Many people think that all they have to do is walk into a Family History Center and ask and their family history will automatically be given to them, because those "Mormons" have already researched them. It is a great disappointment to many when they discover that not only do we not have their family history at our fingertips, but they also need a lot more than a pencil and a piece of paper to begin their research.
Family History Centers are a great resource to the genealogical researcher. There are over 4500 Family History Centers located throughout the world, most of them in the United States. Unfortunately, those who visit a Center for the first time usually come unprepared. They are misinformed about what is available, the time and effort required to find the information they seek, and the cost that could be incurred. Preparation is required in most disciplines and researching one's family tree is no different. If you are going to use a Family History Center there are some steps you can take that will make your visit more productive and worthwhile.
1. Find the nearest Center to you. This can be done by going on the Internet to www.Familysearch.org. Click on the Library tab and then the Family History Centers tab. Once there a form will appear titled "Find a Family History Center near you." Fill in the form and click on submit. The name, address, and phone number of the nearest center will appear. Sometimes even the hours of operation are listed, although it is advisable to call before visiting to make sure the information provided is up to date.
2. Plan your visit. You might want to go online and check the information available on Familysearch.org before coming in. Information has been compiled in various forms by the Family History Library in Salt Lake and may provide clues, dates, places, or relationships uncovered by others. This information can be used to verify what you already have, put you in contact with other researchers working on your family, or help you correct erroneous information provided by someone else.
3. Make sure you bring a pedigree chart filled out as completely and accurately as possible. This will save you time and effort and help the volunteer who will be helping you know what areas and time periods you will be needing.
4. Don't try to research every family line at once. Choose one or two surnames to work on, and concentrate on a specific area. Your objective is to have accurate information. Pay attention to collateral lines. If you research by specific families you are more likely to find the information you are seeking, than by concentrating on a direct line.
5. Be careful about using the Internet. WWW. Is a great tool, but that is all it is, a tool. It can be very helpful in directing you to sources and information, which will make your search less difficult, but be very careful about accepting every thing you find. The number one rule for all family researchers is "verification of the information". The Internet has opened up many doors and provided resources and networks that were not available 5 or even 10 years ago, but just because it's on the Internet do not make it correct. Make sure you "verify" everything possible before you accept and record it as correct information.
6. Cite your research. Always record where and when you found the information. If you neglect to write down the film number, the book title, the Internet location, you might find yourself repeating your research. Keep a log with the date, the information sought, the information found, and the source. This can save you many frustrating hours.
7. Write down questions, thoughts, or ideas. Don't rely on your memory.
8. Find out the cost and services available at the Center. Although film and fiche charges for all Centers are basically the same ($5.50 per 30 day microfilm rental, $11.00 for 90 day microfilm rental, $16.50 for indefinite microfilm rental, and $ .15 per microfiche) each Center may have various other charges (copies, internet use, notification, etc.) that may differ.
Most Family History Centers are located in the meetinghouse buildings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. NO SMOKING is allowed on the premises, and most Centers do not provide places for patrons to dine. The Center is subject to the guidelines of the local branch where they are located and all are manned by volunteers who are usually members of the Church, although that is not a requirement for working in the Center. Center personal are not allowed to discuss the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a patron unless the patron desires specific questions or information. Missionaries can serve as volunteers to receive service hours, but are not allowed to proselyte.
If you follow these few simple guidelines, your visit to the Family History Center will be much more productive and researching your family history will be less frustrating.
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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