OGDEN — At Ogden’s new FamilySearch Center for interactive genealogy research, you might find out you’re a distant cousin of Elvis Presley.
Or Gordon B. Hinckley, a late, much-revered president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sister Michelle Parks of Mountain Green, a service missionary for the church, called up interactive screens for visitors to show her familial connections to Hinckley and others, including a passenger on the Mayflower.
“And Elvis,” said her husband, Elder Brad Parks gave tours and demonstrations Thursday morning in advance of the center’s public opening Monday, May 6.
“Yes, Elvis Presley, and I loved him,” Michelle Parks said. “So I’m very glad I’m related to him. He’s my cousin.”
The FamilySearch database, a collection of hundreds of millions of genealogy records, indicated that she and Hinckley were second cousins, once removed.
At the preliminary open house in the 12,000-square-foot center across the street from the church’s Ogden Temple, church officials said the interactive center is one of only five like it in the country.
“This center is a technological marvel,” Elder Jeremy Jaggi, an area seventy in the church’s leadership, told attendees.
The center has 13 interactive screens where visitors can access and display their own family trees; generate reports of famous people they’re related to; trace their countries of origin; and perform other research tasks.
For example, Michelle Parks’ record showed that 71 percent of her heritage comes from the United Kingdom.
Three recording studios are available for individuals and families to create oral histories of ancestors or themselves.
The center also has 48 computer stations upstairs for people to conduct research. On the ground floor, there’s a children’s area where researchers can work while keeping an eye on their little ones.
Video cassette players, scanners and other devices are available to enable conversion of old photos and video to be connected to users’ FamilySearch accounts.
FamilySearch is sponsored by the church, but it is open to all. Accounts are free, as is access to the Ogden center.
Genealogical research is key for Latter-day Saints, who use the records to identify ancestors and perform baptisms for the dead and other church ordinances in the temple. Church members believe the rites unite families in the afterlife.
To that end, Jaggi said, the church is pleased that the new center is so close to the Ogden Temple.
Jaggi said there are millions of FamilySearch accounts. Church spokesman Odeh Ondoma said he did not know what percentage of accounts are held by non-church members.
Tour guides acknowledged the FamilySearch process may lead some users not of the faith to join the church, but they said helping people discover their ancestors is the primary goal.
Michelle Parks gave a personal example.
“I ran into a girl who had my grandmother’s last name,” she said, and they talked about how they might be related.
That woman said her husband thought his grandfather may have been a transient but they could not find any information about him.
Michelle Parks said she had learned during her own FamilySearch activity that the man — her grandmother’s brother — was not a transient. She showed the woman the man’s wedding picture.
“This can help people who have lost touch with their roots,” Parks said. “I think that’s what it’s for. It’s to find out who you are.”
Said Brad Parks: “If the proselyting comes along, it comes along. People believe what they believe, and we’re open to that too. But this is to find your heritage, who you are, why you are here, what your ancestors did to make it so you could be here.
“That’s why we’re here, just to support people to find out about themselves,” he said.
The center, at 321 22nd St., replaces the old Family Search Library on 24th Street.