So I've been doing genealogy for about 15 years now and this was the first time I'd ever been to a Family History Center. Three weeks ago I ordered several microfilm rolls from the LDS Family History Library and on Tuesday, I got an e-mail that they had been received at the FHC in Plainview. Not too bad of a lag time between ordering and delivery. The Plainview FHC only has evening hours twice a week so today I took off from work to make my first FHC field trip. The one in Plainview, like many Family History Centers, is adjacent to a Mormon temple, like this one:
And this is the Family History Center, right next door:
Now, I had done some research on how FHCs work but I didn't know exactly what to expect. The centers are staffed by volunteers, who were immediately friendly and helpful. At Plainview, they ask you to only bring your notepad, pencil, and camera/phone into the library with you. Also, in accordance with Mormon religious views, they ask you not to consume caffeine on the premises, so it was a good thing I had just finished my coffee when I arrived.
The FHC is very small - in Plainview there's an office, a reading room, and a microfilm machine room. The films I had ordered were right there in the back, nicely labeled. They let you take out one roll at a time. It had been awhile since I used a microfilm machine so the volunteer helped me load it. First disappointment - there's really no method available to make copies of any records you find. There's apparently a wonky photocopying machine, but that's it. Luckily, I had thought ahead of time to bring a digital camera to take photos of any records I found. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to charge it. Thank God for camera phones...so, important, bring some kind of camera with you if you make the trip, preferably one that's charged.
And then I was in it! I was there for two hours today - I had ordered five rolls and only got through two of them. Part of the problem was that the records were in German, making them difficult to read. Another problem was, as always, messy handwriting, also making them difficult to read. But I found my great great great grandfather Friedrich Stutzmann's baptismal record, his parents' marriage record, and his grandfather's death record, all handwritten and old looking, which was awesome. They may be harder to read, but original records are so much better at actually drawing you into the past. I will talk about what I found in my next post(s). For now, I have these 5 rolls until April 8th, and I can extend my borrowing time if I need to. I have about 250 years further back to look through and from I skimmed when I glanced at the third roll, the handwriting gets even messier and closer together. This is going to be some hard work. But this is the kind of work that is so necessary and that, for now anyway, you absolutely can't get done unless you go out into the field. The Internet got me started on this particular search, but any good genealogist will take it to the next level.
Looking forward to my next trip back!