A new FamilySearch Center, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church”), opened in Nauvoo, Illinois, on May 16, 2012. Nearly 300 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the historic Raymond Clark store, across the street from the Nauvoo Temple.
The original FamilySearch Center was in the Clark Store, but about five years ago, this building was made into a visitor center for the newly reconstructed Nauvoo Temple. The Center was moved to the LDS (“Mormon”) church building nearby, but fewer patrons used the facility, even though it was still open to the public.
Two years ago, the Temple Arrival Center replaced the visitor center in the Clark Store, and several Church representatives determined the Clark Store would be a better location to meet the needs of FamilySearch patrons, but the building needed a lot of work to be brought up to code.
Now the new facility houses a state-of-the-art research facility that is open to the public free of charge. The Nauvoo FamilySearch Center is one of 4,500 genealogical research centers open to the public and offering records from all over the world, but few are as up-to-date as this one. The Nauvoo FamilySearch Center has 15 high-speed Internet computers which offer free access to genealogical websites such as FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and Findmypast.co.uk. Patrons are also able to order microfilms and microfiche online from Salt Lake City for a nominal fee and are then able to use the microfilm readers in the Center for their research. The Nauvoo FamilySearch Center is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It is closed on Sundays.
The Center also offers training classes and family history videos for the inexperienced, and volunteers are available to help people get started with their own family history or to answer questions along the way. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 16, Mayor John McCarty was presented with a binder containing his family tree traced back eight generations. He learned he had an ancestor, Leonard Bratz, who settled in Nauvoo in the mid-1800s and whose brother George was called to help keep the peace and insure the safe departure of the remaining Saints who were fleeing West. George’s son later became mayor of Nauvoo.
The Nauvoo FamilySearch Center is the second center of its kind on a Mormon historical site. The other is located in Kirtland, Ohio, but it has not been updated. The unique thing about the Nauvoo Center is it has a visitor facility for people to learn about family history and to capture part of the vision.
Latter-day Saints descended from Nauvoo citizens who come to the Center will be able to search their ancestors, even if they do not have their names. Once they find their ancestors’ names, they can get additional information at the Land and Records Office.
The Nauvoo Center will also be a community resource for genealogical and historical research, open to the public at no cost.
LDS Church Historian and Recorder Steven L. Snow said at the opening ceremony, [Nauvoo] tells stories. There’s a remarkable story of the community before and after the saints came. These stories can once again be told, found, and shared.”
For those who understand LDS (“Mormon”) history, it is fitting that such a center is in Nauvoo. According to Mormon history, this is where the temple ordinances for eternal families were first restored, and thus, the first wave of family history in our day began here.
The Nauvoo Mormon Temple was the first temple in which sacred ordinances could be performed by proxy for deceased ancestors. Now that the Nauvoo Temple has been reconstructed and this FamilySearch Center has been built, many more families can be together forever.
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.