FLORENCE — It started as a casual conversation at a statewide conference last autumn and, with some persistence, ended with an affiliation that will make researching ancestors a lot easier in the Shoals.
Patti Hannah, of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, stopped to chat with a group of people at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints booth during the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Birmingham. She asked what it would take to become an affiliate of the Utah-based church’s prestigious Family History Library, which houses the world’s largest collection of genealogical records.
“We tried to do this years ago, but they weren’t interested,” she said. “This time, we traded emails through the fall, and this month we received notice that we are a recognized affiliate of their library.”
What that means for local genealogical researchers is easier access to the library’s 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed records and hundreds of thousands of other materials.
Florence library staffer Clint Alley sent a request to Utah for North Carolina marriage records from the early 1800s. He said the request was two-fold: To get acquainted with how the system works, and to research his ancestors.
“Our patrons can now get records from places they can’t travel to or that or not available online,” he said. “It could help break through some brick walls people encounter when they are researching their family.”
Here’s how access to the records works: Go to the Utah library’s website at family search.org and establish a profile, or call the facility at 866-406-1830. The website includes a list of tips for narrowing searches.
Lee Freeman, head of the Genealogy and Local History Department at the Florence library, said he and the staff will host a seminar soon to help local researchers navigate the website. He said it’s important to request specific records when conducting research with the Family History Library.
When someone requests records from the Utah library, they will also be responsible for paying shipping costs, which averages about $7, Alley said. The records are then sent to the Florence library where patrons can review them.
“If one of the microfilm records is sent to us three times, we are allowed to keep it, which would really help build our records collection,” Freeman said.
Alley’s search for family members in the North Carolina records didn’t turn up anything, but he was not discouraged.
“You can’t go to Utah for $7,” he said.
“You can’t even go to Killen for $7,” Freeman added.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.