How to Access FamilySearch’s FREE Genealogy Libraries

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that operates the flagship Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as the Family History Centers and Affiliate Libraries across the globe. 

FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for more than 100 years. Because of their dedication and the selfless work of volunteers in indexing and transcribing historical records, FamilySearch provides millions of records that are not included in other online databases, such as Ancestry.com

In April 2021, FamilySearch announced it had expanded its free online archives by adding 32 million new indexed family history records and over 3 million digital images from all over the world.  

Family History Library

The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the largest genealogical libraries in the world. The library is operated by FamilySearch and is free of charge and open to the public. Hundreds of thousands of individuals visit the library each year, making it a top Utah tourist destination. 

Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; photo source, Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1985, the library covers 142,000 square feet over five floors. It houses the names of more than 8 billion deceased individuals from more than 100 countries. They have millions of microfilmed genealogy records that are constantly being transcribed. 

A visit to the Family History Library should be on your genealogy bucket list. It is expected to reopen soon as COVID restrictions are eased in that state. The library is staffed by hundreds of expert research consultants and trained volunteers who help anyone wishing to create or learn more about their family tree. 

Historic Temple Square, photo credit: visitsaltlake.com

Tips: Go as fully prepared and as organized as possible. Set your research objectives in advance. Bring as much information that you already have, including birth, marriage and death information. That way you can  take full advantage of your time at the library. Bring Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts. Also, consider visiting Temple Square, which includes five city blocks of historic sites, exhibits and family activities. 

For those unable to travel to Utah, the library offers free online classes and workshops. You can also access FamilySearch.org online, just start your free account. In addition, you are encouraged to take advantage of your local Affiliate Libraries. 

Family History Centers/FamilySearch Libraries

Family History Centers (FHCs), also known as FamilySearch Libraries, are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. They are located in more than 140 countries. FHCs are open to anyone with an interest in genealogy research.  

Family History Center, photo credit: FamilySearch

FHCs provide resources to assist you in your genealogy research. They provide one-to-one assistance to patrons, access to genealogy records, and free how-to classes. Each center has unique hours, so it’s a good idea to call ahead for details. 

To locate an FHC, utilize their online location tool, just type in your city and state. You can also call their support line at 1-866-406-1830 in North America or 00-800-1830-1830 in the United Kingdom. If you live in another country, reference FamilySearch’s Worldwide Telephone Directory

Most FHCs are located in the church’s meetinghouses. You DO NOT have to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make use of a FHC. Everyone is welcome to visit and use their resources. The FHCs are staffed by volunteers who may or may not be members of the church, but who are experienced genealogists. 

Family History Centers have privileges to limited-access FamilySearch databases. They provide free access to many subscription genealogy websites such as Newspaper Archives, Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, History Map Works, and more. And, some FHCs offer free classes and seminars. 

FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries

Despite the fact that there are more than 5,000 Family History Centers throughout the world, FamilySearch recognizes the invaluable need for library affiliates to help more individuals make their family history connections. 

FamilySearch Affiliate Library, photo credit: FamilySearch

Public or university libraries, archives, museums, and genealogy societies can become FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries. FamilySearch provides its affiliates with the latest tools and tips for genealogy reference librarians. 

Affiliate libraries have similar access to limited-access FamilySearch databases; however, they may not have all of the services of a Family History Center. There are some FamilySearch Historical Records collections that may not be available.  

You can use this map to locate your closest FamilySearch Affiliate Library or Family History Center: Family History Center and FamilySearch Affiliate Locator Map. Or you can use this FamilySearch Location Listing for additional location details. 

References

Related

Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org: How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website (2020 edition), by Dana McCullough
A Genealogist’s To Do List, Fruit of the Loom, Ladies Pajama Set
Eventually All Genealogists Come to Their Census, Unisex T-Shirt, Fruit of the Loom

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