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When people mention "genealogical research," images of tattered census records, dusty parish logs and miles upon miles of miocrofilm usually come to mind.
Now, when visitors young and old enter the world's largest genealogical library, tucked in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, they can take an interactive journey through their own ancestral past.
On Tuesday, the LDS Church's Family History Library, 36 N. West Temple, introduced new "discovery experiences," a 10,139-square-foot attraction that taps technology to introduce guests to their family trees.
The free exhibit opens to the public Wednesday.
"When entering the discovery experiences, guests receive a custom iPad to log into their free FamilySearch account and dock it with the various stations throughout the facility for an interactive experience with their FamilySearch.org Family Tree," a news release explains. "For the best experiences, guests should create a free online account and build their family tree before arriving at the attraction. A guest account option is also available for visitors."
Features include a play space for small children; life-size, touch-screen computer monitors; and a green screen where guests can choose from a range of photos to mark their visit.
"This gives them an opportunity to begin to see that we can connect them to their ancestors, and not only by name, but by helping them discover who these folks were, the time they lived and what made them think, believe, act the way they did," Bradley D. Foster, a general authority Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in the release.
"We'll try to make this experience available for people across the world online as much as we can," added Foster, who also is executive director the Utah-based faith's Family History Department. "But for those that are close here, we want to invite them to bring their families."
It's a way, in essence, to put the "gee" in genealogy.
"Usually research involves looking at microfilms and books and records," said Tamra Stansfield, manager of the Family History Library. "This takes what's already in your information in Family Tree and makes it interactive and fun, and it tells stories and experiences."
Jonathan Fletcher can attest to that.
"I have actually learned that part of my family is from Ireland and United Kingdom, and Sweden," the 17-year-old said in the release. "And 1 percent basically in Canada, which I really never knew before, and it's really cool."
Fletcher and his 11-year-old sister, Katherine, learned during their visit that they are related to singing legend Elvis Presley.
"He's our 13th cousin, one time removed."
FamilySearch International is the world's largest genealogy organization. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by the LDS Church.