SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the largest genealogical library in the world and it’s helping the public learn more about their culture and heritage.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, the Family History Library is home to millions of microfilm and historical records.
The library works with the online genealogical site, familysearch.org and is a place for the public to save all of their ancestors records digitally – for free.
“We preserve records from around the world because it’s so important to us culturally,” says Family Search product marketing coordinator Courtney Connolly. “And we know that when we create those connections, it helps us understand who we are and who other people are around us.”
Inside the Family History Library, Victoria Gilbert and her family are learning about their genealogy.
Before coming to the library, the Gilberts say they put their hard copy family history records on familysearch.org – to help enrich their experience with the library’s touchscreen apps.
“I’m just having a look at a few of my ancestors from the United Kingdom and seeing how I link up with all of them,” Victoria Gilbert says.
Officials with the Family History Library say those who don’t have a familysearch.org account and haven’t put in their ancestors’ information can still enjoy the amenities as one can put in basic information on the iPads and still have a valuable experience.
The Gilberts are visiting from Australia and say understanding their family history helps them to learn about their heritage.
“It’s important for me to learn where I come from and learn more about what my ancestors have done in the past and being able to see where skills or talents that I have come from as well,” Victoria Gilbert says.
Director of the Family History Library, David Rencher says the library and Family Search are focused on connecting individuals with their family and to “be able to have those relationships.”
“We try to provide this ability to make the story all about you,” Rencher says. “At the end of the day, it’s all about you and your family.”
The library includes an interactive set up where the public can learn about themselves and their ancestors and record their personal history in an audio booth.
Other levels of the library include microfilms and historical records the public can use to search for information about their ancestors and where they lived.
Rencher says the library holds more than 400,000 books and 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and billions of photographs online.
“As we turn to the past, and as we discover these stories, we discover ourselves,” says Jason Harrison with Family Search research services.
Harrison says he believes when people become involved in their family history, they can learn to have a “greater perspective for what we have today versus what they had then.”
Being the largest genealogical library in the world, officials say they have full-time employees and volunteers working to help the public learn more about their heritage. They also have other branches around the world.
Michael Hansen says he oversees teams who go into libraries, archives, and historical societies to digitize records and family histories.
He says by doing this, he’s helping people better understand where they came from.
“As people try to connect the dots and as they try to find their ancestors, they start local,” Hansen says.
Hansen says after some research, the information they find can take them across the world to some of their early ancestors.
While Hansen is collecting early records, imaging technical services manager Kraig Butt says when collected, the records must be handled delicately using special equipment.
Butt says the reason it’s important to digitize these original records is to make it more easily accessible where you are in the world.
“If you need records from say, a county in Ohio – where your great-great-grandfather came from – and you want to find out about him you need records from local counties.”
He says records such as state, land,and probate records are some of the ways you can learn about “who that person was.”
Officials with Family Search and the Family History Library want the public to know it is free to use the facility and website whether you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not.
“We invite people all over, whether it’s Utah, around the U.S., all over the world, to come to familysearch.org and try and find your family,” Courtney Connolly says.
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