The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' genealogical library, in operation since 1894, is the largest and most comprehensive collection of family histories of its kind in the world.
The church's main Family History Library, in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a 142,000-square-foot, five-story, temperature-controlled building that houses 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed family histories, 725 million names of deceased ancestors and a pedigree database of 80 million family names directly related to existing church members.
Payson's LDS Stake Center runs one of the more than 4,000 Family History Centers (FHC) worldwide to help people search for their ancestors.
"Members of the church believe that the family can also continue beyond the grave," the church's website reads. "Ancestors can also receive the blessings of being eternally united with their families. For this purpose, church members make covenants in temples in behalf of their ancestors, who may accept these covenants, if they so choose, in the spirit world."
"You have to be a geographer because it helps to know where people were," said Bill Windsor, the current director of Payson's FHC. "It is like detective work. You gather your clues, put them together and try to come up with solutions to your lineage."
The once-painstaking task has been streamlined by technology. More and more genealogical records are being placed on the Internet by volunteers in genealogy libraries around the world.
"The future of genealogical research is computers and (the) Internet," said Windsor.
Luther Phillips brings his own laptop to download information from the Internet at the center. Phillips has verified some of his research in a graveyard in Ellsworth, Maine.
"If you've ever walked into a graveyard and found your name on a tombstone, it sobers you up a bit," Phillips said with a laugh.
There are a variety of records from all over the world available at the FHC.
The International Genealogical Index contains records that members have submitted on fiche and on the Internet. The database lists the dates and places of birth, marriages, christenings of millions of deceased people who lived between the early 1500s and the early 1900s. The data has been extracted from thousands of original records.
The Ancestral File is a compilation of genealogies submitted by FHC patrons and others. The Family History Library catalog lists all the holdings of the main library. Family histories and biographies may be found there.
Church member Karen Jacobs volunteers her time entering birth records from 1883 found at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in York.
Everyone, regardless of religion, who wants to research their ancestors is welcome at the facility. There is a nominal charge for making copies and ordering loaner films, but use of the facility is free.
Microfiche sheets cost a quarter each to obtain, and become part of FHC's permanent collection.
The Family History Center is located in the Payson Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the corner of Aero Drive and Ponderosa Street. It is open to anyone who wishes to start or continue family research.
Hours of operation are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Wednesday. Phone (928) 468-0249 for more information.
To access this information online, visit: www.familysearch.org.
This story is a another part of the Roundup's continuing series on how the churches in the Rim country add beauty and grace to our community.