Roots research: Columbia's Family History Center

  • Paul Hawkins, of Glen Burnie, looks through a register of births from Upshur County, West Virginia, at the Family History Center in Ellicott City. Hawkins has been conducting genealogical research on his family for 30 years, and he says he typically uses the resources at the Family History Center about twice each month.
Paul Hawkins, of Glen Burnie, looks through a register of births… (photo by Sarah Pastrana )
July 27, 2011|By Diane Pajak

If the recent TV program “Who Do You Think You Are?” piques your interest into researching your ancestry, you’re not alone.

The Family History Center in Ellicott City has seen an increase in the number of people doing just that — helping more than 36 visitors each week.

Wanda Franklin, director of the center, shared that there’s also an increase in the number of people studying genealogy at Howard Community College, through classes taught by the center’s staff.

“Doing family history research is like working on a jigsaw puzzle. ... Once you’ve put a few pieces together, you want to search to find more,” she said.

With more than 1,500 books, 1,400 microfilmed genealogical records, 1,600 microfiche, 100 CDs, 10 microfilm readers and two microfiche readers, the center is equipped for all sorts of research.

“A doctor came here to do family history research to try to find the origin of a rare disease. And a Jewish friend used a database at our center and found a relative living in South America that she thought had died in the Holocaust,” said Dottie Aleshire, one of 33 volunteers who comprise the staff.

The center offers this service free of charge. But there is a cost if a person wishes to order microfilm or microfiches that presently aren’t catalogued in the library. The Family History Center headquarters in Salt Lake City has more than 2 million microfilms.

There’s a 10-cent charge if paper copies are made, but Franklin said some patrons prefer to scan the images and download them to personal flash drives.

The center also offers free access to 12 subscription websites, including, Find My Past, and World Vital Records.

The center is open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon.  

Family History Center, 4251 Columbia Road, Ellicott City. 410-465-1642.

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