When it came to his family history, the Rev. Reginald Franklin White, of Eureka, S.C., needed some help to fill in the gaps.
White's mother, Pauline Woodard, of Russellville, Ala., would often tell him about who his descendents were, their personalities and occupations, White said. But because of a lack of records, Woodard's knowledge of where his relatives were born, when they were born, where they lived or when they died was sometimes incomplete.
"My mom is a wealth of information," said the pastor of Springfield (S.C.) Baptist Church. "She really piqued my interest (to research my family's history)."
Taking up a longstanding offer from his friend and former SRS co-worker, Lynn Martin, of Evans, White sought the help of the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Evans.
Using the Mormon Church's extensive collection of genealogical records and their membership in genealogical databases and public records such as census data, the Family History Center took Woodard's spoken record and were able to fill in some of those gaps and provide new leads for future research.
One of those leads was through a former slave named Mariah Pruitt, White said. Pruitt, born into slavery in Alabama in 1831, lived through the Civil War, before dying a free woman in 1885. White said his mother, in a conference call with Martin and others at the Family History Center, was able to give the name Mariah Pruitt, but today they know so much more about her.
"I know the cemetery she was buried in," White said. "We found other names (of relatives) that went back further than that."
The Family History Center, which is open to people of all faiths, is committed to helping people discover their family's past, Martin said.
"Our church has a very high value for the family," Martin said. "We believe that the family is the most sacred unit in the church and we want to help everybody whether they are members of the church or not."
On Monday, the Family History Center presented White with a binder of documents verifying their research and directing him to other resources of knowledge available for him to find.
"The records were very poor when it comes down to people who were once slaves," Martin said. "...But now he is very interested in pursuing the leads we were able to find for him."
White said he intends to share what he learned with members of his congregation so they, too, can find the missing pieces of their families' histories.
"I want to fill in all gaps," White said. "I found out that one of my great grandfathers came from Mississippi. I talked to my mom and she didn't know that. I want to know now what part (of Mississippi).''
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