Postal employee Lance R. McRae says finding your ancestors is a fascinating hobby and a way to step back into the past and learn more about who you are and where you come from.

McRae, who handles everything from customers' complaints and public relations to COD and registered mail at the Sandy Post Office, said the U.S. Postal Service is sponsoring a "Plant a Family Tree" campaign this month to help bind families together, just as letters do.He said free, informative family tree charts are available at post offices nationwide until the end of November.

"The charts offer suggestions on how to research your ancestors and where to get help. Salt Lakers are fortunate because The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the largest collection of genealogical information in the world."

You don't have to be a Mormon to use the library, McRae said, "and it doesn't cost anything to use the library's books, microfilm records and other information."

He said the Postal Service program is being co-sponsored by the American Association for Retired Persons and the National Genealogical Society.

"I've been interested in genealogy since 1975 and have traced my family's lineage back to England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany to as far back as the 1400s.

"In the process, I've discovered a host of names in my family, including Ryan, Herrman, Fisk, Byers, Winters, Rogers, Fraughton, Jones and scores of other family names."

A lot of his ancestors, he said, are salt-of-the earth farmers, merchants and shopkeepers, tinsmiths and blacksmiths. "There are a few politicians, doctors, some judges, some Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans in my family and a few black sheep. You can't go back 500 years without finding a few `skeletons.'

"The black sheep are as fun and interesting to learn about as the successful or prosperous ancestors. All these relatives' blood flows in my veins. Their genes, from as far back as you can go, are in me," McRae said.

Most of his genealogical research has been conducted in the LDS Genealogical Library, but McRae has also carried on a vast correspondence with relatives around the world.

"I've even written to relatives behind the Iron Curtain in the German Democratic Republic received letters back and even pictures of my ancestors. I have collected pictures of my six children's ancestors back seven generations."

Some of his relatives came to Canada about 1800 and settled in Quebec. Other relatives came to America in the early 1600s from Great Britain.

He has a copy of a letter written by a Pilgrim ancestor who died aboard ship while traveling to America from Wales with his wife and unborn son in 1690.

"He was sick on the ship and knew he would never reach America, so he wrote a letter to his unborn son, telling him about himself and what he wanted his son to do when he grew up. "