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BYU Today

Finding What’s Missing

An Argentine linguistics major who misplaces socks finds success in the search for her ancestors.

Candela Romero
After a year and a half working early morning custodial, Candela Romero (’07) was desperate to find a new job. So she started turning in applications. Lots of them.

“I applied to everything—even Arabic translation. I had only taken Arabic 101,” she laughs.

The Arabic Department didn’t call, but the Center for Family History and Genealogy did. They were looking for help with Spanish record extraction, and Spanish was Romero’s native language. She went in for the interview.

“What genealogy classes have you taken?” None. “Can you read this record?” Um, a little of it. “Do you have any experience in family history?” No. “Well then . . . when do you want to start the job?”

At least that’s her version. Her boss, H. Leandro Soria (BA ’05), remembers it differently. “When you talk to people, you can tell what kind of work ethic they have. I didn’t have to talk to Candela much.” He immediately hired her.

Growing up in Argentina, Romero dreamed of coming to BYU, but the odds were against her. Since no one in her family spoke English, she studied it in school and went to private classes. The year before applying to BYU, Romero moved to Mendoza when her father was called as a mission president there. She added missionary work, free piano lessons for ward members, and three church callings to her daily regimen of five to six hours of English study. When the acceptance letter arrived from Provo, she moved halfway around the world. Family history wasn’t on her mind.

“I never planned to do genealogy while I was here,” she explains, “but all of the sudden, the Lord gave me this job that I wasn’t prepared for at all.” It dawned on her that her family knew almost nothing about their European ancestors, and this was her chance to find them. “Suddenly I’m connected with experts in Italy and Spain—the best people the Church has—and I have resources I’ll never have again when I go back to Argentina.”

Within six months of starting her new job, she was a project supervisor at the center. Then in the summer of 2006, she was invited to do research in Spain. And while poring over records in parishes and municipal archives, Romero found her father’s ancestors.

“I’m famous in my family for not finding my socks in the drawer,” she claims. “I can’t find anything in my house. And I find all these people.” Further work has led to finding over 50 family members.

When she’s not searching for her ancestors (or her socks), you might find Romero attending classes for her linguistics major. Or maybe teaching for her TESOL minor. Or perhaps working on her music and family history minors. Then again, she might be at one of her three jobs. And chances are, if she’s in none of those places, she’s in one of the apartments in her ward, blessing someone’s life in some way. Says friend Chris Rice (’08), “She’s so concerned about others. Anyone who spends five seconds getting to know her realizes she’s amazing, and they love her. She says she’s not perfect, but frankly, I’m a doubter.”

And if you’re trying to find Romero on a Saturday? She’ll be taking the two-hour bus ride to the Family History Library in Salt Lake. “I’m doing my mom’s side now.” She grins. “Italy. I don’t speak Italian.”