Salt Lake City is an interesting place, especially the Family History Library. As a professional genealogist, I usually visit the Library once a year, and I encourage the trip for every family historian. The city and the Library are always changing.
I’ll start with Salt Lake City. The city fathers emphasize public transportation more than many metropolitan areas. I’ve grown accustomed to free light rail around the downtown area with a stop conveniently located one-half block from the Family History Library. So what’s new? The light rail has been extended to Salt Lake International Airport. Genealogical researchers can board the train at Terminal One and be whisked to the downtown area, with stops near a number of hotels and the Family History Library. The cost is a fraction of a cab ride and much cheaper than renting a car.
When visiting Salt Lake City, however, be prepared for conventions and conferences. I spent a week there in October, and I had to deal with a large international skin care product conference. During the winter there are also snow skiers and Utah Jazz basketball games to add life and color to the place. If recreation and sports aren’t favorite diversions, there are two major shopping areas downtown. City Creek Center is new and located just south of Temple Square. The other one (built for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics) is the Gateway Mall. Both have a variety of shops and restaurants.
Want to know a secret? October is a good time to do research at the Family History Library. The weather is usually ideal. The summer tourists have left, and there isn’t quite enough snow on the mountains for the winter sports enthusiasts. Genealogical researchers need to know, however, that things are always changing at the Library.
When I first came to the Family History Library a number of years ago, microfilm readers were at a premium. There were lots of researchers saying “pardon me” as they walked up and down the aisles to get to their carrels. A constant swish of microfilm being cranked through the reader whispered over the floor. Patrons headed for the newest rolls of microfilm hoping to find that special bit of information to break down the proverbial lineage research brick wall.
Now most of the microfilm readers stand silent, and I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing them disappear. The computer age has arrived. The LDS no longer microfilms resource material. Just as digital images have replaced film and photographs, so it is with the Family History Library. More computers have been added. Visitors study the information on computer screens with much crisper images than the microfilm readers. Volunteers and cheat sheets assist researchers with cropping and downloading images to flash drives. Even the copy machines are flash-drive compatible.
Both the FamilySearch website and Ancestry.com have recently announced cooperation with or purchases of genealogy websites. A researcher shouldn’t be surprised if a database links with an outside source. I was looking for some West Virginia vital records and FamilySearch linked me with the West Virginia vital records website. The best part is that finding the information was simpler on FamilySearch than on the vital records website. A number of pay websites can also be accessed for free at the Family History Library or local Family History Centers.
The Family History Library is also adjusting staffing. The week I was there was a transition week for the LDS, with new volunteers coming and other volunteers leaving, so there was an overlap. Time is spent training the volunteers to help family researchers with computers, so even genealogists with fewer skills can accomplish their goals. The Library has a variety of specialists to help with national or international genealogy cases, as well.
So what do I miss? I miss the long line forming at the front door waiting for the 8 a.m. opening. I miss the suitcases on rollers filled with file folders and papers. I miss the gathering around the copy machine. How much do I miss these things? Not enough to want to go back to them.
Every genealogist would love to have a Family History Library in their backyard, but they know that it isn’t feasible. Do you have a genealogy research problem? Is it hard for you to get to the Family History Library? RecordClick has expert genealogists who can access all of the resources of the Family History Library. Whether it’s getting a look-up from a special book, accessing microfilm, or seeking out records from across the pond, our professional genealogists can help you. We can also help you with special family history Christmas gifts or organizing your records.