Archiver > GEN-NEWBIE > 2001-03 > 0983514684

From: Le Geefted One τΏτ <>
Subject: First Visit to a LDS Family History Center
Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2001 00:31:24 -0600
References: <385866051.983452569056.JavaMail.root@web577-mc>

Hi Cheryl . . .
I am posting this reply to you privately as well as to
GEN-NEWBIE for the benefit of those who have never used an LDS Family
History Center before. You posed very good questions in your inquiry
<applause>, and I took the liberty of separating them out for others to
read. I'll give repsonse following them . . .

cheryl barnett wrote:
> I've located the nearest LDS Family History center,
> and I'd like to plan a trip there. What should I
> expect from my first trip?
> Will I be able to just walk in and see a big
> information desk right in front and have someone
> show me how to use the center?
> Should I walk in there with a specific goal (e.g.,
> look up my great-grandparents in the 1905 Wisconsin
> census), or should I just plan on learning how to
> use the center?
> Can I call ahead and make an appointment? I'm pretty
> shy, but if I can walk in there with a plan and some
> idea what to expect, I won't be so nervous.
> Thanks everyone!
> Cheryl

Congratulations on deciding to get out and go research at a LDS
Family History Center! I have volunteered at a FHC for almost seven
years now and I'll try to give you as thorough an "intro" as e-mails
will allow.
By far, using the resources (microfilms) that LDS has to offer
is the surest way of obtaining the proofs one needs for their pedigree,
short of traveling to all the churches, courthouses, and repositories in
the areas where their ancestors resided. Much of what will be found on
those microfilms will never be on the Internet, so the inconvenience of
getting up and out of the house and going to do traditional research is
a small price to pay for that non-digitized information. There are many
researchers on the Internet who haven't grasped that concept, and I
again laud you for doing this.
Before responding to your individual questions about the FHCs, allow me
to explain a few things first . . . some of the answers to your
questions can be found within.
Unlike libraries and other repositories, every FHC is staffed soley by
volunteers and the hours of operation are subject to the availability of
those volunteers. Quite frankly, the schedule each FHC is open seems
screwy at first glance, but it's that volunteer availability issue
causing it. The open hours at the FHC that has been chosen to visit will
remain consistent, but the open hours will vary from one FHC to another.
No two FHCs seem to have the same hours of operation. Call ahead of time
to the chosen one to find out what hours they're open - at the very
least, the caller should receive a recording in which their schedule is
listed. From experience, don't leave a message on the recorder. It's
doubtful a return call will be recieved. If there is no recorded
message, then a visit to drive by and look at the schedule is rewuired
and that SHOULD be posted on an exterior door.
On their first trip to a FHC everyone is surprised at how small it is.
They are all small in size. What is found are computer terminals which
can be used for the CDs of various LDS databases to search for
ancestors, although most of them (databases) are now on-line through
their web site. There is also a collection of microfilms that are unique
to that FHC. Microfilms are ordered by patrons (although each FHC has a
few of the same ones) and every researcher is urged to look through
their list of what they have on hand each visit (the list will change as
new film orders arrive and old ones are returned to Salt Lake City). One
never knows when someone else is researching in the same locales that
are of interest.
The TWO things I tell everyone the first time they go to a FHC
is to purchase (at very SMALL prices) the printed research guides that
LDS sells for each U.S. State and each non-U.S. Country that they will
be doing research in. These guides explain what records are typical in
each locale and how to go about finding them in the LDS Library catalog
so the researcher can rent them through that FHC. These research guides
are also avaialble on the LDS web site, but some people (me! <grin>)
like to read a "hard copy" of these. That's item number one.
Item number two is that I strongly urge people to get on the
computer and use the LDS Library CATALOG. All the surname databases are
fine, but they are available on the internet and are not really
considered proof of relationship anyway. The FHL Library Catalog is also
available on their website, but they have set it up differently from
what is found on the computers at a FHC. Don't ask me, I don't know <g>.
What I do know is that I can find every subject and title that I want in
my searches on the FHC computer, but I cannot on the Internet version of
the FHL Library Catalog using the exact SAME search criteria! Go figure.
The single most important thing that LDS offers the family researching
community is the ability to rent almost any of their over 2 MILLION
reels of microfilmed records from all over the U.S., and all over the
world! If a researcher cannot use the FHL Library Catalog effectively,
he/she won't find all those great microfilms that have their ancestors
wating to be found.
For a mere $3.25, a researcher can order a roll of microfilmed records
that comes from a neighboring county, a nearby state, or even a roll of
microfilmed records from a European country where the records were
created centuries ago! The plus side to looking at the actual records
yourself is that the researcher is no longer dependent on some
over-worked, dis-interested county clerk (like in Iowa <g>) to find thei
ancestors for them. The researcher can look through the records for
their ancestors much more diligently than anyone else.
The LDS Library Catalog is based purely on locality, so if the
locale of interest is - say for example - Houston, Texas, the researcher
would search in the Library Catalog under the locality of the CITY of
Houston in the state of Texas, and examine what has been microfilmed at
the city level. But, the search is not done yet. The search must also
include what records have been microfilmed for HARRIS COUNTY, Texas, for
the city of Houston lies within Harris County. That is a BIG mistake
many researchers make - not looking for records in ALL the various
government entities where their ancestors lived! There are records at
the city level, the county level, the state level, and the national
level. This applies to research in other countries as well as the United
States. Don't err by skipping some of these levels of government
jurisdiction and possibly miss that one piece of evidence sought for
(sometimes) years!
Now, here's some bad news for the researcher first beginning to use
FHCs . . . one never knows what level of research experise will be found
in the FHC staff. As mentioned before, the FHCs are staffed soley by
volunteers and - I say this waiting for a bolt of lightening with my
name on it to strike me down <laugh> - while some of those volunteers
are incredibly knowledgeable about research and specific locales, others
are simply warm bodies filling the schedule and will be of no help at
all. The new reseacher needs to know ahead of time their purpose/goals
for each visit. Genealogy is a "self-taught" hobby/obsession and
learning how to use a FHC effectively is included in that process. If
the researcher adopts the attitude that they are on their own at a FHC,
then there won't be disappointment if a "warm body" is on duty during
their visit.
Some people on GEN-NEWBIE have asked me in the past about dress codes
at FHCs. Nothing fancy is required for dress code at FHC's. Women in
slacks works fine. The only dress code the FHC I volunteer at is for the
the volunteer staff - no shorts or "slaps" (certain sandal types).
Patrons come in wearing all types of attire. Your own good judgement
should suffice.
Now, to your questions . . .

> I've located the nearest LDS Family History center,
> and I'd like to plan a trip there. What should I
> expect from my first trip?

1.) Learn where things are from the staff (even the warm bodies should
know this much). Specifically, inquire to the location of;
A.) Patron films. Ask to see how they're filed. Ask if
they have a listing.
B.) Indefinite loan films/fiche. Ask if they have a listing.
C.) The printed research guides available for sale.
D.) The bathroom <vbg>.

2.) Ask for instruction on how to use the computers at that FHC,
specifically, the FHL Library Catalog. Some FHCs have older
computers, some have new ones. Get instructionsthe first time
to play it safe.

3.) Inquire if there is a staff member who has expertise in the locales
the researcher is intersted in. This may be a staff member on another
shift the FHC is open. This usually is not necessary for research in
the U.S., but when starting to research in a different country it
certainly helps to have someone who knows at least some of the ropes!

4.) Use the FHL Catalog (even if you have searched via the website)
and then order some films!

> Will I be able to just walk in and see a big
> information desk right in front and have someone
> show me how to use the center?

Nothing big about the place, as someone mentioned in an earlier post
today as well as mentioned above. Addtionally, see "warm bodies," above.

> Should I walk in there with a specific goal (e.g.,
> look up my great-grandparents in the 1905 Wisconsin
> census), or should I just plan on learning how to
> use the center?

NEVER go researching anywhere without a specific goal in mind. Sound
research principles dictate having an ever changing list of research
I apologize for I should have mentioned this earlier . . . I infer from
your question that your expectation is to find all the films waiting for
you there at the FHC. Sorry, that only happens at the FHL in Salt Lake
City. Each FHC serves as an annex to the FHL by allowing the public to
order virtually any microfilm from Salt Lake City for a rental period of
one month. The rental can be renewed two additional times (at $3.25 per)
for an additional month's rental each time. At the FHC I volunteer at,
after the 2nd renewal the film becomes "indefinate" and stays there
until the patron says to send it back to Salt Lake City. (I haven't sent
a rental of mine back in three years <vbg>.)
Getting back to your original questions . . . you should NOT expect to
walk in and look up your ancestors in the 1905 Wisconsin Census for it
won't be at the FHC. DO EXPECT to walk in and ORDER the specific films
your ancestors are on in the 1905 Wisconsin Census AFTER you look up the
film numbers in the Library Catalog on the computer. [HINT - look under
WISCONSIN and then subject of STATE CENSUS].

> Can I call ahead and make an appointment? I'm pretty
> shy, but if I can walk in there with a plan and some
> idea what to expect, I won't be so nervous.

No appointment necessary to visit the FHC. HOWEVER, the use of the
computers may require signing up for one and you may have to wait for
that. We allow people to reserve computers for use at future times at
the FHC I'm at, but I'm sure the practice varies from FHC to FHC.
Don't be shy. Don't be nervous. Genealogists are all friendly. If do
you run into a curmudgeon, give him/her a big SMILE and say, "Have a
nice day!" Curmudgeons hate that.

Hopefully you have received this before your trip to the FHC,
Cheryl, and hopefully it will be of some help to you. As I stated
earlier, many people are surpised at how small a FHC is on their first
visit, but if they continue to go and utilize the microfilm rental
program, then they have access to millions of reels of microfilmed
records and can do most of their research AND DOCUMENTATION without ever
leaving their home town.
IF you have any other questions, ask someone else! <grin> Kidding!

Good luck and best regards,

Le Geefted One in Houston

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