BYU family history students help US Army find relatives of MIA soldiers

BYU family history students help US Army find relatives of MIA soldiers. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — The U.S. Military has asked some BYU students majoring in family history to help the army find relatives of soldiers who went missing in action.

“It’s extremely fulfilling to see how genealogy and family history help heal people’s lives,” said Melanie Torres, one of the student researchers. “Just to know I’m a part of something that is a little bit bigger than me.”

Brigham Young University is the only university in the country with a family history Bachelor's degree program. The U.S. Army and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency saw that and asked the university's Family History Department to help identify some of the 82,000 soldiers still missing in action dating back to World War II.

The students find surviving relatives so the military can obtain DNA results to confirm identities.

“Our hope is to be able to at least return them home, and return them to their families,” said Jill Grandell, a professor overseeing the project. “The clock is ticking because so many of our World War II veterans and their families are dying.”

But even with all the new-and-improved high-tech ways of doing genealogical research, the task is still not an easy one. BYU was handed 65 cases and has finished 48. Each case takes an average of two months to complete.

“I’ve done something like 150 hours of work on this project, and I’ve really only completed two cases,” Torres said.

It may be slow, but the work is very rewarding, students said.

“I do feel patriotic and I love being involved in something like this where these soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Kimberly Brown, a student researcher.

More information about the project can be found on BYU's website.

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