News Release

Family records discussed as High Court of South Africa visits Area office

Connecting Families

The Africa Southeast Area office for public affairs and the family history department hosted a top-level delegation of South African advocates from the High Court this month to discuss preservation of family records.

The visiting delegation was led by Advocate Lothian “Lester” George Basson, the chief master of the High Court. He was received in the area administration office by Elder S. Mark Palmer, second counselor in the Africa Southeast Area presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Palmer welcomed the delegation by sharing the importance of family history work, saying that one of the roles of the Church was to help connect families.

Basson discussed ways to advance the work that the Church has done to digitize and preserve some of the records of the deceased estates. Basson also discussed ways to broaden the relationship to allow for better coordination and access to other vital records by the family history department.

Wayne Van As, area manager for FamilySearch, which provides free access to digitized records for genealogy, hailed the visit as an affirmation of the partnership between the family history department and the High Court.


Van As said his department had already helped digitize between 15 and 20 million records since 2004 from some 80 million records housed across 15 national offices of the Master of the High Court.

The delegation was shown a video of the Church’s Granite Mountain Records Vault.

The world’s largest collection of genealogical records is housed in a secure vault located in the mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church built the Granite Mountain Records Vault in 1965 to preserve and protect records of importance to the Church, including its vast collection of family history microfilms.

The images in the Granite Mountain Records Vault are collected through agreements with government institutions, archives, libraries, and churches from more than 100 countries. Copies of these records are given free of charge to the record custodian and on occasion, additional copies are provided to replace records that may have been lost in a natural disaster or fire.

 After the video presentation, the delegation enjoyed the tour of the Africa Southeast Area offices.

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