Behold the Family History Center

You know that moment when you realize the nice person you’ve been listening to is actually trying to sell you something? Boy, do I hate that moment.

So when I speak publicly about saving life stories, I note that hiring a personal historian is only one option. You can record memories in a journal, arrange “interviews” with family members, try the StoryCorps app … no matter your preference, it will provide a boon to your family.

Colorado Springs North Family History Discovery Center
Good bones: the center on Lexington Drive.

Recently, I came upon another option worth consideration: visiting a Family History Center. Run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — but open to anyone — the centers are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. (For a brief overview of why, generally speaking, Mormons prioritize family history, see this short article.)

There are five centers in the Colorado Springs metro area; the most elaborate is the Colorado Springs North Family History Discovery Center on Lexington Drive. When I visited, more volunteers were on site than there were patrons actually using the facility. Which is pretty ridiculous, given all you can do there, all for free.

Take, for instance, the Video Room, which makes up half of what’s called the “Record My Story Room.” Outfitted with digital audio and video equipment, the room can host a single person telling his or her story directly to a camera; one family member interviewing another; or a small group sharing memories. Vint Atkinson, an assistant director with the center, says it’s probably used once a month.

Family History Center Story Booth
The Story Booth’s warm glow.

The other half of the room is the Story Booth, of which Atkinson says there are maybe only a dozen in the U.S. (For context, there are nearly 2,000 family history centers around the country, and 4,600 around the world.)

At the heart of the Story Booth sits an iPad outfitted with a light frame. (It brightens up your face for the iPad camera). Sit down, tap the age range to which you belong, and you’ll be led through a video “interview” in which a vaguely Alec Baldwin-esque avatar asks a predetermined series of questions. Some tease out life experiences, while others are more abstract. (A sample of the latter: “If you could get the answer to one question, what would you ask?”) When you’re done, you have your video emailed to you, or download it directly to a flash drive.

You can reserve a time for a visit, or just drop in. This family history center also offers high-speed scanners for photos or documents; microfilm and microfiche readers, with 2,000 often-requested films on hand; and various books and handouts. Its website includes resources from interviewing tips to listings for free weekly classes related to genealogy.

Click here to learn more.