Ogden’s new FamilySearch Center opens its doors to the public this week and if you live anywhere near it, you must stop by. Not only is there fabulous information to be found and learned, the views and the photos on the walls are worth the stop. And if you’ve never taken the chance to visit a FamilySearch Center, Ogden’s would be a great place to start.

FamilySearch Center
This mural of Ogden icons is painted on one of the main walls in the Ogden FamilySearch Center.

I’ve visited several FamilySearch Centers over the years – the FamilySearch Library at Temple Square, Layton FamilySearch Center, Lehi FamilySearch Center, St. George FamilySearch Center, Seattle FamilySearch Center and Joseph Smith Memorial Building FamilySearch Center. They all have been delightful and I have learned something new about my family history with each visit, but I love the upgrades I see with each new center as it opens. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are big and the Ogden FamilySearch Center is no different.

Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,  Steven Petersen, said he likes to think of Ogden’s center as its driving of the golden spike – joining past, present and future. That fits for a town that has such a rich railroad history. Former Ogden Family History Center Director David Erickson said the history of area where the center now sits is special. “Nothing has been on this property for 40 years,” he said. Over 50 years ago the family history center was kitty-corner from where the new center sits now right across from the Ogden tabernacle. “It seems fitting for it to be right where it is. It’s like it was empty waiting for this,” he said with a wide smile.

The Ogden center is the only one that is two floors and that is across the street from a temple – literally a stone’s throw away. In addition to all the discovery pieces in the center, there is also classroom and private meeting space for classes to be taught and thoughts to be shared. The current center directors, Merrell and Renee Johnson have lived in the Ogden area for 37 years. “We call Ogden home,” Merrell said happily. “For me, the two story building and that view on the second floor is really something special,” Merrell noted.  The building is a treasure for Ogden for sure.

FamilySearch Center
The view right outside the north window at Ogden’s new FamilySearch Center.

I came up with five reasons it’s worth spending a few hours and even some drive time to check it out.

1. You Will Learn About Yourself

The family history stations are much like the stations at the other centers, but there is plenty of room to be able to see everything and things feel spread out, so you aren’t crowded. There are docking stations where you take an ipad and sign into FamilySearch and when you dock your device by the screen it opens a big world of discovery. There are stations to learn about the year you were born plus rooms – family rooms and single rooms where you can sit down comfortably behind a closed door, dock your device and answer a series of questions related to yourself and/or members of your family. You can take questions prompts that come up on the screen or come up with your own questions. There are categories and the rooms are set up so you can focus  and not be distracted by people walking by. You do the questions in 10-minute increments (or less) so things don’t get too lengthy. The lighting is soft and it feels relaxed and comfortable. Once you’re done, the audio recording is emailed directly to you and you can upload it to FamilySearch, share with friends or family or just keep it for yourself. The process works. How do I know? I’ve been working with a client who did a series of oral history interviews at a FamilySearch Center family room and it has been terrific. In Ogden, there is no appointment needed to use the rooms and since the recordings are only in 10-minute sections, you won’t have to wait long if there is a wait at all.

A perfect quote on the second floor of the Ogden FamilySearch Center.

Related: Tell your story

Related: What I learned about the family discovery center

2. You Will Learn About Your Ancestors

Along with stations to learn about yourself, there are great stations to learn about ancestors. At the “Where do I come from” station you can see a map of where your ancestors are from – all around the world. When you touch the screen on a particular picture, their name comes up along with all the pictures or stories that have been stored in FamilySearch. In the tour group I was in, this hit a current of electricity. The idea of learning specific details from a map felt exciting.

My favorite station is a history station where you can see a timeline of your ancestors’ lives and can find out what was happening in history during different parts of their life. This is fascinating to me and helps me feel a deep connection to my ancestors when I understand the hardships of the world they lived in, but see how they triumphed in their lives. The old photos of history that accompany the scenes are also inspiring.

FamilySearch Center
A great old photo of two Ogden brothers in 1939.

3. You Can Organize all the Stuff

FamilySearch has really outdone itself in this department.

There are scanning stations, photocopiers and one of the most exciting things to me is a video machine that digitizes old video tapes and to thumb drives or CD’s.

Who doesn’t have stacks of videos lying around waiting to be digitized and used? There is also a machine that digitizes old slides. My mom has a stack a grown man’s size high of slides begging to be digitized. The best part? It’s all free. Appointments are needed to use the scanner, but can be set up on the website.

Related: Layton Family Discovery Center

4. The Views and Photos are Stunning

It might be because I’m an Ogden girl at heart, but the large photos of old-time Ogden, the Ogden mural and the paintings by local artists have my heart! Maybe I’ve never noticed them in the other centers, but these touches make the center feel like it belongs in the heart of Ogden. The big, open windows across the north side of the building allow for light whether it’s a cloudy or sunny day and the views from the second floor are jaw-dropping to be honest. There are chairs and couches up against all the windows with outlets to plug in and charge computers, but the 45 computers are situated in such a way that the beautiful views can be seen right from the computer spaces too. There are captions on almost all the photos in the corners and it’s enjoyable to read about the history in Ogden within the photos.

FamilySearch Center
An LDS missionary gives a sample of activities in the children’s center.

5. It’s All About Family

It’s obvious the FamilySearch Center would be all about family, but this center has hit all the special touches. There is a sweet children’s area with a family-tree themed area with a literal family tree and table with boxes of toys. The cool part is the computers on the other side of the wall are set up in such a way that parents can keep an eye on their children and can also look up at the reflective mirror to make sure everything is well as they work on their family history. Adjacent to the play area are small discovery stations for children with computer screens set up at child-height for small kids to dock ipads and make their own discoveries about their ancestors with games about countries of their heritage and clothing they wore.

Related: Remember Who You Are

Plan some time to take in what the Ogden FamilySearch Center has to offer. Everyone in your family will come away with a new discovery and you may all connect in special and meaningful ways. Don’t put it off. For hours check their website by clicking here.

Rachel Trotter
Rachel Trotter

Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com, Mormon.org and Meridian Magazine. She also loves to teach about writing, interviewing and storytelling. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.


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