Centered in Family History
July 1997

“Centered in Family History,” Ensign, July 1997, 70

Centered in Family History

When Mardean Peterson Steinmetz was 12 years old in 1932, she sat her Grandmother Peterson down at the kitchen table and interviewed her about her life. That was the start of a lifetime of involvement in family history work. Since 1983 Sister Steinmetz has served as director of the family history center in St. Louis, Missouri. She and her staff of 50 volunteers help patrons find their ancestors in a modern facility filled with hundreds of books, dozens of microfiche and microfilm readers, and seven computers.

With her husband, Henry, who passed away in 1984, Sister Steinmetz helped start St. Louis’s family history library more than 24 years ago. “We were really excited about having a genealogy library here, although we didn’t have much to start out with,” she recalls. All they had was a small filing cabinet and two old microfilm readers.

Sister Steinmetz remembers the arrival of the center’s first computer in 1990, just before the center was expanded. “There wasn’t any room at the Church, so they set it up in my basement,” she says. “I said I was too old to learn a new language, but I found I could learn how to run the programs. I still don’t know much about how computers work, but I can run one!”

In addition to doing family history work, Sister Steinmetz mothered a son and two daughters. She has fulfilled many other Church callings, including ward Primary president and stake Relief Society president. She has 9 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

When asked how many hours a week she devotes to her calling, Sister Steinmetz said, “Well, the center is open 43 hours a week, and then there are classes and seminars—heavens, I don’t know.” But her motivations are clear: “Every time I or anyone else finds a name, it gives me the same feeling I get when someone is converted to the gospel. It’s truly missionary work for the dead. People know genealogy is not just a hobby. It’s a spiritual thing.”—Nancy Pekny, St. Louis, Missouri