BYU-Idaho Family History Center closing today after more than 50 years
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REXBURG — After being on campus for more than 50 years, Brigham Young University-Idaho’s Family History Center is shutting down Tuesday. All of the resources will be moved to the existing Rexburg Family History Center.
Directors Diane and John Pierce received a church calling as directors for the center in March and prior to that they had volunteered for 4 and a half years. They were notified at the end of May that the facility would be closing.
“I’m sad. You know it’s the Lord’s work and if it’s the way those things go, it’ll go that way,” John Pierce said.
Diane Pierce said her grandmother Ruby Pincock was instrumental in getting the center installed at Ricks college in March 1965.
“Now I and my husband as directors are closing it down. That’s kind of a little interesting twist to the whole thing,” Diane Pierce said.
Before it was on campus Pincock worked in the genealogical library in the basement of the Madison Library where the Madison Fire Department now stands.
BYU-Idaho administration, with input from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints made the final decision to close the center.
Laurie Francis, university Librarian works in the David O. McKay Library at BYU-Idaho. She said the administrators were anxious to repurpose the space. It will soon be used to house the Academic Support Department.
“Having the center on campus it was very accessible to the students. If they were already in the library studying it was very accessible,” Francis said. “The one downtown is not that far away, but sometimes students are really campus centered and so they don’t go out far away from the perimeters.”
Francis said the BYU-Idaho center was convenient for students. They could stop by in between classes to do family history work, but that will no longer be the case.
“It’s going to be more difficult for them to do that, having to go downtown,” Diane Pierce said.
Francis said many years ago the university created an online associate degree in family history. She said because of the online program and resources, students weren’t utilizing the center as often.
Online family history student, and Idaho Falls local Alyssa Brayton said she’s learned how to utilize multiple online resources to complete her course work. She uses sites like familysearch.org, ancestry.com., and findagrave.com.
“The classes teach you how to find original records and records from different countries. They teach you why records were made during different time periods and teach you what other resources are available when you just can’t seem to find anything on your ancestor,” Brayton said.
Francis said not all of the resources the BYU-Idaho Family History Center has are available online. She said LDS church headquarters hopes to have all of its family history records digitized by the year 2022.
“We have a lot of microfilm, we have LDS census records, we have membership records, we have passenger lists,” Diane Pierce said. “The membership records and the census records are not online.”
Francis said the the some 25 missionaries won’t be available on campus after July 18. She said the wards and stakes will be responsible for their own programs. The Pierces are currently working on training church members in those wards and stakes on family history research.
On July 26th items from the library history library will be moved to the Rexburg center. The missionaries will begin packing the rolls of microfilm, and about 400 books that are a part of their collection, along with computers and monitors.
Librarians at the David O. McKay Library will continue to help students who have questions. They are subscribed to a number of Family History resources and other databases that can be utilized for research.
“Nothing is going to be lost as far as resources that people can access,” Francis said.