Any beginner of genealogical research learns quite soon that the best place for searching for genealogy related information is Family History Centers (FHC) organized and supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, or as they are frequently called Mormons. There are about 3500 FHC in many countries of the world. The FHCs offer services to any person regardless of his/her religion, and in the premises of the Centers there is no religious propaganda. Many people have reported on the Internet their success in searching for genealogy information in a FHC, and I do not remember anybody complaining about the attitude of the staff of a FHC to the visitors. The hiring of a CD with primary information is charged by FHC, but as far as I am informed, the charge is very reasonable.
Typical information reported by a Jewish investigator found on the Internet: It costs nothing to visit the FH Centers, The Mormons are very civilized and don't make the slightest attempt to convert one or send any religious literature. The films cost $6 (in Australia) for one month loan, and one reads them at the Center where they have special equipment.
The followers of the LDS Church believe that after the death of a person his/her immortal soul meets the souls of family members who have died, if they were Latter Day Saints. To guarantee that the souls will be together, it is necessary to identify the ancestors here on the Earth and to convert them or, more precisely, convert their souls to the LDS Church. The immortal souls are converted by a special ceremony that can take place only in Temples of LDS Church, not in regular churches. According to the rules of the LDS Church, the conversion should be performed only with permission of all living descendants of the deceased person, who is to be converted, and even more, the Latter Day Saints believe that the soul becomes aware of the ceremony and is capable of accepting or not accepting the conversion to the LDS Church. As far as I know, the Temple nearest to Latvia should be built in Estonia.
The identification of the ancestors with the goal of converting them later to the LDS Church is the main reason for the genealogical investigations the Mormons conduct. It is also quite clear that any genealogical investigation could turn important for a Mormon perhaps some generations later. In any case, the LDS Church is doing a great job collecting and saving genealogically related information in their archives, though, as far as I have read, their technical approach is not the most advanced.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the activities of the LDS Church were intensified in the countries of the former Soviet block and in the former Soviet Republics including Latvia. Their missions began to work here and their activities also comprised the collecting of genealogically related material in these countries. The contracts of copying the archives in these countries were signed, and the microfilming of the documents began in all these countries with exception of Latvia. In 1995-1996 the Mormons published some information on the Internet about the success in microfilming in various countries, but I could not find similar reports recently. At that time in these reports it was said that the contract with Latvia was negotiated, and the microfilming in Lithuania and especially in Estonia was going on intensively.
It is clear that nobody informed me about the negotiations and their success, therefore I could not answer some questions I received concerning the genealogical information about the region of Latvia that the Mormons should make available in their FHC. Fortunately a newspaper article was published that could help to clarify the situation with the Mormons in Latvia. This article I made available on this site. It was written in Latvian, and I will not try to translate it in English. The article discusses the business matters of eventual contracts between Archives of Latvia and the LDS Church concerning the microfilming of the genealogy related material, the reader is informed that 5 religious confessions of Latvia have approached the Director General of Archives with protests against possible contracts with Mormons who were accused of the desire to misuse the genealogical data obtained in Latvia. In general the article appears to be anti-Mormon, but this is only my personal opinion.
I do not wish to discuss any religious preferences in ROOTS=SAKNES, but, as a non believer of the immortality of souls, I should say that I can not see any harm in the ceremonies of Mormons, or as they were called in the newspaper article - manipulations with the genealogical data. I have no wish to comment on the immortality of souls or other beliefs of the LDS Church or any other Church, but unfortunately I can not help being amused by the religious leaders who in the newspaper article were really worried about what could happen to the immortal souls that might be converted to the LDS Church.
I think, that if these religious leaders admitted that what believers do in the churches i.e. all the ceremonies of baptism, confirmation, marriage, funeral, confession or whatever the ceremonies are called in each different religion; that if all this work done by both the ancestors and their souls during their terrestrial life could be made null and void by only one ceremony performed by the Mormons, and the Priests of any other religion were helpless to prevent any consequences of this ceremony, then these religious leaders should recognise that the religion of the Mormons is much more powerful than theirs, and they and their followers should join the Mormons.
The real situation about the information concerning the region of Latvia in the FHCs is not as bad as could be concluded from the above mentioned facts. The Mormons have bought from the archives of Germany the copies of microfilms of the most important genealogical data for the region of Latvia and namely the copies of the church books and the material of population registrations (revizskije skazki) organized in the Russia Empire. All these materials were microfilmed at the end of the 1930s, when the German minority of Latvia were arranging things for emigration and may be later during the WW2. Now the microfilms (CDs) are available in Family History Centers of the LDS Church.
By the way, in essence the Mormons are right. You really do meet your ancestors, even now on the earth, if you do your family history research devotedly.
© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002