“‘Roots,’ Mormon-style, Attracts 95 Percent Nonmembers,” Ensign, Dec. 1978, 46
It started with a genealogy class. Six missionary couples in the New York Rochester Mission sponsored genealogy classes at public libraries in cities where they were serving.
Between forty-five and fifty people attended each class, and ninety-five percent of those attending were not members of the Church. Elder Eugene and Sister Madge Tuckett of American Fork, Utah, taught classes at Palmyra, New York, spending several hours a week counseling members of the class about genealogy. At the last session, class members presented the Tucketts with a cake inscribed “To Our Friends.” Such reaction was not unusual.
Responding to the interest in genealogy, the mission sponsored a Genealogy Week. Shortly thereafter, New York Governor Hugh Carey declared the week of April 24–29 state Genealogy Week. More than twenty-five cities throughout the state also proclaimed the week. Under the direction of president Milton A. Barlow, president of the New York Rochester Mission, missionaries visited with city officials and presented them with a citation letter, a pamphlet, and a recent Church-sponsored insert in Reader’s Digest. The missionaries in Hornell, New York, presented Mayor Richard Dunning with a large copy of his pedigree chart.
Throughout New York and neighboring Vermont, mayors urged “all people to seek out their own ancestral roots.” Newspapers supported the undertaking with articles and photographs of missionaries and townspeople.
The week was held in conjunction with the National Freedom Shrine Month declared by the United States Congress. The Bennington Banner at Bennington, Vermont, wrote on April 15:
“Genealogy Week may well mark the beginning of an added emphasis in seeking out our American heritage.”
The interest didn’t die when the week ended; months later, the classes are still being held.