Genealogy Q&A: Researching at FamilySearch Family History Centers

Genealogy Q&A: Researching at FamilySearch Family History Centers

Tips for finding and using a FamilySearch Center.

Q. I’m thinking about visiting a FamilySearch Center to research my ancestors. Where can I find one? What should I expect?

A. FamilySearch Centers (also called Family History Centers) are branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS church) Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.

You don’t have to be a member of the LDS church to research your family history at FamilySearch Centers.

The FHL has microfilmed genealogy records from all over the world, but not everyone can get to Utah to view them. But you can visit a FamilySearch Center near you to rent FHL microfilm for $7.50 per roll. You can search the FHL’s online catalog for microfilmed records that may name your ancestors, and order the film online for viewing at your local FamilySearch Center.
You also can use the center’s computers to access several subscription genealogy Web sites, and many centers have permanent collections of local genealogy resources. Centers are staffed with volunteers who often can help you search the catalog, answer questions and offer advice on your search.

There are around 4,500 FamilySearch Centers all over the world. To find one near you, you can search by location on FamilySearch.

Some tips for using a FamilySearch Center:

  • Call ahead for updated hours, especially if you’re visiting a small center. It doesn’t hurt to call again the day of your visit to make sure the center’s open. Because the centers are volunteer-staffed, if the person who’s supposed to open that day is sick, or stuck at home in bad weather, there may not be a back-up person waiting to fill in.
  • Have an idea of the records you’re looking for. If you want the center staff to help you search the FHL catalog, know the place and time frame you’re interested in.
  • Bring cash with you if you plan to rent film or make copies at the center. Film rental fees are due when you place the order, and most centers can’t take checks or credit.
  • Once you place your microfilm order, it can take four to six weeks to arrive at the center. You’ll get a phone call or email when it does. You have about 30 days to stop in and view the film on the center’s microfilm readers. You won’t be permitted to take the film out of the FamilySearch Center.
For more details on FamilySearch Centers, and links to information about specific centers (where available), see the FamilySearch Wiki.
Learn the best search strategies to find ancestors on the new website in our Making the Most of webinar

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