Missionaries in Wahpeton photographing cemetery headstones

Missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been photographing headstones in Wahpeton as part of an online genealogy project.

The lack of social gatherings and other side effects of the pandemic is also disrupting missionary work for the young missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Wahpeton.

They used to spend much of their week before COVID-19 teaching others about God and prophets, while performing 10 hours of community service. Under current conditions they are trying something different.

The president of the Dakota Mission, Scott L. Howell, a university administrator on leave from Brigham Young University, and a former sexton of a small cemetery and an amateur genealogist himself said, “I thought it would be helpful for our missionaries during this time of social distancing to get out in the fresh air and do something meaningful like take photos of headstones in cemeteries for genealogy purposes.”

One of the missionaries currently serving in Wahpeton, Elder Scott Milner from Lindon, Utah, said, “When we help with this project, we are helping other people connect with and learn about their pasts, and hopefully discover important family stories.”

Currently, these missionaries have photographed about 5,000 headstones in the Wahpeton area and uploaded them to the BillionGraves website where other volunteers will transcribe the information so interested family and genealogists may electronically access the information and photo of the headstone from the comfort of their own homes.

If readers are aware of any small/private cemeteries in the area that they would like photographed, they can contact the Wahpeton missionaries at 701-858-0985.

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