Our Place in Time: Bring the Past to Life by Tracing Your Genealogy in Historic Kirtland
Kirtland is a place where nature, faith, and history coalesce. The Lake County community (about 22 miles east of Cleveland, five miles inland from Lake Erie) was the one-time headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and is still home to its first house of worship (the beautiful Kirtland Temple, completed in 1836). The village rekindles the spirit of the early American frontier using both living history (like Historic Kirtland, a meticulously restored and reconstructed 19th-century settlement) and Ohio’s pastoral resources (like the Holden Arboretum and the expansive Lake County Metroparks).
Kirtland is a place where you can travel back in time. Just try visiting the Kirtland Family History Center, a genealogy research facility located in the Kirtland LDS Church on Route 306, and make your time traveling adventures a personal one.
“The library is staffed by Latter-day Saints members and volunteers from the community – a few of whom have worked here some 20 years,” says Alan Rabe, Area Family History Advisor, responsible for overseeing Family History Centers in Northern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. “The Family History Center is associated with the largest collection of free genealogy information available, which can be found online at www.FamilySearch.org. You can locate the films you are interested in on this site at home and then order them in the Family History Center. That same site also has about 100 genealogy how-to video classes.”
The LDS has made it a mission to collect historic genealogical records, kept on more than 2.5 million microfilm and microfiche rolls at more than 4,000 family history centers around the world. The two largest Family History Centers in Northeast Ohio are in Kirtland and Westlake (the latter hosts a free genealogy conference April 30 that 150 to 200 people typically attend). Both centers have local-focused genealogy books, six microfilm readers, and a couple thousand films in the center you can use for free. Of course the real draw is the ability to order from the LDS’s vast collection of unique genealogy records on microfilm (the cost to order a film is $5.50, basically to cover the cost of mailing).
“These films are records from all over the world,” says Rabe. “Of course it’s a lot more fun to personally visit a church oversees, but it is a lot cheaper to see the film of the same records right here in Kirtland.”
The Kirtland Family History Center is a small and powerful local library in its own right, offering some 200 books of general family history, land records, Mormon family histories and Kirtland and Lake County history. The center also has a multi-volume collection that lists all of the early members of the LDS church, compiling all the genealogies of these early families. People come from all over the world to experience the history of the area.
“There are about 100,000 visitors to Historic Kirtland each year and many of them stop at the center to do some of their own research,” says Rabe.
While there are thousands of similar centers around the globe, Kirtland is a magnet for people who enjoy the stories and narratives of Ohio’s rich history. It’s a great spring and summer destination for friends and family to relax with the natural beauty of the Lake Erie shore, experiencing how our ancestors embraced the landscape centuries ago. It’s also a place where you can discover something about yourself by rekindling the spirit of your personal past.
“In the last verse of the Old Testament there is a statement about the need to turn the heart of the children to the fathers,” says Rabe. “I think that is a good summary of what we are trying to do. Today about half of the marriages in the United States result in divorce. I have seen many people who have felt lost by that experience, regain their sense of family roots through their genealogy.”
Visit the Kirtland Family Center at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road (Route 306) in Kirtland, Lake County, Ohio. Call for exact times at 440.256.8808, but center hours are typically Wednesday through Friday 10am to 2pm and 7pm to 9pm.