For the past 26 years David Tirado has been photographing vital records for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and helping the people of Peru discover their past. Without realizing it, he has also helped to make another very old dream come true.
That dream came in the form of a 100-year-old statement by Nephi Anderson, Assistant Secretary of the Genealogical Society of Utah. In this statement, Brother Anderson stated, “I see the records of the dead and their histories gathered from every nation under heaven to one great central library in Zion—the largest and best equipped for its particular work in the world.” David and his coworkers are making this dream come true.
David’s family joined the Church in 1960. At age 31, David worked as a bus driver. In the evenings he went to school to get a degree in graphic arts and photography.
In 1985 David learned of a job opening with the Church for someone with a background in photography. The job was for a position working in Vital Record Preservation program. David applied and got the job.
David was excited with his new position and working for the Church was an added bonus. He was able to focus his vocational interests in graphic arts and photography to photographing vital records for the Church. He was now a part of a worldwide group whose job it was to help collect and preserve billions of genealogical records.
During his long career, David watched in amazement at the progresses of photographic technology and computer science. During his first years of work, microfilm was the only technology being used to capture records. David’s darkroom was a heavy black blanket draped over his hands where film was processed, and prepared for shipment to Salt Lake City. He often discovered that shipments of undeveloped microfilm had been opened in route to Salt Lake City by would be thieves. The airport thieves, searching for valuable items, would open and then discard the shipping containers of film exposing the precious images to harmful light. Thousands of records and many hours of David’s time would be ruined in seconds.
David introduced many Peruvian ecclesiastical authorities to the LDS Churches’ program of vital record preservation. He proved his talents in archives throughout Peru. He also became a skilled diplomat, winning the hearts of numerous Catholic Church leaders throughout Peru. Through his efforts, he became the first member of the LDS Church to work in numerous Catholic archives and film their precious records. Many of the church records he filmed were created during the early 17th century. These old records often required hours of painstaking work by David to place small fragments of deteriorated pages into proper placement.
In 2007 digital photography arrived in Peru and David’s daily production of copied records tripled almost overnight. Since then David has trained senior missionaries and others in his craft. Many of these missionaries are now photographing records throughout South America. They have successfully copied records with the skills learned under David’s watchful eye.
Today, you will find David working at the National Archives in Lima where over ten million records are stored and waiting for his camera. David arrives each morning before 8 am. His day involves training, supervising, coordinating record preservation with subordinates throughout Peru, working with National Archive staff, and reaching a personal goal of capturing one million images in a single year.
With over ten million records waiting in Lima and millions of records waiting in other archives throughout the world, more help is needed. To fulfill Nephi Anderson’s statement and to bring bout David’s goal to help the South American people, many more senior missionaries are needed to help film and digitize records in South America and throughout the world.
To learn more about what Records Preservation Missionaries are doing in Peru, view the following video clip.