Skip to main content
Student Spotlights

Mari: Family History

Mari Feller is a 66-year old General Studies major who interned at the Tacoma Family History Center in Washington state. From preserving families' life work to photographing hundreds of old graves, Mari really made a difference for families all over the world.

What was your internship experience?

For my internship I volunteered at the Tacoma Family History Center and worked closely with professional genealogists in assisting patrons that visited the center.

I was given the task of evaluating, transcribing, organizing and documenting the genealogical records of Ruby Marr Miller. She is 95 years old and suffers from dementia. She spent her entire lifetime researching her ancestors and her son brought 5 large boxes of paperwork into the center and we promised him we would preserve it. I compiled an index and resource guide of the genealogical resources at the Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library and established a friendly, professional relationship between the library and the Family History Center.

I took 406 photos of graves at the Old Pioneer Cemetery, uploaded them to BillionGraves and then transcribed 404 of them so their families could "see" and know where their ancestors are buried. I worked six hours a day on Tuesday's, Wednesday's and Thursday's in order to complete my hours by the end of the semester. I needed to work 126 hours, and I completed 179 hours and continue to volunteer at the center three days a week.

The report that Mari Benson compiled on the genealogical resources in the Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library.

What was the most important thing you learned during this experience?

The most important thing I learned from my internship is that I love the work I was trained to do. Family History work is a hot topic now, President Nelson has encouraged the members of the church to gather Israel on both sides of the veil. I could not imagine spending my days doing anything that would be more rewarding than family history.

I am 66 years old and very content to do this work for the rest of my life. I also learned the importance of doing family history work in the most precise, and careful way. I have come to appreciate every class I took in my family history emphasis because I use those techniques in evaluating, judging, deciphering, and documenting the sources I find.

How did your courses prepare you for this experience?

The courses taught me where documents can be found in the United States, in Great Britain and Scandinavia, where my ancestors are from. I learned the culture and historical events my ancestors experienced. I learned how to read Old English, especially the Secretary Hand. I learned basic Latin and I can read old wills and the probate sections that were written in Latin. I learned how to prepare reports, surveys, compiled lineages, family histories, proof summaries, all of which I do routinely today.

My internship helped me learn new skills from the professional genealogists at the Family History Center. I had no experience in records from Ireland or Africa, but I now have some experience with them. In working on the Ruby Marr project I learned how to evaluate her research, most of it was excellent, but we have many more resources today to search for records online than she did 25 years ago. I am catching up on the new features available on FamilySearch. New tools are added all of the time and I am trying to learn them well enough so I can teach them to the patrons that come into the center.

The Tacoma Family History center.