the stand that is all the rage at the Book Fair and has nothing to do with the literary world

It is said that there are fewer people at this Book Fair version 2024, compared to last year. And it does not attract attention, of course, due to the economic situation that the country is going through. However, the Family Search stand (something like “family search”) seems to be unaware of the decline in audience. Fifteen minutes after two in the afternoon, the time when the Palermo property opens, The twenty computers are already occupied and a long line immediately forms waiting for their turn.. What books are sold here? None: The curious thing is that this striking position is foreign to the literary universe; Here you come to look for your family ancestors.

Neighbor of the Dial Book and Paulinas stands, which look thin on attendance, emerges an important set design that simulates being a boat: “Your grandparents’ boat”, says under the imaginary bow, to which the public accesses, putting on period costumes, to take a photo. In this 128 square meter rectangle is Family Search, a large interactive space in which attendees are provided with tools needed to immerse yourself in the exciting world of family history. “Although in 2023 we had a great response from people, in this edition the strong presence of the public is noticeable, perhaps because fewer people are coming to the fair,” analyzes Saúl Guerrero, operations supervisor.

Clarion He attended at three different times on Thursday: between 2 and 4 p.m., between 5:30 and 7 p.m. and between 9 and 10 p.m., when the blinds are lowered. The common denominator was that the stand looked packed. About forty people, volunteers (almost 400 during the entire fair) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, guide and guide the public so that they can access their search through a computer.

“Those who come to Family Search can live three experiences: the search for the origins, the meaning of one’s own surname and the shipwhere people can borrow clothes – rented clothes – from the time when the boats with immigrants arrived in Argentina,” explains Guerrero, who points out that in the last edition more than 40 thousand people paraded through the stand, and This year the daily average ranges between 2,500 and 3,500.

Many people especially come to the Family Search booth and, at first glance, they look somewhere between expectant and excited. Some admit that they come to the Fair only to visit this space, while others, while touring the fairgrounds, come across the place and succumb to temptation. “The fact that it is free is not a minor fact, especially with the prices that surround us”says smiling Mayra Vázquez (29), one of the volunteers who, I know what she looks like, stops for a minute.

Those interested in diving about their ancestors are assisted by volunteer staff who guide the steps to follow on the computers. Photo: Joaquín Abrea

“It is incredible how people have a need to complete their family tree. We recently had an exception with a man of about 75 years old, to whom we gave more than half an hour, when the shifts are twenty minutes, since he took the work and He brought a notebook with all the names of his past family but he was missing two of his great-great-grandparents.. And thanks to that information, we were able to get to what she needed and she left with her eyes filled with emotion,” reveals the employee, also in tune with the cause.

People looking to delve into their past open a personal account on the page, and from there, by completing some basic information, always with the help of volunteer staff, they begin to give free rein to their search. This chronicler toured the tables where those interested follow the steps digitally and It’s amazing how faces transform as names of old relatives appear to complete the family tree.

The Family Search booth is one of the stands at the Book Fair where the most lines form.

“Half of those who come do so because they are beginning the process of Spanish or Italian citizenship. And like here The database exceeds four billion digitized imagesit is very possible that the information will be found and that, once located, it will be sent to you, for example to the General Archive of the Nation to find the physical document,” says Vázquez. What do people usually look for the most? “Birth certificates , marriage and death certificates”.

Radiology technician, Ana Loeffelbein, from Monte Grande, He found out that his grandfather was a Nazi spy. “It was incredible to find out about that but, at the same time, it healed a wound that had been open for years. When I opened a Family Search account, wanting to know more about my last name and my grandparents, I received an email from a person who wrote: ‘Your grandfather and mine were brothers. We are cousins.’ I was frozen, but it was the starting point for me to start finding out a lot of things, for example, that my grandfather was a Nazi and that he ran away with a girl and came to Argentina. Knowing that allowed me to reconcile with my forgive him things that, without knowing this detail, had me estranged.

“Your grandparents’ boat.” One of the most requested experiences is to climb onto the fictional bow wearing clothing from the time when immigrants arrived. Photo: Enrique Medina

Florencia, a woman in her sixties, stands in line while she reviews the names she has written on a notepad. “I left my husband and my daughter at a public talk I was having with a writer and came here, my main objective for this edition of the Book Fair. Last year I had not been able to access due to the number of people, but this time I didn’t want to miss it, because For me it is essential to know where I come from. I took a healing course and to reach a successful conclusion it is necessary to be clear about one’s origins.

Silvia Hoga is convinced that her last name, of Armenian origin, is cut. “You saw what it was like at that time. They wrote what they heard and if they heard. I have a feeling my last name is Hogasian and I think that by filling out a series of data from my parents and grandparents, it is likely that I can remove this thorn that I have had stuck in me all my life,” she says, between nervous and expectant. “I want to have the truth, the certainty, because we are talking about my last name, nothing more and nothing less”.

Others of the Another of the “experiences” most requested by the curious has to do with the meaning of the surname. Photo: Joaquín Abrea

It is difficult to move comfortably in a crowded stand, where the serpentine queue reaches – and bothers – where books are sold. “Why are they here? What does it have to do with books?” asks a veteran who is reading “The Heartbeat of the Present,” by Gabriel Chamé Buendía, actor and theater director. “What is that ship, these people, do you know what they give you?”, a woman wants to clear up the doubt with a look of confusion.. “We want to know our origins and family ancestors and here they can clear up our doubts,” answers Thiago, 19 years old, somewhat tempted. “We came with my friends to do the search. I didn’t know anything but she told me about Family Search and it’s good, it’s fun.”

Rosanna and Narella, mother and daughter, did the experience: Rosanna and Narella, mother and daughter, did the experience: “There is an increasing interest in knowing one’s ancestors, in recovering that part of the family memory,” says Narella.

Rosanna and Narella, mother and daughter, arrived from Ceres, Santa Fe, and have just stepped off the bow of the fictional ship where they posed happily in front of a volunteer’s camera. “I found information from the Census that was carried out in 1890 and I was able to find my ancestors, something that filled me with emotion,” says Narella Boscarol (27), social communicator. “It was very powerful to find information about my great-great-grandparents, who lived in Lehmann, a commune in Santa Fe. On the other hand, it was also “It makes the process easier for me to apply for Italian citizenship.”remarks the young woman.

“I think there is every time a greater interest in knowing one’s ancestors, in recovering that part of the family memory and the truth is that Family Search helps a lot,” Rosanna believes, “And it seems to me that the interest of the people we see here, so massive, has a lot to do with the number of Argentines who emigrate, mainly. It is also true that the ease provided here makes it much easier to get interested in the search.”

In the three shifts in which he was present Clarion, demand was high. “We paid entry to the fair, $3,500 each, and we only came to see what news the publishers had and we attended an interesting talk given by journalist Horacio Embón. But then we can’t buy anything and see that here, at Family Search, We can spend a good time, looking for more interesting information and without paying a peso, It is an unavoidable stop,” says Angelo (64), accompanied by his wife. “I am very surprised by the number of people, but at the same time it seems logical to me, since Today books are luxury items, accessible to few.”

After nine at night, however, you see more people at the fair in general and at this stand in particular. “The thing is Admission is free after eight at night., and many like me, who cannot pay an entrance fee, come at this time. It’s my third day in a row, bah, third night, and I enjoy just watching. In the previous days I had not noticed Family Search, the proposal seems very attractive to me. “I just opened an account and tomorrow I’ll be back with all my family data from prehistory.”says Blas (55), a resident of Abasto, ironically.

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