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Genealogy, Health, and Native Hawaiʻians

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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