I first learned about the Family History Center about two years ago while I was researching on Family Search. The Family History Center is a branch of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These centers supply resources for research and the study of genealogy and family history. My first visit to a Family History Center was this past June. I went with the sole purpose of requesting a microfilm from the Salt Lake City Library with the hopes of finding more information about my 4X great grandmother. I looked up the hours of the closest center to me which was in Bentonville, Arkansas. The center was only open two days a week, Tuesday from 9am-3pm and Wednesday from 9am-3pm and 6pm-9pm.
I went one Wednesday evening and requested the microfilm that I needed. It was easy enough to do. I just logged on the Family Search and requested it. Now I know that I could have done that part from home at any time. The microfilm that I requested arrived in Bentonville in about a week. One of the volunteers at the center called and let me know that my microfilm would be waiting for me. I got the call on Tuesday morning, so I went to the center the next day. Since I only had three hours to review it, it took me a few Wednesdays to get all the way through it. Although I didn’t find any information about my 4X great grandmother, I was excited to know that I would be able to request more microfilms from the biggest genealogy library in America. That excitement only lasted about a week because then I learned that the Family History Library in Salt Lake City would end their microfilm lending program in September 2017. Once I heard that news, I didn’t really think I would be utilizing the Family History Center again.
During those three visits to the Bentonville Family History Center, I got my microfilm out of the drawer and went straight to the microfilm reader. And that is where I sat for two and half hours. I didn’t look up. I didn’t look around. I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t talk to anyone while I was there. I didn’t even pick up a brochure about the Family History Center. I was trying to maximize the three hours I had to review the microfilm. So I wasn’t aware of anything else the center had to offer. Then last month I was listening to a podcast, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, and there was a three-part series about how to get the most of your visit to a Family History Center. The first episode was all about how to request microfilm, but the second episode was about the Family History Center portal. The portal gives free access to the center to premium software and websites that generally charge for subscriptions including, Ancestry, Fold3, Newspaper Archives, and Heritage Quest. It was then that my excitement for the Family History Center returned.
I have been wanting to use Fold3 for a while now, but I wasn’t ready to make the financial commitment and subscribe. So I went to the Bentonville location again and logged into the Family Search portal. I brought my family tree with me so I could search all the men in my family to see if I would find any military information. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any information on anyone in my family. But it was nice to know that when I want a change of scenery that I can go to the Family History Center and do some research. I am still amazed that I am still learning about different genealogy websites, research centers, and research techniques even though I have been researching well over seven years now. And this is why my journey continues….