Related to a Tempe settler? Family History Center helps answer question during city’s 150th gala

An early-20th-century photo of Bertie Hogle Bowles, mother of Tempe Family History Center director Steve Bowles. The center wants to help people trace their family trees but also discover how they might be related to key figures in the Tempe’s history during the city’s 150th anniversary celebration. –Courtesy of Bowles family

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Who am I? It’s among the most fundamental questions that, when answered, can give a person confidence and embolden them as they navigate life’s journey.

During Tempe’s 150th anniversary celebration, Tempe Family History Center wants to help people not only answer that question but perhaps also discover how they might be related to key figures in the city’s history.

“Our website, is a helpful tool to people who are trying to start a family tree or preserve memories or learn about their families,” said Steve Bowles, 65, director of the center.

Steve Bowles

During the center’s celebration of the city’s anniversary, dubbed Connected Tempe: Tempe Arizona Relatives, the center has created a special reference website, connectedtempe.surge.sh, as a source of information.

“The project is supported by volunteers in the community and genealogists,” said Mike Ostler, 66, a volunteer at the center. “We want people to be able to piece their family trees together and see how they might be related to early Tempe settlers.”

During the pandemic, Tempe Family History Center is operating by appointment only. Anyone is welcome to use its services, which are underwritten by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Use of subscription services at the center is free and fast —certainly faster than spending days or weeks reviewing microfilms of vital records. These tools would require a subscription fee if used independently at home by searchers.

Debbie Ostler, 65, Mike’s wife and another volunteer at the center, was among those seeking to trace family history. She had a good start.

Mike and Debbie Ostler

“My mother was raised on a farm in Washington,” she said. “She had the foresight to interview her father and get his narrative about the family moving from Virginia, to Missouri and then to homestead in Washington. She took a cassette recorder. It was very precious to have his memories in his own voice to recollect how it was living in those different places and going across the country to homestead in a place they’d never been before.”

Bowles said it is helpful to have as much information as possible, such as vital records and photographs of known family members, to begin research into a family tree. However, modern search tools – and there are 18 subscription tools online at the center’s 14 computer work stations – have made it relatively easy even with little information to start.

“People really want to know everything about who they are,” Bowles said. “Any age is a good time to start. The New York Times wrote a story a few years back about studies that show how adolescents, when they know their family story and know who they are ancestral-wise, have much more resilience, adaptability and confidence in facing the trials of life. Instead of being a disconnected entity wondering why am I even here, the know who they are.”

More information: Tempe Arizona Family History Center, 2707 S College Avenue, Tempe, 480-907-4919.

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