“A Billion Names in the Local Branch Library,” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 69
There are over a million rolls of microfilm containing records of billions of people in the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City. What many Latter-day Saints don’t know is that they don’t have to go to Salt Lake to use these records in their research!
In 1975 over 250,000 rolls of microfilm were sent to the more than 200 branch genealogical libraries. These branch libraries have been established in most areas of the United States, and are now spreading to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, England, Wales, and South Africa. New branch genealogical libraries have been opened at the rate of twenty-five to thirty each year.
Most of these branch libraries are in stake centers, often in combination with meetinghouse libraries. Each genealogical library has a carefully chosen group of genealogical books, several microfilm reading machines, and a microfilmed copy of the Genealogical Department’s card catalog.
Church members or other persons doing genealogical research use the card catalog to find which microfilms they will need. Then, after you pay a small handling fee, the rolls of film are ordered. Two or three weeks later the films arrive from Salt Lake City.
The film must remain at the branch genealogical library, where you can use the microfilm readers free of charge. Films are usually loaned for two weeks, though you may renew up to a maximum of six months.
Branch genealogical libraries are open at least twenty hours per week. Since different libraries keep different hours, you should contact the local library before you visit.
Besides books and microfilms, branch libraries offer other services. Many librarians have specialized in a certain geographical area or speak a foreign language and can therefore help you with your questions. And if you have a question your local librarian can’t answer, you can contact the professional consultants in Salt Lake City by using the Reference Questionnaire form.
Using the same form, you can also request photocopies of pages from microfilms or books.
Your local branch library will always have the latest information from the Genealogical Department about new genealogical ideas and recent acquisitions. Branch genealogical libraries also keep abreast of the genealogical resources in their area. You may want to check the “local card catalog,” a file of local resources. There are often local histories and family records at the branch libraries that are not available in the main library in Salt Lake.
Another valuable service in most branch libraries is the Computer File Index (CFI), a microfiche index of all names submitted for temple ordinances since 1970. By checking the CFI you can avoid duplicating names of people for whom the work has already been done. In case you do not live near a branch library, any meetinghouse library may purchase the CFI.
For you who live near a branch genealogical library, you can do almost anything in a branch genealogical library that you could do at the main library. There are many examples of industrious researchers who have found the records they needed without going further than their local branch library.
It is also possible for meetinghouse libraries to offer some genealogical services even without an official branch genealogical library, though they cannot borrow Genealogical Department microfilms. To include genealogical services in the meetinghouse library, a bishop may call an assistant librarian for genealogy in his ward. This person works to develop the meetinghouse library’s genealogy collection. He or she also finds out what local resources are available and organizes a local card catalog.
Meetinghouse libraries should also keep genealogical forms and manuals in stock, as well as Enrichment Aids for Genealogy, a booklet available at no charge from the Genealogical Department that lists audiovisual materials on genealogy.
Wherever branch genealogical libraries are set up, Church members tend to do more research. Branch libraries are directed by local priesthood leaders on the stake or multistake level. Any stake (or mission district nearing stakehood) may apply for a branch genealogical library. A stake must show a need, be able to financially support a library, and be able to staff it.
Inquiries about the program should be sent to Branch Library Coordinator, Genealogical Department, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.