Patrons of the Union County Carnegie Library will now have access to the world’s largest collection of genealogical records.
The library announced Monday that it is has been designated as the newest FamilySearch affiliate library. FamilySearch is the world’s largest repository of genealogical records and manages the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has amassed billions of birth, marriage, death, census, land, and court records of genealogical significance from more than 130 countries.
FamilySearch is in the process of extending access to its collection by circulating microfilms of historic records through selected public libraries. The Union County Carnegie Library is the now one of the those libraries and, along with the Greenville and Richland County libraries, one of only three in South Carolina to be designated as a FamilySearch affiliate.
“Less than 5 percent of the world’s genealogical records are available online, and most family history researchers cannot afford to travel to an archive nationally or worldwide to find the historic records they are seeking,” said Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager. “If FamilySearch has filmed the records they need, then as far as they will need to travel to view them is the Union County Carnegie Library.”
Carnegie Director Ben Loftis said the process that led to the library becoming a FamilySearch affiliate began in 2011. He said the library’s hours of operation and existing genealogical program enabled it to qualify to become an affiliate.
“We had a speaker several months ago named Robin Foster who spoke about African-American genealogical research and she did some volunteer work with FamilySearch and told us about the program,” Loftis said. “From there we followed up on it with the Richland County library and then we just pursued affilitation.
“To qualify, we had to be open 20 hours a week and have genealogy services available during that time,” he said. “We’re open 51 hours a week have genealogy services available at all times including access to a microfilm reader.”
Carnegie already possesses an extensive genealogical collection that Loftis said each year attracts a large number of visitors, not only from within Union County, but from throughout South Carolina and beyond.
“We have a very large supply of microfilm currently available, especially with some of the newspapers in town,” Loftis said. “We also have different types of legal records and some cemetery indexes. We also have subscriptions to ancestry.com and heritagequest.com as well as a reference and genealogy librarian on staff.
“We have people coming in from all over the southeast to use our genealogy collection,” he said. “In fiscal year 2012 we had 761 genealogical searches and that’s just the ones that included our genealogy specialist. That doesn’t include the ones who came and did the work on their own.”
FamilySearch has more than 200 camera teams microfilming historic records in 45 countries on any given day. These records are then circulated to public patrons through FamilySearch centers worldwide, including Carnegie. To date, FamilySearch has microfilmed 60 percent of the Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death records) of Italy. With Carnegie being designated a FamilySearch affiliate, a person of Italian ancestry, for example, would be able to extend their research by ordering FamilySearch microfilms through the library and viewing them there.
“It basically expands the amount of microfilm we have access to,” Loftis said. “FamilySearch is the largest genealogy provider in the country and our affiliation provides us with access to their microfilm catalog.”
There is a nominal fee of $5.50 to order a microfilm. Once the microfilm arrives, patrons use the microfilm reader at Carnegie to view it. The library staff can help patrons see what microfilms are available, place film orders, and answer research questions. Patrons can also search the Family History Library Catalog online at FamilySearch.org to see what records FamilySearch has available to order through the library.
“We have the certificate (of affiliation) now and we’re ready to get going,” Loftis said. “It may take a little time to get used to the process, but we’re ready to go.
“It’s a service that we were definitely in a position to offer, so there was no reason for us not to go ahead and obtain affiliation,” he said. “We’re really excited about being able to offer this service and to expand the resources that we have available.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 70 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT.
The Union County Carnegie Library is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. Genealogy Specialist Bernice Bryson may be reached at 427-7140, ext. 303.