Genealogy, Health, and the Native Hawai’ians

I want to talk to you about “Search­ing for Emma.” It was one of the most affect­ing of a group of poignant films pre­sented at “A Cel­e­bra­tion of Fam­ily His­tory” on 29 April pre­sented by Fam­il­y­Search at the LDS Con­fer­ence Cen­ter in honor of the 2010 National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety conference.

The film depicts the story of Emma Lyons Waimau, exiled at the age of 24 to Kalau­papa, what was then called the colony for lep­ers (per­sons with Hansen’s Dis­ease) on the island of Moloka’i. There, she met and mar­ried her hus­band and bore six chil­dren none of whom she would be able to keep, accord­ing to the laws of the day.

Fam­ily his­tory is sim­ply the story of lives as they are lived, with hap­pi­ness and tragedy deliv­ered as they will be, with­out a sched­ule or agenda. What moves is how peo­ple react to the lives they live.

The dev­as­ta­tion of the Hawai’ian peo­ple, the stigma­ti­za­tion of peo­ple with a dis­ease, and the whole his­tory of health care, inform this story of Emma Lyons Waimau and infuse it with mean­ing. Each aspect of the nar­ra­tive adds the weight of his­tory to a tale that might oth­er­wise be sim­ply a per­sonal one of a woman curi­ous to know about her great grandmother’s struggles.

Search­ing for Emma” (Adobe Flash-based video)

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