News Release

Toronto Latter-day Saints Host Community FamilySearch Day

On April 13, 2024, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Toronto, Ontario, held a community FamilySearch Day. Toronto’s newly renovated FamilySearch centre opened to the public, sharing free resources to help individuals and families learn more about their family history. Genealogy, the study of family history, is a popular pastime throughout the world.

Open house visitors were offered guided tours of the new centre along with assistance in opening personal FamilySearch accounts. Steven Yu, co-director of the Toronto FamilySearch Centre, said, “The FamilySearch program allows free access to billions of ancestors’ profiles, pictures and historical documents worldwide and five other genealogical sites.”

Discovering Our Roots

Councillor Joe Li, Markham Region, attended the event and toured the FamilySearch Centre. Li’s family are Hakka. Due to social unrest and invasions, the Hakka people scattered from the central plains of China to Southern China. Many Hakka later fled to places such as India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Li’s family settled in India, where he was born. Li later made Sweden home before immigrating to Canada.

The history of the Hakka and Li’s family connection to the culture made him want to learn more. “I’m fascinated with my roots,” said Li. “The more I learn about Hakka history, the more I understand my own history.”

The Toronto FamilySearch Centre’s mission and purpose is to help people learn about their ancestors, including people of diverse backgrounds and people who speak many different languages. Resources are available in Cantonese, English, French, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and many other languages.

The Toronto FamilySearch Centre –– which has been in operation since 1996 and was formerly known as the Toronto Family History Centre –– provides service and makes resources available to the entire community. Yu emphasized that “anyone is welcome to use these centres.”

FamilySearch Resources

Since 1894, the Church has dedicated time and resources to collecting and sharing records of genealogical importance. The resources available in the Toronto FamilySearch Centre include 14 new touchscreen computers, one computerized CD reader (for use with rare Scottish records), one microfilm reader and many rolls of microfilm that contain records unavailable online.

With co-operation from government archives, churches and libraries, the Church has created the largest collection of family records in the world, with information on more than 3 billion deceased people. This effort was originally facilitated through the Genealogical Society of Utah and now through FamilySearch, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Church.

Debbie Wasylenko, the Toronto Ontario Stake Relief Society president, visited the open house and expressed gratitude for the resources available through FamilySearch. “Family history research is really important to me because those who lived so many years ago, and the things they’ve done, have really affected who I am,” she said. “To learn their stories and the things they went through so that I can have the freedoms that I have is such a great blessing to me.”

FamilySearch provides access to records from over 100 countries, including births, marriages, deaths, censuses, probates, wills, land deeds and more. These records are free to the public through the FamilySearch website, the world-renowned FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and through a network of 4,600 local FamilySearch centres in 126 countries.

After opening a free FamilySearch account, one can continue accessing FamilySearch resources online. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said that with the aid of these online tools, “family history centers are now [available] in our homes” (“Roots and Branches,” April 2014 general conference).

Contributed by Heather Cameron

Read the story in French

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