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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