ST. GEORGE – The search to discover who we are and where we come from is getting easier and more exciting. Church leaders and members of the St. George Interfaith Council gathered Saturday morning to officially break ground on a new family history center.
Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led a brief ceremony at the site of the new FamilySearch Library at 250 E. 600 South in St. George. The new 13,500 square foot facility, set to open fall of 2016, will replace the existing library and will include an interactive discovery center designed to engage visitors in a whole new way.
“This center will be unlike any other family history center we’ve had. It will be full of technology. You’ll walk in and there will be 55-inch monitors all over the place where you can go and see your family displayed, the migration of your family displayed in fun, interactive ways,” said Suzanne Curley, Patron Services manager for North America. “You’ll be able to learn about yourself. What happened the year you were born? What was going on in the world at that time? So it’s a very different approach to family history than most people are used to.”
Replacing the image of a library full of dusty books and microfilm is the goal of the discovery center concept designed to welcome families and support the libraries fastest-growing user group, researchers under the age of 25.
“They really have become kind of computer labs and places where dedicated genealogists go to do research, said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch. “What we realized is they really weren’t very inviting for families and for kids. So we began a concept of a discovery center where you come and discover things and the first thing you discover is yourself.”
Existing discovery centers are so popular, according to Brimhall, visitors must make reservations months in advance. The decision to combine a discovery center with a family history library will be a first for FamilySearch.
“This is a bit of a prototype to see what happens when you bring both of those together,” Brimhall said.
The design is meant to eliminate the fears and frustrations some people feel when they consider searching for their ancestors. Brimhall said most people avoid beginning family research because they don’t know where to start, think it’s too hard, or “Aunt Martha’s done it all,” he said, adding: “What we try to say is none of those things are true.”
A staff of 150 and an extensive research database will be available to assist those just beginning their family history search.
“You don’t have to do anything. We’ll help you,” Brimhall said. “And then we’ll help you find ancestors nobody’s ever found.”
The center offers the opportunity to add family information to the collection and record family stories for future generations to hear.
FamilySearch is the self-declared largest genealogy organization in the world. Brimhall said the library adds two million names a day to its database. The nonprofit group operates 4,800 family history centers worldwide. The public is welcome to visit and use the library free of charge.
“I have developed a rather intense feeling about the fact that deep down inside of every one of us is a longing to know our roots and from where we come,” Brimhall said during the ceremony. “It’s just in our DNA. We can’t stamp it out. We don’t want to. It’s there. So this is to help people satisfy that longing and desire to know their ancestors.”
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