Family History Centers: Billions of Free Genealogy Records Are Closer Than You Think

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Family History Centers: Billions of Free Genealogy Records Are Closer Than You Think

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Many genealogists have dreamed of making their way to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. With genealogy records on more than 3 billion individuals, this family history center hosts the largest collection of its kind found anywhere in the world.

But what many don’t realize is that the family history records from this collection are also available on loan through a network of more than 4,500 FamilySearch Family History Centers around the world.

At a FamilySearch center you can search billions of online records. These centers also offer access to the LDS circulating collection of 2.5 million microfilms from over 100 countries. Volunteer staff at a FamilySearch center will help you understand and use their available resources. If you are a beginner, they can help you get started with your own family history. In some locations, expert research advisers are available.

What this means is that not only can you access the wealth of information available at each individual location–including full access to available microfilms and helpful volunteer experts–but you can also order specific microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and have them shipped to your local center.

FamilySearch’s Microfilm Ordering service is your gateway to a vast collection of genealogical and historical records. The service allows you to reserve and loan films to family history centers and affiliate libraries. The loan is free, but there is a small shipping and handling charge for each film.

So how do you go about gaining access to this vast and valuable information?

Here are 4 steps for finding a FamilySearch Family History Center and ordering the microfilms you need.

1. Find a Family History Center in your area by searching the location finder on this page. The finder will provide you with the location and days and hours of operation for each center in your area. You can even grab directions and a link to the local website, if one is available.

2. Now, visit the online catalog on FamilySearch and search by name, location or keyword to discover microfilms that may contain records and information about the ancestors you are looking for. Write down the film numbers that correspond with the collection you want to access.

3. Finally, take a look at this page to find out how to order the films and have them shipped to your local Family History Center. You can track your film order online, and FamilySearch will let you know when your film has been delivered to your location.

4. Contact your local Family History Center to verify days and hours of operation and find out how much they charge for copies from microfilm before heading out.

Have you used a FamilySearch Center in your area? Tell us about it!

Image: Washington, D.C. Comparing a Chinese book with the microfilm reproduction in the Asian Division of the Library of Congress | Library of Congress

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  • Pam
    March 2, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Please be aware that the centers are manned by volunteers, there is no staff. On any particular day it is certainly possible that something has prevented them from opening. It never hurts to phone ahead. I’ve successfully visited the Ashburn center on several occasions.

  • Jan
    February 28, 2015 at 11:25 am

    When I started my research 20 years ago when there was little online, I ordered hundreds of microfilm from Salt Lake over a period of years to my local family history library. Using Census, probate, land and microfilm church records, I was able to successfully research my family lines without leaving my home county.

  • JMueller
    February 25, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I do some research at After locating a record that I wanted a copy of, I have done an online microfilm order to be delivered to the Family History Center near me. There is a small charge for the film rental. After placing the order I received an order confirmation. When the microfilm was shipped, I received an email notification of the shipment. I went into the Family History Center, found the record I was looking for, and printed a copy. The volunteer was extremely friendly and helpful.

  • D Conner
    February 8, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I went to the Family History Center is Ashburn, VA to request some records and it was locked up tight. The hours were posted and I had written them down. It was supposed to be open and no one was there. It doesn’t work for me.

  • April 19, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for your article. Please note that the research firm Rootsonomy provides lookups of film, fiche, books, and magazines at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Plus, our lookup specialists are all professional researchers, so they will do research if needed to find the records. Simple 2-step process:

    1. Locate the desired collection in the FamilySearch Catalog: OR

    2. Facebook users can send the request by going to: and clicking the button “Request Research or a Lookup”.

    All others can submit requests at: Records will be digitally downloaded and sent via email within a couple days.

  • Alison McIntyre
    April 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Some public libraries can also order Family History Center microfilms.

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