Student Luana Darby Brings Information Science Skills to Genealogy Community

Student Luana Darby knows earning her MLIS degree fits perfectly with her work as a professional genealogist. She is applying her SLIS classes to support the genealogical community, most recently designing a mobile version of the Utah State Archives website and a family history e-book during her Fall 2010 iPad applications class.

“The MLIS goes beautifully, hand-in-hand with genealogy,” said Darby, who lives with her family near Salt Lake City, Utah. “Both fields are about how to find and use information.”

Darby enrolled in LIBR 287 Seminar in Information Science: iPad Implications and Applications, taught by SLIS lecturers Dr. Jeremy Kemp and Steve Sloan, because she was eager to preserve her grandmother’s history using digital tools. “I knew I would love to put my grandmother’s stories together as an e-book,” said Darby. “I also wanted to get comfortable with the technology and expand my horizons in genealogy and archives.” Darby is planning to embed video clips in her e-book using the freeware SIGIL editor, to further enrich the stories.


The LIBR 287 class also gave Darby the opportunity to design a mobile version of the Utah State Archives website, providing access to a major repository of Utah genealogical records. Darby previously advised the Archives on expanding their online presence using Web 2.0 tools like Facebook and Flickr for an earlier project in LIBR 246 Information Technology Tools and Applications Advanced: Web 2.0. The organization plans to implement some of her recommendations.

“I always try to see how I can make my classes work for something related to genealogy,” Darby explained.

Darby’s love of genealogy was kindled by listening her grandmother’s stories. From the age of sixteen Darby lived and worked at the boardinghouse her grandmother ran for elderly ladies. “I would sit there and listen to my grandmother and the other ladies tell me stories of their childhood and their life growing up, and I started to write them down,” she said. “It was like this whole other world of time gone past. I thought if I loved it so much, certainly other people would, and maybe I could do this for somebody else.”

Darby, who has a BA in Family History from Brigham Young University, has spent over 25 years as an independent genealogical researcher and as a sub-contractor for professional companies like ProGenealogists. She’s a frequent lecturer at national genealogy conferences, and served as president of the Utah Genealogical Association from 2009-2010.

One of Darby’s most rewarding research quests was finding a client’s ancestor when she knew only his last name, that he was a rabbi who had lived somewhere in the American South, and that a monument had been dedicated to him. Darby relied on her ability to think outside the box and track the information down. “Just like in library science, you have to follow the trail logically,” she said.

The trail eventually led Darby to Mobile, Alabama, where her client’s relative had worked alongside a Catholic priest during a yellow fever epidemic before dying from the disease. Darby found a family history book written by the priest’s granddaughter which described the rabbi’s efforts. “Being able to share this story with the client and show her this book was wonderful,” Darby said. “And sure enough there was a monument in Mobile’s Jewish Cemetery to this rabbi for the help he gave to the community.”

Darby plans to graduate from SLIS by Spring 2012. She wants to teach family history classes at the college level while continuing to conduct research and give conference lectures. “I like to be able to say, here’s information science and genealogy, let’s put them together and see how much further that can take us,” Darby said. “That’s where my passion is.”