On Tuesday, the Cartersville, Georgia Family History Center will open its doors in the north end of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 870 Peeples Valley Road in Cartersville.
“The church first began genealogy in the 1800s. The Genealogical Society of Utah was established ... and was one of the first genealogical organizations and they began acquiring genealogies — family genealogies — historical books, things of that nature, to help all of their members do the genealogical work that would be required,” said Yvonne Mashburn-Schmidt, Stake LDS Family History Center director, Cartersville, Georgia Stake. “They grew and grew, and then they had all these collections. So eventually the Genealogical Society of Utah became FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch.org is the organization that partners with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they provide free research materials to everybody.
“Everything they acquire is free. Now they do a couple of different things. They partner with other groups like Ancestry.com, the national archives and lots of other third party vendors that you and I would have to pay a subscription to join. For instance, if you want to be a participant and research on Ancestry.com you pay ... for that privilege to join. The church buys that subscription for the public. So the church partners with Ancestry.com and they open a Family History Center. This Family History Center is given computer access, microfilm readers, multi-function printers and the church provides access to everybody who comes to the center to those third party vendors for free.”
The Family History Center in Cartersville is a branch facility of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is the largest genealogical repository. The local center is equipped with six computer stations, one microfilm reader and a multi-function printer with scanner. Along with the Family History Library’s records, the genealogical operation will provide patrons complimentary access to third party vendors, such as Fold3.com.
Starting Jan. 7, the Family History Center will be open to the public Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon; Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Sunday, after 2 p.m. by appointment. While everyone is welcome, the Cartersville, Georgia Family History Center will primarily serve the residents of Bartow County, north Cobb County, Cherokee County and Gordon County.
“A lot of people just don’t know how to do it and they just need to get their feet wet,” said Chuck Sidlow, second counselor in the Cartersville Stake presidency. “So if they need [guidance from] someone who’s knowledgeable, they can come to our history center. ... This is not a money-making operation. It’s to serve the local membership and public in this region. So anybody can come.
“... This is a location to help the local community learn how to do genealogical research, which they could then go home and take those resources and that wisdom and knowledge ... [and use] their own computer [and] have a little more expertise as to how to approach that and not be so frustrated trying to seek out their ancestors.”
Along with providing the public access to genealogy resources, the Family History Center also will offer free quarterly workshops. To be conducted Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon, the first workshop will be geared toward participants with a beginning to intermediate research ability level.
“It’s going to teach the attendees how to analyze census records,” Schmidt said. “People — sometimes when you’re looking for your family on a census record, you just look for the name and you find them and you’re like, ‘OK.’ But there’s much, much more information in that census record that people may not know about. So I’m going to teach those people who attend the class, [which is] free, how to analyze and extract all of that in between the lines information, so that they can put together a story. One of the more interesting things that people don’t know is ... census takers were given instructions ... so that when they go to a family to obtain census information there are certain ways that those questions are answered that indicate to the federal government the data that needs to be acquired.
“... For instance, the 1920 and 1930 census records tell us what year the person immigrated, if that’s the case. They tell us from where that person immigrated. They give us an occupation. They give us an educational background. Now when you look at it, it says, ‘Can the person read or write?’ And it may have a check. You may assume that means, ‘Yes, they can read or write’ but the instructions are very detailed about how that question’s answered. So you have to read the census instructions to understand the questions that were asked and the background.”
For Schmidt, one of the most exciting parts of helping someone with their family research is the information discovered along the way.
“There is nothing better and more enjoyable for me than when I see someone see a census record for the first time and find out that their ancestor was a shoemaker or he was a wagon maker or that he was a blacksmith,” Schmidt said. “All those little pieces of information that you find really bond you with that ancestor and someone who was previously just a name all of a sudden becomes this real life person. You really come to know them and that is the most wonderful thing — watching their eyes light up.
“... I’ve seen people jump up and down and they cry, they actually cry, when they see their family’s old census records or if they find a grandfather and he’s filed a Civil War pension record. And it tells all about his disability and that he was shot in the leg or shot in the back and he’s paralyzed and he needs his $3 a month for pension. Those stories touch our hearts and when you see people find those stories and you watch their responses, there’s just nothing better than that.”
For more information about the Family History Center, call 770-386-0423 or 678-451-4099, email CartersvilleGaFHC@hotmail.com or visit its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Cartersville.Georgia.FHC. Along with spreading the word about its opening, Family History Center volunteers also are seeking photographs and stories of local residents’ ancestors to display.