Wednesday, September 21, 2016

FamilySearch Family History Center (FHC) Las Vegas, Nevada

There are Family History Centers (FHC) all over the world, and certainly enough in the United States to have one within reach.  Among FHCs, there are larger Regional FHCs found in major metropolitan areas (think Los Angeles for example).  
Las Vegas is one such Regional FHC.  It is located at 509 South 9th Street, on the north side of Las Vegas, 89101.  This Center is open every day except Sunday.  Check their website for hours.

Today I had the pleasure of doing some research at FamilySearch’s Las Vegas facility.  The doors opened at 9 a.m., and I was the first patron in.  Visitors are called Patrons.   Everyone is welcome at FHCs, no need to be a member of the Church of Later Day Saints (LDS).  There is no fee for use of the libraries or the resources (Computers primarily, but film readers et cetera) although printing to paper might cost you a dime or so per page.

As far as I know, all the staff at FHCs are volunteers.  They may or may not be serving a mission, or assigned Family History as a ‘calling’, but they are not paid employees.  In all the years that I have been frequenting these libraries, I’ve never met anyone volunteering who was not absolutely pleasant to engage with.  Generally LDS members will have the typical black and white name tags; although non LDS members can volunteer also (I’m a case in point).  Genealogical skill levels are going to vary drastically among the dear people who staff these centers.

Specifically with regard to Las Vegas, one will find the library a modern facility.  It was recently remodeled with all new technology; I’m guessing 40 or more computer stations.  The LAN speed was great and WiFi was just as fast.  Thankfully, there are about four microfilm readers remaining and they even have some real books left.  Most patrons gravitate toward the computers at FHCs, but the well advised genealogist’s mouth waters at the sight of real books. 

Beyond the active research tools, Las Vegas also has at least two training rooms, one with projection capabilities.  One room is immediately adjacent to the library, and the other upstairs.  From their website there seems to be a good amount of class offerings.  While I was there, an announcement was made that a class on using Ancestry dot com would be held in the next room.  I passed, but was still able to overhear (all too clearly) everything that was being taught. 

Parking is adequate.  A large church lot is next to the building.  Also next door (across the street) is a very large high school.  An army of school buses ascend on the neighborhood when school lets out in the afternoon.  Expect grid lock for 30 minutes or so. 
I didn’t notice much in the way of lunch opportunities in the general vicinity; although I really did not look hard.  I would pack a lunch if I were planning a full day of research. 

Whenever I go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, or a FHC, I have a very precise plan for what I want to accomplish.  On this visit, it was to work through a small stack of FamilySearch catalog items that are now digital, but only accessible from within the FamilySearch portal (that is, at the main library in Salt Lake City, or any FHC). I have a flash drive just for the purpose of onsite research in my dedicated Genealogy backpack.  Knowing what I was looking for made accessing it easy, and downloading same was painless. 

Much less painless was enduring the Ancestry class next door.  I was halfway listening while doing my look-ups.  I couldn’t believe my ears (perhaps because I’d never been introduced to this approach before).  The female presenter was going on about the differences between an Institutional (Library) version of Ancestry and an individual membership.  She was pointing out the lack of a user’s own Tree and how things operate differently on the Library subscription.  Then the shocking part, going into detail, she advocated copying genealogical information out of another person’s online Tree, to your own tree, with confidence placed on the stated expertise of the public Tree owner!  What???!!!  “Oh, this person has been doing family history since 1995, and was last logged on to Ancestry yesterday…that tells me something…I’d trust this Tree.”  That’s just flat crazy.  And for that to be taught in a Regional FHC, is really astonishing.  Or, maybe someone left that chapter out of my copy of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

All and all, I would certainly encourage anyone to visit a Regional FHC as you can, even if you frequent a smaller center.  Typically, they will have more hours, open more days, and have more staff on hand.  Generally speaking there are more microfilms onsite also; check online or call ahead to see if there is anything of interest to you. 

Okay, so there is a quick overview of the Las Vegas Regional Family History Center.