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)
PLEASE NOTE: According to FamilySearch.org there has been a name change for the Family History Centers. Instead of FHC's (Family History Centers) they should now be referred to as FamilySearch Centers. For purposes of simplicity the FHC and FamilySearch Center terms are used interchangeably in this article.
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).
Finding a FamilySearch Center
There are three ways to find the location of a FamilySearch Center.
- Go to FamilySearch.org and click on FamilySearch Centers. If you're searching for a center in the United States, type your city and state in the location fields, and click on [Search]. If you're searching for a center outside the United States, enter the city and country. If you do not find what your looking for, try the "Advanced Search", where you can add additional search terms.
- 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 Family History Center in your area.
Many Family History Centers have wiki pages. To find a center's wiki article, go to 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. Family History Center wiki articles may include information about the center's hours, research facilities, and classes, or may have additional contact information.
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). You don not have be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make use of a Family History Center. Everyone is welcome to visit the centers and use their resources.
Visiting a FamilySearch 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.
Family History Center staff 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.
Family History Centers provide free access to many subscription genealogy websites, including:
- 19th Century British Newspapers
- Newspaper Archives
- Alexander Street Press (American Civil War Collections)
- Ancestry.com (Family History Library Edition)
- ArkivDigital Online
- The Genealogist
- Godfrey Memorial Library
- HeritageQuest Online
- Historic Map Works (Library Edition)
- Paper Trail, A Guide to Overland Pioneer Names and Documents
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.
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.
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. For more information, see 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.
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 90 days. Films can become “extended” status films and be made available at that center indefinitely. Microfiche become part of a center's permanent collection (not returned). For more specific information about film ordering, ask a staff member at your local Family History Center.
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.