Researching at FamilySearch Family History Centers

By Family Tree Editors Premium

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 a Family History Center. In addition to FHCs, there are several libraries around the country that have been designated as FamilySearch affiliate libraries.

FamilySearch centers provide access to several subscription genealogy sites and digital records, including restricted content not available at home. Many also include 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.

In 2017, FamilySearch discontinued microfilm circulation services to FHCs. According to the sites FAQs, “over 1.5 million microfilms were digitized, and it is possible to view many formerly restricted images in affiliate libraries as well as local family history centers.” Microfilm is still being scanned and added to the digital collection. The microfilm is being scanned at a rate of 1000 films per day. All microfilm should be digitized by the end of 2020.

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.

For more details on FamilySearch Centers, and links to information about specific centers (where available), see the FamilySearch Wiki.

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