Sunday, November 7, 2010

Expanding your research through the Family History Library and Family History Centers

The FamilySearch Family History Library (FHL) has about 330,000 visitors every year. To accommodate all of those visitors, the FHL has a full and part-time professional staff of about 100 with about 600 additional trained volunteers. Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, just across the street from the Temple Square of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (See also new.lds.org) the FHL has the following in its collection:

  • The collection includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals; 3,725 electronic resources.
  • The Ancestral File database contains more than 36 million names that are linked into families.
  • The International Genealogical Index database contains approximately 600 million names of deceased individuals. An addendum to the International Genealogical Index contains an additional 125 million names. These names have been patron submitted or extracted from thousands of original birth, christening and marriage records.
  • The Pedigree Resource File database contains over 100 million names that are linked into families.
  • Records available are from the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
  • A majority of the records contain information about persons who lived before 1930.
  • Approximately 200 cameras are currently digitizing records in over 45 countries. Records have been filmed in over 110 countries, territories, and possessions. 
All of the online databases of the FHL are being consolidated into the new Beta.FamilySearch.org website, which will ultimately include the records in the New.FamilySearch.org website also. 

According to Don Anderson, FamilySearch Director of World Wide Support Services, 63% of the patrons who come to the FHL find an ancestor when this is their goal.

World wide, FamilySearch also has approximately 4,600 local Family History Centers. Some of these, such as the Mesa Regional Family History Center in Mesa, Arizona, have dozens of volunteers and are open six days a week. Others, are limited to appointment only use on specified days and may have only a very few support volunteers. FamilySearch is adding approximately 100 centers per year, mostly in Latin America. There are currently more than 50,000 volunteers at the Family History Centers and over 6 million people visit a Family History Center every year.

In addition to the FHL and the existing Family History Centers, FamilySearch is also testing different approaches to the existing family history centers. Recently, FamilySearch on June 21, 2010 opened a new consolidated center in Riverton, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City called the Riverton FamilySearch Library.

I have extensive experience in the FHL in Salt Lake as well as many other both regional and smaller local family history centers. The resources of the volunteers are amazingly extensive. If you would like to know if there is a center near you, just go to the Beta.FamilySearch.org website and click on the link to FamilySearch Centers.



In the next screen you can enter your ZIP code or City and State and find a center near you.


I would suggest that you call ahead to determine the current hours of operation and to find out what resources are available so you will not have unrealistic expectations of the resources available. However, the larger regional centers are very well staffed and have many resources.

Thanks to Don Anderson for some of the information used in this post.

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