LEWISTON – If you are interested in finding out more about your family’s history, the Lewiston Public Library is making it easier than ever.
The library has become an official “FamilySearch Center,” affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering access to billions of records on microfilm from more than 100 countries. FamilySearch International is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven family history organization sponsored by the Mormon Church.
The Lewiston Library is the only site in Niagara County with this new FamilySearch Center designation, and it will offer a free genealogy class at 6 p.m. Tuesday with Jim Lawson, a FamilySearch Center librarian. He will focus on using American military records to research ancestors.
FamilySearch is the world’s largest repository of free genealogical and historical records and manages the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. In its century of existence, it has gathered, preserved and shared birth, death, marriage, census, land and court records with millions of people through its nearly 5,000 family history centers and affiliate libraries in 132 countries.
“I feel like I travel the world on a daily basis,” said Michelle Kratts, a librarian specializing in genealogy at the Lewiston Library. “Sometimes, it takes a lot of digging, and everybody has their own story.”
Tuesday’s meeting also will feature a presentation by the Daughters of the American Revolution, outlining details for membership as well as research methods in filing membership applications. The event is free and open to the public.
Kratts said she personally used the library’s latest genealogy resource to track down the 1922 Niagara Falls marriage records for her grandparents.
“I had never seen this before,” she said. “FamilySearch is great because they are adding new things every day. They are slowly digitizing everything, and they do this all for free. The only cost is to have the microfilm shipped here to our library.”
The fee for a short-term loan, which is 90 days, is $7.50. The fee for an extended loan is $18.75, and that means it is permanently held by the library. The microfilm must be viewed at the library; it cannot be taken home. The patron sets up a free account at the library, orders the microfilm, and it is delivered to the library in a week or two, Kratts said.
“We have a brand-new microfilm reader that is attached to a computer, so it’s not like the past where you had to crank microfilm by hand,” Kratts said. “This is right on the computer screen, and you can zoom in and out [on the text].”
Kratts said she and the library staff are ready to assist anyone seeking help in using the new resource.
“It helps if people come in looking for specific information,” she said. “If we know what you’re interested in, we can help you pin-point the information because all of these records lead you to other records. People have to do this for themselves, but we will help them if they get stuck and send them in the right direction. The FamilySearch website is one of the best around.
“And the nice thing about this is, it’s not just linked to Niagara County; this opens up the whole world to us,” she added.
She said she has seen a lot of local interest in tracing Italian and Polish roots, in particular.
“People are looking for ancestors who emigrated here in the 1800s and 1900s,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to find. It’s a lot of fun, and every day is a challenge.”
With the establishment of the Jon F. Popkey Genealogy Room in 2007, the Lewiston Library has aided those interested in researching local histories through a number of books, computer files, newspapers, ledgers, directories, and the like.
Kratts hopes to find help soon in acquiring all Niagara County records available through FamilySearch to also have on permanent loan at the library.
Those interested in learning more may visit www.FamilySearch.org to see what records are now available to order through the library. Contact Kratts at 754-4720, Ext. 5, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to learn more about using the library’s genealogical resources.