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The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
And a FREE website for your family history research
If you are just getting started in researching your family history, you already know about the number one subscription online website in the world, www.Ancestry.com and there are other websites that also include lots of information... for a fee.
But do you know there is a FREE online website that is FREE for you to use that has lots and lots of FREE information? The catch? It is FREE because it is supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; more commonly called Mormons.
The LDS Church started their genealogy program in the late 1800s and now has the largest collection of genealogy material in the world... and it is FREE to anyone that wants to use it. The catch? The Family History Library is located inSalt Lake City, Utah. It used to be called the Genealogy Library, but the named was changed in 1988 to be more “user friendly.”
I was taking a two week class there when the decree came down from the Prophet and President of the Church. Everyone in the class talked about running outside to watch them sandblast the old name off and chisel the new one into place. Of course I was long out of the cool mountains of Utah and back in the hot hills of north Louisiana by the time that took place.
But the Mormons also have more than four thousand tiny “Family History Centers” scattered all over the world. The Catch? The FHCs are in a tiny room in their Stake (district) Centers. But all you have to do it call the local church’s phone number and ASK where the nearest Family History Center is located. Then call the Center and ask for times and dates they are open. It might take a few days for you to catch the center open long enough for you to ask, but hey... it is FREE. Since it is an all voluntary staff, the FHC is only open a short time each week; in some cases it is by appointment only. Best of all: some FHCs offer classes in research!
The FHC has access to the many online websites, plus they have microfilm and microfiche readers, as well as many other research materials. Many researchers are used to using microfilm to read census and courthouse records, but the FHCs have very few real books in the FHC as the books they have are on microfiche. Hundreds of “microfiche” books can fit into one small “fiche” cabinet. Just take a look at their “card catalog” to see the gold mine of records that are available to you. Some of those “fiche” books are now long out of print... probably two or three hundred years out of print!
Yes, I know most of the libraries now have their inventory on computer, but being an old researcher, I will forever think of a library inventory as a card catalog because that is what I had to use for the first 35 or so years I did research in a library!
May I also suggest that if at all possible; purchase for your home research bookcase: The Library: A Guide to the Family History Library by Wendy L. Elliott and Johni Cerney. I have had this 763 page book since it came out in 1988 and I use it for reference to what records are where and does the FHL have this available for me to order. I can not stress enough how helpful this book is for the regular or professional researcher. Just using the book as a “I am bored and I need something to look at” book will teach you a lot about how to do research. It will even give you ideas of where to search for what information you need. Really... the way the “guide” is set up is what is amazing!
But back to the FREE online website. Really, that is where you have to go: www.familysearch.org is the online website that has the “card catalog” to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If the record you need is on film or fiche and is not marked restricted, then for a small fee you can get it mailed to your local FHC, where you can go and read the record for Free. All you are paying for is the shipping both ways. If it is marked restricted, then sorry... you have to go to Salt Lake City to the main library to read the record or fly across the world to wherever the original record is located... and then when you get there you will probably be restricted to using their “complimentary” copy of the FHL film or fiche, so they can protect the original record from wear and tear.
And then you could just look on the website and see if the records you need have been translated or indexed or transcribed or you-get-the-point online for your use. Some are even tied into the images themselves.
Just go to the www.familysearch.org website and have fun. One small tip from me... if there is a link, click it. If you are not supposed to be on that link, it will ask for a password. If you are allowed to be on the link... just think of what you might find!