microfilm, family history center

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

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.

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Please note that much of the information found in this article is no longer valid since FamilySearch has discontinued circulation of their microfilms. However, many of the records once accessed this way are now available online through FamilySearch.org from your home computer. Other records are available digitally by accessing FamilySearch from one of the many Family History Centers around the world.  You can easily search for one of these centers and access records using the information in this article.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Get two full weeks of free access to more than 12 billion genealogy records right now. You’ll also gain access to the MyHeritage discoveries tool that locates information about your ancestors automatically when you upload or create a tree. What will you discover about your family’s past?

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

You might also like: Find the Hidden Original Records for Ancestry’s Indexes With This Smart Technique

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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10 thoughts on “Family History Centers: Billions of Free Genealogy Records Are Closer Than You Think”

  1. Oh, (groan….) to say they are manned by volunteers is an understatement! I am SO CLOSE to one, I WALK by it every day! So I “visited” it about 4 times in the past. Each time I was given to this “specialist”, who actually is a very nice, older, lonely man who wants to just sit and tell story after story after story about his life. I have gotten up out of my seat and asked “Where can I look here?” and he motions with his hand, and then won’t stop talking about Washington D.C., and his poor wife, and on and on and on…. so I listen patiently and with empathy, and once I brought in cookies, but I have decided that I won’t go in to actually learn anything, because he is well liked, well loved, but won’t give me anything of value. I guess we are “buddies”, and I am now going to our regular library in town. I never did find out what they have available there in this “Family History Center”, and no one else will volunteer cuz they don’t want to get rid of him….. sighs….. (but it’s ok, cuz I do like this older guy. He’s sweet and need some company)

    1. Sorry for your sad experiance – I am also a Family History Consultant am always playing on sites to learm all the bells and whistles so that I can share their usage – Greensboro N C

  2. Pingback: Can't Find Your Ancestor? 6 Tips for More Effective Genealogy Searches | Family History Daily

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I do some research at familysearch.org. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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: familysearch.org/#form=catalog OR familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlc/

    2. Facebook users can send the request by going to: http://www.facebook.com/RootsonomyGenealogy and clicking the button “Request Research or a Lookup”.

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

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