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.
“If you haven’t done family history before, the place to start is to preserve your own living memory,” Stansfield said, adding that what people know in their hearts and in their heads is not often documented anywhere tangible. “If it’s not in a journal, if it’s not shared or written down, it’s gone when that person is gone. So we really encourage people to gather (their) own living memory and use (FamilySearch), where they can enter in photos of their ancestors. They can add in stories that make it alive and personal and so that isn’t lost.”
Additionally, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with an account on LDS.org will soon have expanded, free access to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FindMyPast.com, as reported by the Deseret News in February.
According to the Family History Library website, “The library regularly holds workshops on the use of the library, its computer systems, family history records and resources. Specialized workshops teach patrons about methods of research and how to use various kinds of records, and computer classes educate patrons about the library’s unique software programs.” These workshops and tours can be scheduled online or by calling the library in advance.
“We do what we do because we believe in the family and that we believe who we are today is a blessing and a result of those people who came before us,” Stansfield said. “What they went through and what they did and what they sacrificed has made us, in part, who we are today. We try really hard to live our lives today so that we can pass that same legacy to those who are coming after us. So as we’re gathering all these records and all this information, why wouldn’t we want to share that?”
The Family History Library is open Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays (excluding conference Saturday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library is closed Sundays. For additional information, the library can be reached at 801-240-6996 or online at Facebook.com/familyhistorylibrary.
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