Published November 5, 2017

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One of the graphics created in the Discovery Center

I’ll be reporting on a number of things from my recent trip to Salt Lake City (via a wonderful weekend of lecturing in Denver, Colorado) in the next few weeks’ worth of “Roots & Branches” columns.

There’ll be an update on the digitization status of the Family History Library’s huge cache of microfilmed records from around the world.

And some “good finds” I made for a high school classmate, one of my hosts in Colorado – and even in my personal genealogy!

But first and foremost, I have to report on the new Discovery Experiences center on the first floor of the Family History Library, owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons.

Mind you – I’m a traditionalist when it comes to libraries, so devoting a whole floor to something other than books or microfilm cabinets in a library gets a skeptical eye from me.

I was told that I’d need a FamilySearch account (which I already had – this is a free registration that allows you to post a family tree on the site) and a family tree.

I thought that latter qualification might trip me up since I’m not a fan of public member trees on any of the genealogy services. When I created a FamilySearch account some years ago, I had only put in information for myself, my father Richard Lee Beidler and mother Mildred Mae Hiester Beidler.

Still and all, I figured I would look at what Discovery Experiences had to offer.

When you go to the Discovery Experiences center, Mormon missionaries first either sign you up for a FamilySearch account or, as was my case, help you recover you user name or password to log on to the system.

Participants are then given a tablet computer to “dock” into various stations around the Discovery Experiences center.

The first station I visited showed a list of famous people to whom I was related. I figured this would be a bust since I hadn’t done comprehensive work on my family tree – but I figured wrong!

That’s because other FamilySearch users had linked me into their trees, most with surprising accuracy (including a tie to Abraham Lincoln that looks legitimate – if very distant!).

Other stations took the information and computed ethnicity percentages based on my family, allowed me to record a story about my family, take a picture with a historical background … and even create photo in the heritage garb of my choice (it will be the only time you’ll see my face appear with lederhosen!).

All in all, I came away from my visit thinking that the Discovery Experiences center is a wise use of the library’s space – and a “must see” for genealogists of any experience level!

In addition to the Salt Lake library, Discovery Experience centers exist or are coming to Seattle, St. George (Utah), Philadelphia and Paris.