Notes by Jeanne Carley
Eight billion records are available to the public through the Family History Centers according to Bob Barlow, President of the Brewster Latter-Day Saints Church. Through a massive digitizing project by the LDS Church, all these records will eventually be available online.
He began by describing how his own family has been researching for five generations, beginning eight years before the first American genealogy group, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, began in 1845. The first Barlows came to Massachusetts in 1835, in an area near Springfield, close to the Connecticut border.
Why do Mormons do this research and baptize the dead? Mr. Barlow explained some of the beliefs of the Mormons and talked of love for their forefathers, especially if there are histories of their lives.
Paula Greene, the Brewster FHC Library Director, described the Brewster FHC facilities and hours, and how to obtain films from Salt Lake City for $5.50 for two weeks for use on their microfilm machines. The library is currently open only on Tuesdays until they can recruit more volunteers for staffing.
She explained that the original library in Salt Lake City was formed in 1894, and now has records for 29 million names. Anyone can access the FamilySearch website at www.familysearch.org to download free guides, Ancestry files; search on surnames, places, IGI and other large databases; and enroll in online classes. New indexes are always being added. One reason to visit the library is to verify information gained from other sources against the microfilm stored there.
Joining the representatives from the Brewster Latter-Day Saints Church was a panel of CCGS members who had just returned from a four-day trip to Salt Lake City sponsored by the Society. They each took turns relating their experiences at the Family History Library.
Nancy Daniels, CCGS Treasurer and chair of the Computer Users Group, urged people to use the Family History Library's On-line Catalog, which she called a "lifeline" to searching in the Family History Library. For example, she said she found books containing records of Sandwich, MA, available only in Salt Lake. Her advice was to print out the page of what you want with your order number, place, and surnames, so that aides at the library can more readily get the materials you're looking for. She called it an "amazing resource" with more records than one can use in a year.
Sara Robinson said she had not prepared herself as well as she should have. But as a beginner, she found many helpful people within 30 seconds of raising her hand. The library has five floors, she explained. The first floor contains thousands of family histories; the second floor has microfiche, microfilm and catalogues; the third floor holds state records and town histories; other floors have material from the British Isles and from places around the world.
Ellie Darby, who started going to Salt Lake City with her husband Joe before the current building was built, found it "Heaven compared with what it was before." She called it a "fantastic paradise." In her search for Virginia land and court records there, she learned many records were sent to Richmond. Personal property, tax and court records could trace her mystery lady, Martha, she noted, and answer all her questions.
The size of the place "astounded" Peggy Reid. Although there are 100 paid people and other volunteers to help researchers, she was ready to give up after a day and a half. Finally, she consulted a professional lecturer and researcher at the Library at $55 an hour. He questioned her for a half-hour and evaluated her research, considering the positives and the mistakes. Although she could not find the person she was looking for, she considered this professional review valuable for continuing her search. She also noted the library is suitable for people with canes or walkers.
Nancy DeNise, another enthusiastic researcher, described her first trip to Salt Lake City "like being in a candy shop." Being prepared, she assured members, means something different for everyone. She felt frustrated looking for a Smith family member when the book she located in the catalog was missing the following day, but thought the trip was a good experience and urged the audience to go.
Joan Sullivan, who was researching Ireland, thought her trip was fruitful and cost-effective. She had felt un-prepared as she hadn't been doing genealogy for a year due to house reconstruction. Taking only names and geographic locations in seven files, she listed what she wanted to accomplish. Irish records are with British Isles and all the maps necessary are there along with censuses, court records, and Griffith's Valuation, listing neighbors who are probably related.
At the end of the panel discussion, David Martin announced that next year's trip has already been set for November 15-20, 2009.
See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.