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Monday, December 14, 2009

Insight into Family History Centers

It is commonly reported that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has more than 3,500 Family History Centers around the world. What does this actually mean to those interested in genealogical research? First of all, the main repository for genealogical information collected by the Church is located at the Family History Library and other storage facilities in and around Salt Lake City, Utah. The local Family History Centers are branch facilities of the Family History Library. Most of the Centers are located in LDS meeting houses around the world. Everyone is welcome to visit the centers and use their resources.

It is important to realize that some of these Centers are small rooms with one or two computers. Others are more elaborate, depending on local resources and local volunteers. The Centers are almost entirely maintained and staffed by volunteers and there is a wide variation in the volunteer's experience and background. On the other hand, some of the Centers are major research facilities in their own right. For example, the Mesa, Arizona Regional Family History Center is located in downtown Mesa, Arizona. (Mesa is part of the Phoenix/Mesa Metroplex which is the fifth largest city in the U.S.). The Center is housed in a two story building and has a huge collection of books, microfilm, and other resources. It has a volunteer staff of around 100 or more and has a full schedule of classes. Other Centers in Mesa area are much more limited both in their scope and staffing.

Most of the regularly operating Family History Centers have facilities for ordering microfilm copies of records from the vast collection in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is a charge, current $5.50 per film, for ordering film copies but the service works very well. If the Center is able to order microfilm, likely they have a microfilm viewer available for use also. You can see the Family History Library catalog online for free.

It is very important to check with the FamilySearch Website and search for a Family Center close to your location. You may also wish to contact the Center concerning current hours and resources before traveling to the Center's location. A search in Maricopa County, Arizona shows 16 Family History Centers. There are actually more than are listed but if a Center is not listed, it is likely that there are no regular operating hours.

I have talked to genealogists in the Phoenix area, who spend a considerable amount of time looking for their ancestors who have never visited the Mesa Regional Family History Center and were not even aware of its Website. Likewise, there are other libraries and resources available both locally and nationally with valuable genealogical information. There just might be a repository near you that you have overlooked or never visited. Try an in depth search online and see what you can find.

1 comment:

  1. Readers might also need to know that public libraries have joined the Family History Center network. The Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library main branch is a Family History Center.