For years, the Family History Library created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more popularly known as the Mormons, have provided genealogical information to the public. The popular Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has attracted genealogists from all over the world, though many have not been able to get there.
A genealogist in Sydney, chiropractorcentennial Australia, had to travel almost 13,000 kilometers to search for information he didn’t, in fact, find. Time-consuming, tiring, and expensive, he learned the hard way that getting there doesn’t guarantee successful genealogical research.
Being aware of that dilemma, the Mormon’s generously created 3,400 Family History Centers in 64 countries as branches of the larger Library. Today, there are almost 40 Family History Centers with traveling distance of our friend from Sydney.
Every month, the Family History Centers circulate hundreds of thousands of rolls of microfilmed records, together with books and other genealogical resources, so that genealogists no longer have to take the costly risk of traveling to the Library in Salt Lake City. The Centers are located in most major cities and in smaller communities worldwide.
Collectively, the Family History Centers maintain massive amounts of data of genealogical value including records on census, churches, vital statistics, probate, land, and immigration.
The Centers and their collections are available to the public at no cost, and they’re staffed by knowledgeable volunteers from the Church and community. The volunteers eagerly provide help and answer questions to Center visitors. Because the Family History Centers are funded largely by Mormon congregations in the community, they are located in the Church buildings.
Known also as satellite libraries, the Family Health Centers provide genealogy-related documents and books, databases for family trees, maps, and specific family histories to their users. Most Family Health Centers contain large collections of books and series of microfilm and microfiche that can be reviewed anytime.
Frequently, the Family Health Center can not release the records that visitors ask for, since the records may still be of value to the Family History Library and other researchers.
However, it is possible to borrow materials for a small fee, ranging from $3 to $5 for each microfilm roll. Since the reference materials are normally in circulation throughout the network of Family Health Centers, it can take from two to five weeks for them to arrive at the place where you requested them. The Center will hold it there for your use for about three weeks, when it returns the materials to circulation.
If you’re concerned that the Family Health Centers may be a pulpit or trap to convert people to the Mormon faith, don’t be. The Church has made the Library and its services available to the general public for years because they believe that ancestry and family history are vitally important to today’s families.
Their purpose is straightforward and honest, and they respect everyone’s spiritual privacy. Rather, they are committed to encouraging and supporting family history genealogy as a important part of self-identity and family unity.