New: Online Genealogy Consultations with Family History Library Experts

June 30, 2020  - by 

Humans have an innate need to know their identities—who their ancestors are and where they come from. Finding that past sometimes requires individualized expert assistance.

Now such assistance is available worldwide—for free—through FamilySearch.org, regardless of location or research question. Anyone can share the vast resources and expert services of the Family History Library by scheduling one-on-one online consultations. Genealogical specialists talk with guests in English and Spanish and will soon be available in other languages as well.

Family History Library—A Wealth of Genealogical Information

The Family History Library is the world’s largest repository of genealogical records, and it is staffed with experts in area-specific genealogical research. The library is extending access to that expertise and their resources so people throughout the world can succeed in their family history research regardless of their ability to travel to the library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Online Genealogy Help for Several Countries

A pilot program focused on Nordic assistance, but it has now been expanded to include Brazil, the British Isles, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Latin America, Norway, Portugal, the area comprising the historical Russian empire, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Other areas will be added soon.

The pool of experts features specialists from the Family History Library but will be expanded to involve more specialists, including some from partner organizations worldwide, to provide expert help around the clock.

Help Navigating Online Resources

 Staff and guests alike are finding the consultations to be very useful, especially when it comes to navigating the many online resources and records that are available. For example, Russian and Slavic research specialist Ellie Vance was able to connect a man from Israel—who had previously never heard of FamilySearch—with a variety of resources and records.

“He had already done research on JewishGen.org and JRI-Poland.org, but we were able to locate a few other websites he can use to further his research,” Vance said.

The two were able to find a Yizkor book, a memorial book documenting Jewish life before World War II, that contained the man’s family name. In the last few minutes of the consultation, the man from Israel asked what the “Microfilm” column was in the indexes on both JewishGen and JRI-Poland.

“Imagine his surprise when I told him those were Family History Library microfilms that are now digital images that he can view from home! He was thrilled,” Vance said. “This is a great example of how we are expanding our global outreach to those who could never imagine coming to the library in Salt Lake City.”

Breaking through Brick Walls

Online consultations can also help patrons break through genealogical brick walls. For example, Nordic consultant Geoffrey Morris helped a woman named Patti find the parents of her immigrant great-grandfather in Finland.

The woman had done a lot of research already, but Geoffrey helped her identify good next steps and to join the Nordic research group in FamilySearch Communities. Communities are interactive groups of individuals around the world who share common research interests.

Help Getting Started

Age or inexperience need not discourage anyone from attempting family history research. United States and Canada specialist Vicki Standing spoke with a 70-year-old woman named Mollie who was just starting her quest.

Standing helped Mollie through the process of using FamilySearch historical records and narrowing the search to a specific collection. Mollie was delighted to receive images of a draft card, baptismal record, and marriage record, providing names of parents for both sides of the family. She was able to attach memories from funeral cards to her ancestors’ profiles on FamilySearch.org.

How to Sign-up for Online Consultation

Using the FamilySearch Research Wiki, guests can schedule specific time slots in English or Spanish for their 20-minute online consultation. The booking app provides time schedule information in the guest’s own local time to simplify making the connection across time zones.

Participants are asked to fill out a short survey following their experience to help improve the technological and personal aspects of online consultations. These improvements will allow further expansion. The one-on-one consultations are expected eventually to reach throughout the world in many languages. 

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  1. I am trying to find information about my birth dad. I have his birth date & believe he was drafted & enlisted the day I was born into the Vietnam War. My brother & I would like to meet him of possible or any other family.