Sunday, October 12, 2008

Working at the LDS Family History Center

I’m really fortunate that there’s a Family History Center (FHC) only ten minutes from my home, and just blocks from my office. I never really had the opportunity to tap into the LDS resources until this year, and boy are they great! What an opportunity – records from all over the country (and the world) are at my fingertips for only $5.50 per microfilm roll. So far, I’ve been focusing on deed and probate records from various counties in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

+ Working with microfilm can be a little tedious. I’ve developed forms that I take along to make it easier to record my findings. I have a form for transcribing entries from deed indexes and another form for extracting deeds. I created them in Word with lots of space to write and customized chart headings (for example, grantor, grantee, book and page, number of acres, dates, etc.) so I only have to concentrate on recording the data.

+ The copier at my FHC is time-consuming to work with and most of the large pages have to be copied in sections. Even though it’s only 10 cents per page, I rarely use it. After I know exactly what I want, I order the records from the county clerk. I’ve found that most counties will be happy to work with you if you know your indexing information when you order records.

+ It can take from 2 to 6 weeks to get microfilms in. I usually keep several on order all the time, so I always have work to do. In the beginning, I made the mistake of ordering 15 films, which pressed me to get them all read and when I was done I had nothing else to do until the next order came in.

+ I find it easier to search for films I want to order at home and print the information directly from the site. That way I don’t have to spend time at the FHC going over the catalog and deciding what to order.

+ I recently learned not to depend on the FHC to call when my films arrive. I had four films that arrived and were sent back, and they forgot to call me. The library staff was really nice and re-ordered them for free, but it was still a big inconvenience, as I was anxious to read those films!

When you work full-time, it’s not always possible to take genealogy trips with regularity. I find the FHC is a godsend and working with the records there is almost as exciting as being at the courthouse. One of the main advantages has been that I can re-order the films as many times as I need if new information comes up. It’s always frustrating to come back from a courthouse trip and learn about more records that you could have looked up while you were there, if only you’d known.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

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