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Mormons present family history to African-American congresswoman

SALT LAKE CITY — Five generations ago, many of the ancestors of U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, were born into slavery, according to research compiled by FamilySearch and given to the congresswoman on Tuesday by the LDS Church.

"It starts to make you realize the strength of a whole family of people, of a whole generation of people who survived and produced people like me who are now members of Congress," Fudge told Mormon Newsroom.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who is Mormon, presented the five-generation pedigree chart to Fudge with Elder Von G. Keetch, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Carol Smith, the FamilySearch researcher who spent weeks compiling the information.

Fudge and Love are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Fudge has been a member of Congress for eight-and-a-half years. Love joined Congress in 2015.

"It's been so incredibly rewarding for me to be able to present this to someone who's been so kind to me since I stepped into office, just embraced me as a friend and a family member," Love said in a statement.

Smith found a marriage record on Fudge's family tree among the historic Freedmen’s Bureau Records, a church source said. FamilySearch International, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the LDS Church, gave a digital database of the historic Freedmen’s Bureau Records to the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. in June.

The database contains genealogical information of African-Americans freed after the Civil War. More than 25,000 volunteers indexed, or typed into the database, nearly 1.8 million names of former slaves and immigrants from Civil War-era records. The project was completed a year ago.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Records database is free for African-Americans at discoverfreedmen.org.

The LDS Church makes occasional presentations of five-generation pedigree charts to political leaders, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The process is expensive and time-consuming.

"It really is a rare event," Elder Keetch said. "It takes a lot of time to go back and find ancestors and be sure that they are the proper ones in the line, so we don't do it often."

Fudge was the mayor of the Cleveland suburb of Warrensville Heights from 2000-08. She was selected to run for Congress in 2008 to replace Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who died in office.

She chaired the 2016 Democratic National Convention in July, replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Wasserman Schultz resigned as the head of the Democratic National Committee when Wikileaks released emails that showed bias amid her staff for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Russian hackers provided the emails to Wikileaks.

It was Congress that ordered the organization of the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865 to assist freed slaves. The bureau compiled handwritten records of census lists, contracts and other documents.

Fudge was delighted with her five-generation pedigree chart.

"It's really important to know not just who you are, but from which you come," she said. "I think it's really, really important. I'm really ecstatic about the fact that I have some more information about my family."