Friday, April 30, 2010

A Celebration of Family History

Mormon Tabernacle Choir and David McCullough

Worth the price of registration for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference was Thursday's An Evening Celebration of Family History. Approximately 20,000 spectators were treated to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and author David McCullough

Recapping the evening would not do it justice, but let's just say, the McCloud Bagpipe group featuring Amazing Grace with that large Choir and Orchestra decked in red robes for the women and red tie suited men, was absolutely brilliant and beautiful. Of course it having ceiling high organ pipes in the background of the LDS Conference Center added to the drama-filled evening. The McCloud Bagpipe group was introduced through a hilarious film featuring the process of embracing one's Scottish heritage through the eyes of a seven year old who announced to his family that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipe. If you're curious as to how the youngster fared, let me tell you that young McCloud, now a father, plays a mean bagpipe as he lead his group in blowing Amazing Grace.

The two hour festivities were sprinkled with short genealogical films threading the theme of "Woven Generations." The evening was co-sponsored by FamilySearch and the Utah Genealogical Association in association with the NGS Conference. To set the tone, this short film used the metaphor of a ball of yard as a tie to our past; followed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra which wooed us with Wayfarin Stranger.

We were treated with short genealogical films.  Letters of Estonia featured a a woman researching her war hero Great-Grandfather; and through her search she found her long-lost Estonian relatives.  There was also a heart-breaking story of  a couple who was infected with leprosy and therefore had to adopt out each of their six children before the age of one years old.  In this film the descendant took us on an emotional search for Emma's tombstone, Searching for Emma, on the island Molokai in  Hawaii during the 1800's.

The keynote speaker, David McCullough, was not overshadowed by the captivating choir and orchestra and riveting short films. On the contrary, he was.... well....David McCullough! Full of historical tidbits intertwined with life's lessons. His books, John Adams and 1776, should be in all historian's personal libraries. Of course, you already know he is a walking encyclopedia and a prolific writer, but he is also an entertaining speaker, and easily linked his closing remarks to a short pride-filled film of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory narrated by the descendant of Julia Howe. This film honored the roll and support provided by women during the civil war, and with the goose bump deliverance of Martin Luther King, Jr's last speech, it was perfect way to express the immortality of the written word.

With precision and not missing a beat the Choir and Orchestra's tear provoking rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic closed the evening's performance with a well-earned standing ovation.

In addition to those mentioned above, Welcome was delivered by Jay Verkler, CEO Family Search;  Invocation by Reverend France A Davis, Calvary Baptist Church; and a wonder presentation delived by Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, LDS.

Accurate, Accessible Answers
note: this post was updated 4/30/2010 based on MoSop's keen eye.
Thanks MoSop.


  1. Nice recap of a very moving and motivational program! I feel truly blessed to have been able to attend.

    One correction: The story about a woman researching her war hero Great-Grandfather and finding her long-lost Estonian relatives was entitled "Letters from Estonia".
    A separate film was entitled "Finding Emma", which told the heart-tugging story you have described which took place in the leprosy colony located on the island of Molokai, Hawaii during the 1800's.

    One of my favorite quotes of the evening came from Mr. McCullough who wisely and wittily suggested that if one wishes to achieve 'immortality' one should "keep a diary, and then when you see that the curtains are going to come down, give it to the Library of Congress, and you'll be quoted for years to come - because it will be the only diary!"

  2. Wow! I haven't become a conference-goer yet, but this sure makes me wish I'd been there! I wonder if the sessions/performances/speakers will be made available electronically? Do you know?

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. Thank you for a beautiful description of a beautiful evening!

  4. I was just leaving a comment about David McCullough at Randy Seaver's blog. I'm so glad to "attend a conference" vicariously through all the genea-bloggers. My sister lives near David McCullough on Martha's Vineyard. Before he became very famous my dad used to bring his books to the island when he visited my sister, and then walk down to David's to have them autographed. I hope to inherit those books someday! He was always a nice guy, and he must be a wonderful speaker. I never heard him speak formerly, just chat in the back yard when I was a kid.