News Release

Two Samoan Sisters Share Love of Family History on New Television Program

Tagi Schwenke and Afiona Faumuina wanted to share their excitement and knowledge about family history work with everyone in American Samoa. Now they have a weekly television program with which to do it.

“Liliu le Loto” (Turn the Hearts) is the title of the half-hour show which airs Tuesday evenings on KVZK.  It has become so popular that the station runs repeats on Monday evenings.

Each week it features local people who discuss and share their family stories and genealogies. Since Samoans are usually quite familiar with their ancestors the results are often new connections between formerly distant parts of the family.

Afiona Faumuina shared her family history on one of the first programs. When she did, Tua Nasseri Seve saw a name he recognized. Immediately after the program he excitedly called the station and talked with Afiona.

She explained, “My grandfather is the older brother to his grandfather, and now we’re sharing additional information with each other.”

Sinaiese (Sina) Peleti, a Catholic from Tafuna, was motivated by one of the programs. She called in and said, “I want to find out about my grandmother”.  She arranged to visit the Pago Pago Samoa West Stake Family History Center the following Saturday afternoon to research her family. 

She sits at a computer monitor with Apelu Opelu, one of the family history center’s consultants, and together they navigate an online family history site.  She smiles enthusiastically when her parents are located.  They continue looking for her maternal grandmother, and even bigger smiles indicate success.

The cozy family history center not only has computers with internet access to online family history sites, but also microfiche and microfilm machines that can read scores of vital public records relevant to American Samoa. The center has its own copies of Samoan-related records so that patrons can access the information immediately.

Taito Navualaba is a Fijian who works in the fishing industry in American Samoa. He is not a member of the Church and could claim Catholicism from his mother or Methodism from his father.

He and the family history center consultants are intrigued that “Taito” is a Samoan chiefly name.  He and they are curious as to whether he may have some Samoan ancestors.  The center has sent a request to Salt Lake City for a microfilm of Fijian genealogical records that may help him in his search.

Tagi Schwenke and Afiona Faumuina are sisters and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Afiona is the Family History Director for the Church in the Pago Pago Samoa West Stake, while Tagi works in public affairs in the same stake. A stake is a group of Latter-day Saint congregations in a geographical area.  

They both believe that family history is for everyone, no matter what their religious faith. “We have got to get this out there!” one said to the other as they talked about all the powerful tools available through the Church at the center and online. Then they thought, “What about a television program?” The rest is family history.

Afiona and her fellow family history workers are doing even more to make records accessible to everyone. They have created a database of names, dates and information extracted from the microfilm and microfiche records related to American Samoa and Samoa. Still a work in progress, it is now possible to do a computer search of nearly 200,000 names, dates and events from these records. More names and events are being added each week.

On a Saturday evening, the Leone Third Ward [congregation] held a Primary and Youth musical fireside, titled “Ia vala’aulia Aiga e o mai Fa’atasi ia Keriso!” (Call families to come unto Christ).  Performances included solos, mother-child duets, a Primary choir, and a Youth choir.

The outdoor foyer of the meetinghouse was decorated with scores of family history charts, photos, and pedigree charts created by children, youth, and adults. Tagi and Afiona happily stood in front of their family’s poster, ready to share their excitement with others.

When people read the names on family pedigrees and posters at events like these, new and unexpected connections are often made. That night, a senior missionary from the US looked at Bishop Leiataua’s poster and said, “Elder Uati Leiataua was my missionary companion in Samoa 43 years ago.” The bishop responded with a big smile, “He is my younger brother!”

Connecting and learning about our families is an important tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is also a hobby shared by millions of people world-wide.

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