McLean Family History Center to Hold Fair on Genealogy for the 21st Century

Editor’s Note:  The McLean Stake has become a model in using family history as an outreach to the community.  Read on to see how some of their ideas might apply in using family history to invite neighbors to the church in your own area.

The McLean Stake Family History Center has become a world-class research center that is assisting many patrons who live in or visit the Washington, D.C. area. Approximately 80 percent of its users are non-LDS who are pursuing one of America‘s favorite hobbies, family history research.

The McLean Family History Center, at Idylwood and Great Falls Streets, is sponsoring a community Family History Fair on May 10 from 9a.m. to 4 p.m.,that will feature world-class experts from Ireland on Irish and Scots-Irish family research. This fair will also include exhibits and advisors for novice family researchers about finding family records for the United States/Canada, England/Wales, Germany, Scandinavia and other regions.

The fair will include “hands on” classes on computerized research for guests with all levels of expertise. Beginners will learn how to download a free genealogy program from the Internet, and then how to use it. The owner of the world’s largest genealogical book publishing company, Craig Scott, will present a class on “Publishing Your Family History”.

The McLean Family History Center is directed by internationally renowned lecturer, Linda Jonas, a former President of the British Isles Family History Society – USA. The enthusiastic and energetic Linda Jonas, recently updated the McLean Family History Center to fulfill McLean LDS Stake President Kent W. Colton’s goal of a world-class family history center. The center has increased its space by adding an extra classroom, and has greatly increased its research sources and equipment. Admission is free. Use of the Family History Center is offered as a community service and non-LDS patrons are pleased to learn that there is no charge for assistance. For example, Jim Wall, a Presbyterian, has enjoyed learning more about his grandfather who fought on both sides of the Civil War. Another patron who had no information beyond his grandparents, learned enough by research to publish a book on his family history. Another patron, knowing nothing beyond her grandparents, was able to connect with relatives and obtain copies of family photos.

 Washington, D.C. area is a “Mecca” for Genealogists due to the National Archives, Library of Congress and the Daughters of the American Revolution library. However, these repositories do not hold extensive microfilmed collections of U.S. states, counties and towns. nor of foreign countries. Therefore researchers at these repositories are regularly referred to the McLean Family History Center which is the only center near a Metro station that can give access to these supplementary repositories.

The McLean Family History Center offers patrons hundreds of commercially produced genealogical compact discs, the largest collection in the Washington, D.C. area. Available are the International Genealogical Index with 725 million names, Vital Records Indexes for various world regions with millions of names, Ancestral File and Pedigree File databases, the 1880 U.S. Census, and 1881 Canadian and British Censuses.

In addition, any of 2.2 million rolls of microfilm and 742,000 microfiches can be borrowed from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. These include records microfilmed in 110 countries by the LDS Church over many decades. The Church does this filming with the consent of the appropriate agencies or churches and then gives them copies of the microfilms to help them preserve their own records, some of which risk destruction by deterioration, fires, floods or other catastrophe. The Church has approximately 242 cameras currently microfilming records in 40 countries. This effort is part of the LDS Church‘s emphasis on families, and making Heavenly ordinances available to all of God’s children, whenever or wherever born.

Now available to patrons are six computers, high speed internet connections, eight microfilm readers, five microfiche readers, two microfilm/microfiche copiers, one book copier, instruction on video cassettes and DVDs. descriptions of genealogical research in every state and many countries, and foreign language translation services. Beginners can walk in and receive orientation or attend classes for beginners Mondays at 12:30 and the third Tuesday of the month at 8 pm.. Volunteers receive regular training, but if they cannot answer a question, they will contact a specialists to obtain the answer.

Sister Jonas, who directs the Center as an uncompensated public service, is co-author of A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors (Betterway Books, 2000) and A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors (Betterway Books, 2002). She does translations of genealogical records in more than ten languages. She is busy throughout the genealogical community serving on the Board of Directors of several genealogical societies. She teaches the most popular class at the Center on English family research with about 60 attendees. Other classes are available.

The guest lecturers from Ireland, for the May 10 Fair, are Dr. Brian Trainor, Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation and former Director of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, and Fintan Mullan, Executive Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. Their and Linda Jonas’ presentations will be sequenced throughout the day from 9 am to 4 pm. Program details can be found at <>. Those who wish to register for the Irish section of the program should send email to or call her at 703 532-9019.

The classes offered at the Fair and their teachers include:(Available to Meridian if desired.)

The McLean Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7 to 10 pm. There are 50 volunteers who rotate their service to give personal assistance to patrons.

The committee that planned the family history fair includes Bill Cox, Chair, of Arlington; Marge Latimer of Vienna, Fran Price of Great Falls, Lori Smith of McLean, Steve and Larraine Swift of McLean, Clarice Cox of Arlington, and Mark Cannon of McLean..

Further information can be obtained by contacting:

Linda Jonas, Family History Center Director, 703 532-9019

Dick Hanneman, High Council supervisor of family history, 703 549-4648

Bill Cox, Family History Fair Coordinator, 703 241-8954, 703 283-4600

Mark Cannon, 703 790-5134