Deeds, wills and marriage files are among the records genealogists pursue at the county courthouse.
But if you live in Tampa and your ancestor lived in Wayne County, Mich., how can you get your hands on those records without an expensive trip up North?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon church, has the solution.
Images of county records fill more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in the church library in Salt Lake City. And they're not just records of church members' ancestors; the library amasses data without discrimination.
But Salt Lake City isn't any closer than Michigan, so how does that help?
In addition to its huge library in Utah, the church has more than 4,500 Family History Centers around the world. Researchers can go to any center and order microfilm from Utah. The Salt Lake City library will ship the film within a few weeks to the local facility.
There are several centers in the Tampa area. To find the nearest one, go to www.familysearch.org, click on "Library" and select "Family History Centers" from the drop-down menu.
A visit to a family center must be planned just as any research trip would be. And that begins with the online library catalog. At the
familysearch.org site, select "Library" from the menu bar and then "Library Catalog" from the drop-down menu.
The next screen will show two fill-in boxes. At the "Place" box, enter the name of the county where the ancestor created records. Type the place name, such as "Wayne," but do not include the word "county." Click on "Search."
The next screen will show every location with the word "Wayne." Select "Michigan, Wayne."
A list of all the Wayne County government records and many newspapers and books held by the library appear on the screen. Choose "Probate records" and five choices appear. "Select probate estate packets, 1797-1901." At the next screen, look to the upper right corner and click on "View Film Notes."
On this two-column page, select the correct alphabetical row from the first column and then the "FHL US/CAN Film" number from the second column.
Take this film number to the family history center. Each film roll order will cost $5.50. That's a lot cheaper than a trip to Michigan. In a few weeks, the center will call to say the film is available. The center will keep the film, which must remain at the facility, for four weeks, but the researcher can request an extension.
Next week we'll look at other materials available through the church Web site.
Jewish society meeting
What can you learn in a cemetery? Find out at 2 p.m. April 18, when Rita Shapiro and Vicki Adelson present "Graveyards Tell Genealogical Stories" at the Jewish Genealogical Society meeting at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater.
For information on the organization or directions to the meeting, call Sally Israel at (727) 343-1652.
Maitland professional genealogist Ann Mohr Osisek promises to whip attendees into shape - or at least help get their records in order - at the April 20 meeting of the South Shore Genealogical Society.
Despite the lecture's title, "Once Upon a Desk," Ann promises that organization is no fairy tale. Following lunch at noon, her lecture will begin at 1 p.m. Reservations must be made no later than April 14 by sending a check for $13 to the society at P.O. Box 5202, Sun City Center FL 33573. To finalize the reservation by selecting a meal, call Sally Wepfer at (813) 634-7539.