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Republican Rep. Mia Love approached the Mormon church to help her with an unusual task: She wanted to present a Democratic congresswoman with a family history chart.
On Tuesday, that project was carried out. Representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Love, a member of the faith, met in Washington to deliver to Rep. Marcia Fudge a framed pedigree outlining five generations of the Ohio Democrat's family tree.
"It's been incredibly rewarding for me to be able to present this to someone who's been so kind to me since I stepped into office, just embraced me as a friend and a family member," Love said in a news release from the church.
For Love and Fudge, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, race can complicate researching family histories. Ancestry records for many black Americans may not exist before 1870.
The LDS Church, which has a dedicated genealogy division, has joined efforts to fill that gap by indexing the national Freedmen's Bureau Records database, which includes information on emancipated African-Americans post-Civil War. Those records which identify some 1.8 million names of the 4 million formerly enslaved include marriage licenses, hospital registers and census lists.
Carol Smith, a researcher at the LDS Church's FamilySearch who put together Fudge's chart, said though it still is "challenging" to find those documents and connections, the index makes "a huge difference."
"A lot of them didn't own property, may not have been in the tax records or the court records," she said.
Smith discovered one of the congresswoman's ancestors, William C. Fudge, was a World War II veteran who served overseas for several years.
Fudge was "ecstatic" about the pedigree, saying it "brought to life all of those people I've heard about."
"It's really important to know not just who you are, but from which you've come," she said, later adding: "I think that I'm very fortunate to have known so many people in my family. Most people of color are not."
The LDS Church also gives a family history book to each U.S. president. In July 2009, the faith's leaders including President Thomas S. Monson presented then-President Barack Obama with five leather-bound volumes with his detailed ancestry. They have given similar genealogical breakdowns to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Elder Von G. Keetch, a general authority Seventy, said compiling a family tree for a president or representative takes time. The chart presented to Fudge, he added, "is a rare event."
"We really wanted especially our African-American friends to know, those in Congress [and] elsewhere how much the church wants them to be able to find their family history," he said.