You don't have to travel to Salt Lake in order to benefit from the Family History Library. Most of the materials, in the form of microfilm and microfiche, can be ordered through your local Family History Center. Family History Centers are typically located at LDS meetinghouses, although there are some like the one at the Godfrey Memorial Library that are not located elsewhere. To find the nearest Center to you, consult the homepage of Family Search. Centers are open to all and one need not be a member of the LDS church. Similarly, Centers are for family history research and proselytizing is not allowed. Center staff, depending on the individual Center, can be both LDS members and members of the community.
Each Family History Center is different in what materials they have available. Some have large collections of genealogy books or microfilm on indefinite loan. What each Center has in common is Internet access and subscription databases such as Ancestry.com. Each Center is also able to order microfilm for you from Salt Lake. Once it is ordered and arrives at the Center, you can then view the microfilm and, depending on the Center, make photographic copies or even save images to a flash drive.
Using the Catalog
The Family History Library Catalog provides you with 8 different ways to conduct a search. You can search by author, title, keyword, surname, place, subject, film/fiche number, and call number.
When searching for records in your ancestral state, from the Place search, type in the state name. Once you have selected the state, all the categories of records that the Family History Library has will be displayed. Once you see a category you want to explore, for instance you may choose vital records, you will be directed to all the titles within that category.
When you are exploring records for a state, if you click on the link at the upper right hand corner, entitled "View Related Places" you will be directed to a list of all the counties that the Library has records for. You can then choose a county and explore the categories of records for that county. At the county level, you can click on the "View Related Places" link again and get a list of what cities or towns the Library has records for.
Conducting a surname search can be tricky if you are researching a common surname. Ahhh, the dilemma of finding John Smith! In that case, instead of looking through hundreds of hits, you may want to instead use a keyword search and try searching using the ancestor's full name or the name and the place where they came from.
The keyword search is also good for finding books that would relate to a specific time period or events that an ancestor lived through. For example, a search on the phrase "War of 1812" results in over 1,000 records including histories, records, resource guides, and personal narratives.
However, you choose to search for the records you need, once you find what you are interested in, click on the link, at the top right hand corner entitled "View Film Notes." That page will provide you with a number you need in to order the film from your local Family History Center.
If the resource states "No Film Notes" then fill out a "Request for Photocopies" form. You can either download this form from the Family Search web site or obtain one from your local Family History Center. Fill in the title of the resource and then ask that the index be copied for your surname of interest. The Family History Library will copy that page of the index and mail it to you. If one of your ancestors is in the index then you can ask for that particular page to be copied. This service costs $4.00, it can be more depending how many pages you request. If they don't find your surname they will issue you a credit.
Some things to consider when using a Family History Center:
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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