart of downtown with hundreds of free computers and dozens of volunteer genealogy experts whose only goal is to be your personal butler and assist you in your search?

We've even got a place — the recently opened Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation — where you can do genealogy through your DNA.

And name another city that has charts on the wall like the one in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building that shows that Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Winston Churchill and George W. Bush are all related.

Or like the one that takes up an entire wall in the Family History Library that shows that Lucille Ball, Donny Osmond, Steve Young, Emily Dickinson, Shirley Temple and the Wright Bros. can all trace their existence back to one Robert White and one Bridget Allgar, who got married in England circa 1580.

We like to think that coming here to do genealogy is like going to Newcastle for coal, like going to Fenway Park for a baseball game, like going to China for Chinese food.

When we say "We Are History," we mean it in a positive way. So settle in and make yourselves comfortable. We understand why you came. We know it's not about us. We respect your research. We know you're not here to float in the lake. We know you're not looking to scalp Jazz playoff tickets. We know how you roll.

When your president, Jan Alpert, told us this is your 32nd annual national convention and you've never, not once, been asked to leave because you were too rowdy, we believed her.

"We're not on expense accounts. This isn't a business convention, this is a hobby," is how Jan explained it. "We don't spend as much in the restaurants. We're going to go to the meetings and lectures, we're going to grab a quick bite to eat and then we're going to run to the library."

Fine with us. The Olympics came, and we managed to get the bars to stay open later than usual. Every year, the Sundance Film Festival shows up and, voila!, the movie houses are open all hours.

And this week, the genealogy library will stay open each night until 11. ...

Least we can do. And good luck on the searches.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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