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Oral Histories Project Saving Families

February 2019

In addition to gathering and preserving written genealogical records, FamilySearch also collects oral family histories. People with an oral family history tradition have kept their own histories in their memories and have passed them down orally from one generation to the next in a variety of ways. FamilySearch began collecting oral histories and genealogies in the Pacific Island countries of Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, and Tahiti in the 1960s. Collection work was expanded to the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia in the 1980s. Today FamilySearch is collecting and preserving oral histories and oral genealogies in Africa. With the younger generation leaving African villages for larger cities, some family histories may not be passed to future generations unless we preserve them now.

An African proverb says, “Every time an old person dies, it is as if a library burns down.” This saying emphasizes the key role that oral traditions and histories play in African cultures. It emphasizes the rich deposits of names and stories that Africans hold in their minds and hearts about their ancestors. This project aims to preserve those histories for the rising generation. By doing this, the records can be shared worldwide, and the stories can influence and unite all of us.

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