Introduction to Family History Centers
Although millions of records are available on the Internet at www.familysearch.org, the vast majority of information available through familysearch.org is not digitzed. A much larger collection of records is available trhough the Family History Library's microfilms, microfiche, books, and CDs. If you are not able to visit the at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, you can make use of many of these resources through a local Family History Center (FHC).
Housed in LDS chapels around the world, FHCs provide patrons access to the Family History Library's microfilm and microfiche on a loan basis at a minimal cost. (The FHL's book and CD collections does not circulate.) FHCs also feature free access to many subscription web sites, including Footnote.com, WorldVitalRecords.com, 19th Century British Newspapers , Ancestry.com (institution edition) and others.
Family history centers are staffed by volunteers who can show you how to search for records of your family. There are several ways to find the nearest FHC:
- Go to "Find a Family History Center" and enter your information in the search fields.
- Call FamilySearch support at 1-866-408-1830 (United States only).
- Check your local phone directory under "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" for a family history center listing.
Each center has unique hours of operation. The listing at FamilySearch.org lists typical hours of operation. Because the centers are operated by volunteers, the hours occasionally change. You may wish to call to confirm their hours before you visit.
A catalog of Family History Library resources is available at FamilySearch.org. The catalog can be searched by Location, Surname, Title, or other criteria. If you find a listing for a microfilm or microfiche you would like to see, for a nominal fee you can request that a copy of it be sent to your local family history center (FHC). A FHC staff member will place the order and notify you when the film or fiche arrives. When ordering microfilm or microfiche, be sure to provide clear contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address).
Microfilms are typically loaned for one month, and can be renewed, if necessary. Microfiche do not have to be returned to the FHL and so have no loan timeframe. Microfilm and microfiche loaned by the FHL must be viewed at a FHC.
There is no charge to use a FHC, its computers, or the Internet. Scanners, microfilm/fiche printers and copiers are available in some FHCs at minimal cost to help cover the cost of paper and supplies. Costs for other services vary, but the following costs pertain to centers in the United States as of March 2009:
- Microfilm ordering in the United States: $5.50 per film.
- Book photocopies: Usually $0.05 per page
- Microfilm/fiche copies: $0.25 per paper copy
- Microfilm/fiche scan to your own disk or USB drive: free
- Some FHCs have writable/rewritable CDs they can sell to patrons wishing to scan microform images to CD. Prices vary.
Ask a staff memer about current fees and ordering procedures.
To make your visit most effective, collect and organize the information you already have. A family group record is a good place to start. Bringing a completed family group record will help FHC staff more easily and effectively assist you in your search.