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Family History Library offers resources available to everyone

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — On a typical day, the Family History Library at Temple Square provides access to genealogical records to between 600 and 800 patrons. According to Tamra Stansfield, the library manager, that number increases in the weeks preceding and following general conference, thanks to the large number of out-of-state and foreign visitors who travel to Utah for conference.

While the library is closed during general conference so volunteers and patrons may focus on the words of the prophets, the FamilySearch Center, located on the main floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, remains open that Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and televises conference sessions, acting essentially as an overflow for the Conference Center.

“The grand thing about conference is that the week before you just tend to see the influx of people from all over the world coming in and doing their family history,” Stansfield told the Deseret News. “It’s fun.”

She explained that many visitors who arrive before conference will stop by the library to take advantage of available resources, and many people who prolong their stay in Salt Lake City will also spend time researching their family history.

“We constantly have people from all over coming in,” Stansfield said. Most people who utilize the library in the wintertime are from Utah, but the library is a popular destination for international and out-of-state visitors in the summer.

Stansfield has seen visitors from across the globe come into the library, including travelers from Africa, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and Eastern Europe.

“It’s less expensive (for international visitors) to come here and use our record source than to try to travel to each of the individual archives in their own home countries,” Stansfield said. “Many will come if they know what they’re doing, research-wise. They will come and use our records to do their research, versus having to try to travel to multiple places within their own countries to do their research.”

Of the 2.4 million microfilms that are stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, Stansfield said the Family History Library downtown currently has about 1.5 million onsite. On average, she said the library also has around 400,000 books and serials available for research. Twenty professional research consultants dedicate their time, and more than 600 missionaries and community volunteers also are available to help.

Other resources at the library include 550 patron computers, 350 microfilm readers and access to online databases, including FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, AmericanAncestors.org and Ancestry.com. All of these resources are free for public use, even to patrons who do not have paid subscriptions to the online services.

Stansfield said many of those who come into the library to do research often have basic questions, such as “What is FamilySearch?” “What records are available?” and “How can I record those records?” Other patrons, she explained, come with names of their ancestors and are now attempting to add photos and stories to those records, so it’s not just names and dates.

A list of helpful tips for those who are new to family history research and are interested in planning their first trip to the library can be found at FamilySearch.org/locations/library_tips.

For people who are interested in doing family history but are unable to make it to the Family History Library, Stansfield said, preserving one’s own memory is an important step that can be taken from home.

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