Do you know your roots?
Have you ever wondered from which country your family originated? Or maybe why you’re the only one in your family with your hair color?
The Family History Center in Alexandria, located at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), exists for the purpose of helping you answer these questions and more.
The Family History Center was started by the LDS Church more than 100 years ago, according to Diana Rogers, director of the Alexandria center.
“As the church branches out throughout the world, the Family History Center does too,” Rogers said. “It’s to help people find their family, their past.”
The main database the center uses is familysearch.org, which is an LDS Church service. Members of the Salt Lake City, Utah, headquarters add new genealogy content to the database every single day.
The center also utilizes other programs and websites such as MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com, which visitors of the center can use for free.
All positions, including director, are filled by volunteers. Ten different people, including two from outside the church, volunteer at different times throughout the week.
The volunteers all took training online, but Rogers has been tracking her genealogy as a hobby for 25 to 30 years, she said. “It is one of the largest hobbies in the U.S., especially since the movie Roots came out,” she added. “Do you know your roots? So many people don’t.”
When visitors come in, volunteers show them how to set up a genealogy account, explore websites, and research the answers they seek. Then the volunteers let them work independently but stay close to answer any questions.
Some information is only stored on microfilm or microfiche, which the center can order from where they are stored in Salt Lake City. There is a small fee to cover the shipping and handling.
A variety of information dating from 1550 to the 1940s is on microfilm and microfiche, including newspaper clippings, censuses, wedding announcements, marriage certificates and pictures.
The center has three microfilm readers, including one that can send copies right to a printer.
The center also has ways to help people if they get stuck in the midst of their family tree.
“Most people get discouraged when they come to that brick wall. But you don’t have just one person in your family. You have many,” Rogers said.
According to Rogers, the Douglas County Genealogy Society is just down the road, and the two facilities often partner together to help visitors.
Rogers said that she will work in this position “until the Lord decides it’s time for me to work someplace else in the church. There is no end to this calling or this position…”
She and the volunteers simply want to uncover the past. “We want to be able to help more people find their families because your family is a treasure, and if you lose that treasure, you lose everything,” Rogers said. “But people worry about, ‘Well, what if I have skeletons in my closet?’ Oh, open the closet. Let’s find out!
“Families are a big part of our church,” Rogers continued. “We know it’s the Lord’s work. He really guides us each day.”