Introduction to LDS Family History Centers

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Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of FamilySearch and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (United States), located all over the world. Their goal is to provide resources to assist you in the research and study of your genealogy and family history by:

  • Giving personal one-on-one assistance to patrons
  • Providing access to genealogical records through the Internet or microfilm loan program
  • Offering free how-to classes (varies by location)

As of April 2011, there were more than 4,600 FHCs in 134 countries. There is no cost to visit a Family History Center, and they are open to anyone with an interest in genealogical research. They are operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Ward, Stake and Multi-Stake Family History Centers

Family History Centers vary greatly in size, hours staffed, and resources available.(See: Allen, James B.; Jessie L. Embry; Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah. Provo: BYU Studies, 1995.) Because of changing demographics, many smaller FHCs are closing and resources being directed into "Library Class" facilities similar to the Los Angeles Family History Library, but not like the Riverton FamilySearch Center that has computers only. (See:" Family history centers in Salt Lake area will be consolidated, Shill, Aaron, Mormon Times, Deseret News Publishing Company, accessed June 7, 2010.) Ward Stake and the smaller Multi-stake Family History Centers under under the control of their Stake Presidency leadership.

Ward FHC

The "Ward FHC" is the smallest consisting of at least one computer, related family history programs, most likely internet access and has the most variable hours per week due to the volunteer staff. The Ward FHC may or may not have a dedicated room for their FHC since most ward buildings are designed for multiple use. They may or may not have microfilm or microfiche readers.(See: Family History Center Operations Guide, updated 2008, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Stake FHC

The "Stake FHC", representing about 4 to 6 ward or branches units, is the next in size consisting of two or more computers, related family history programs, internet access and usually has better hours per week than Ward FHCs. Stake FHCs may have a small collection of CDs, books and local historical material. The Stake FHC usually has a dedicated room staffed by volunteers. Most have microfilm or microfliche readers and the ability to order film/fliche from Salt Lake City FH library.(See: Family History Center Operations Guide, updated 2008, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Multi-Stake FHC

The "Multi-Stake FHCs" represents two or more Stakes units consisting of 8 or more wards and/or branches. These have larger dedicated areas of a Stake Center or a separate building for the use of the FHC. These larger FHCs have dedicated book, microfilm, and mircofliche areas. They have 6 or more computers with varied phone line, cable, or satellite internet access, family history software and often insitutional version of, and maybe other paid access sites. All have microfilm or microfliche readers Most have local area family history material, but are not library class FHCs.

Regional Branch Libraries now called Large Multi-Stake FHCs

The "Regional Branch Libraries" of the Salt Lake City Family History Library are considered "Library class" facilities. These were complete with dedicated internal server and a library catalogs or card catalogs for their collections. In 2010, the regional branch libraries were redesignated as "Large Multi-Stake FHCs" on the FamilySearch website. However a supplement to the Family History Center Operations Guide dated January 5, 2006 was the administrative start date for the FHC renaming. Supervision of these facilities are under the Area Presidency or assigned to a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. These facilities are still considered Salt Lake City Genealogical branch libraries and often have book collections in the thousands, microfilm & microfliche in the tens of thousands, dozens of internet connected computers and microfilm & microfliche readers and some digital scanners. All have dedicated servers with DSL, cable or T-1 internet access. In addition all had at least one multi-use classroom, and several research areas.(See: Family History Center Operations Guide, updated 2008, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. AND Family History Center Operations Guide, Supplement for Large Multistake Family History Centers, dated January 5, 2006, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. AND Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, Section 9, "Temple and Family History Work.)
These branch libraries have a dedicated non-paid full-time director (usually a husband/wife team) and dozens of volunteer staff..<Ref name=fhc2/> In many cases non-church member volunteers serve from the community. Local genealogy groups often support these library facilities seeing non-LDS patron use higher than local LDS usage.<ref name=Allen/> While the LDS Church as renamed most of them, their websites reflect older names. The following is a list of Regional Family History Centers redesignated Large Multi-Stake Family History Centers:

*Idaho Falls Regional Family History Center, Idaho Falls, Idaho
*Las Vegas Regional Family History Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
*London Family History Centre, Hyde Park, London, England
*Logan Utah Regional Family History Center, Logan, Utah
*Los Angeles Family History Library, Los Angeles, California
*Mesa Arizona Regional Family History Center, Mesa, Arizona
*Oakland Regional Family History Center, Oakland, California
*Ogden Regional Family History Center, Ogden, Utah
*Orange Regional Family History Center, Orange, California
*Pocatello Regional Family History Center, Pocatello, Idaho
*Sacramento Regional Family History Center, Sacramento, California
*St. George Regional Family History Center, St. George, Utah - Main web site under construction, but click here for information on collections. Click here for name clarification.
*San Diego Regional Family History Center, San Diego, California

BYU Family History Library

The BYU Family History Library, is part of the Harold B. Lee Library, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The BYU Family History Library was one of the original planned FHCs and is the largest Family History Center outside of Salt Lake City. It was formerly known as the Utah Valley Regional Family History Center. It is now semi-independent of the LDS FHC system.

FamilySearch Library

In June of 2010, The LDS Church closed down many smaller FHCs in ther Salt Lake Valley and opened the Riverton FamilySearch Library. The title is a misnomer since this facility has no books or magazines. This facility has computers only. It is unknown if this will be a trend for future FHCs.<ref name=""/>

Finding a Family History Center

There are three ways to find the location of a family history center.

  • Click on the link at the end of this paragraph, then type the name or location of the center you are looking for in the blue box ("FamilySearch Centers"), and click  the "Search" button. If you do not find what your looking for, try the "Advanced Search", where you can add additional search terms. Click here to proceed.
  • Telephone FamilySearch support at 1-866-406-1830 (in North America) or 00-800-1830-1830 (in the United Kingdom).  For other international locations, please refer to the Help:FamilySearch Support E-mail and Worldwide Telephone Directory
  • Check your local phone directory under "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."  Call and ask for the location of a center in your area.
  • After you have located the one you want to visit, refer to its web page at Category:Family History Centers. Select the Country and then the State or Province where the Family History Center resides. Find the center on the list and check its web page for hours, research facilities, etc. (Just be aware that many of these Family History Centers are not updated as yet.)
  • Each center has unique hours of operation, and may have changed from the hours posted on our site.  It is a good idea to call the center for their scheduled hours before you visit.

Most Family History Centers are located in LDS Church meetinghouse facilities (chapels and Stake Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Everyone is welcome to visit the centers and use their resources. To find the center nearest you:

Visiting a Family History Center

Family History Centers are locally operated and supervised. The facilities and resources of the centers differ by location, and range from small, “Computer-only” facilities that do not circulate film and are open only a few hours a week, to large centers open typical business hours with dozens of volunteers, computers, digital film readers, scanners, and printers to support the patrons’ use of extensive collections of books, periodicals, maps, microfilm and microfiche.

The centers are generally staffed by volunteer members of local congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as non-LDS genealogy enthusiasts from the community. Staff members are not paid for their services. More experienced volunteers may be able to assist patrons with specific research challenges.

Because the center hours, resources, and expertise of volunteer staff will vary widely, patrons with specific research questions may wish to call before visiting a center to find out who might be able to assist them, and the best time to visit.

One-on-one assistance

Family History Center volunteers can show you how to use the center’s resources. To make your visit most effective, collect and organize the information you already have. Bring as much information as you have about the ancestor you wish to research, including available birth, marriage and death information.  FHC staff can help you use that information to begin creating a Family Group Record.

Genealogical records

Family History Centers provide free access to many subscription genealogy websites, including:

Family History Center staff can also help you search the Family History Library Catalog, or you can search it yourself before visiting the center.  The Family History Library Catalog is a catalog of the holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the central library of FamilySearch which has been gathering genealogical records for over 115 years. Most of those records were recorded onto microfilm and microfiche. Copies of those 2.3 million rolls of microfilm and microfiche circulate to Family History Centers all over the world much like a public library’s inter-library loan system. The Family History Library's book and CD collections do not circulate.

If you know what films or fiche you would like to order, you may want to bring a printed copy of the film description from the Family History Library Catalog. In many parts of the world, you may be able to order the film on-line and have it sent to the Family History Center nearest to you.

Free classes

Some Family History Centers may offer classes and special seminars. Larger centers may have their own on-line catalog. Information about a Family History Center’s hours and collections may be available through their FamilySearch wiki page.

Ordering Microfilm

The Family History Library Catalog is available online, and can be searched by place name, family surname, resource title, author, subject, call number, film number or key word. Click the down arrow at the end of the Search field to select the category of information you wish to search. If you find a film you’d like to view, you can order that film using the on-line film ordering if it is available in your area. See the wiki page Ordering Microfilm Online. You may obtain a paper Microfilm Request form at your local Family History Center, if on-line ordering is not available in your area. Online microfilm ordering is currently available in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Idaho, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, the UK, Utah South Area, and the Utah Salt Lake City Area.

There is a small fee charged for ordering films and fiche that helps defray the cost of copying and shipping. There is no charge to view films from a center’s “Resident Film Collection.” Some Centers offer access to printers and digital scanners at a per-page cost. Check with a FHC Staff member to ask that Center’s fee schedule.

Microfilms are typically available at the center for a set period of time which varies based on the center location and the way the film was ordered - generally 30 days for paper orders, or 60 days for online orders - and can be renewed if necessary. If you are not finished with a film when it is scheduled to be returned, you can ask to extend the film’s loan period. Films can become “permanent loan” status films and be made available at that center indefinitely. All microfiche ordered are automatically on "permanent loan."  For more specific information about film ordering, ask a staff member at your local Family History Center for their film loan timeframe and extension process.

All microfilm and microfiche must be viewed at the Family History Center where they were ordered. They cannot be transferred to another Family History Center facility, or be removed from the center to view at another location.
Alpena County, Michigian Libraries

Special Collections
Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library
211 North First Street
Alpena, MI 49707
(989) 356-6188 x17

Email: Special Collections

Online genealogy resources available at the Alpena Library include:

Reference librarians will respond to requests via e-mail and phone. Small donations requested to cover their costs. Michigan residents can request vital records on microfilm via their local library.