The Annandale Family History Center in the Church of the Latter Day Saints, 3900 Howard St. (off Gallows Road) in Annandale, has over 1,000 books, an extensive collection of software and databases.
The center is open the community Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday and Friday 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings 6:30-9:30. You don’t need an appointment.
The director, Shawnee Marsh, or her assistant can help you get started and suggest resources. Among the materials at the center are books and records covering various states and countries, guides on how to conduct research, military and immigration records, and historical maps.
Heritage Quest, the premium edition of Ancestry.com, newspaper archives, and many other online resources that are available only to paid subscribers, can be accessed free at the Family History Center. The center has nine microfiche readers, which can be used to view old documents (like birth, land, and parish records) that can be ordered from the main LDS Family History Center in Salt Lake City.
The Annandale center is sponsoring a free half-day conference Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., on family history research with separate tracks for beginners and intermediate genealogists. The keynote speaker will be L. Reynolds Cahoon, who will present advice on preserving records. You can register online (select “conference.”).
When asked why the Mormons are so interested in genealogy, Marsh says it’s important to track down the people who’ve gone before us. “We feel we have a mandate to find our families. In searching for our families, we find out a lot about ourselves.”
In fact, the LDS focus on genealogy is controversial. The Mormons are engaged in posthumously baptizing non-Mormons into the LDS faith, a practice many Jews, Catholics, and others find offensive. In 1995, LDS elders agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims, although there have been complaints that the baptisms have continued.Marsh defends the practice of baptizing the dead by stating “those on the other side would have the opportunity to accept it or not.”
Regardless of your views on all that, anyone interested in genealogy is welcome to use the center’s resources. You don’t need to be a member of the church. In fact, there’s a separate entrance, so you don’t even need to enter the church.
Several other LDS churches in Northern Virginia also have family history centers, but the one in Annandale, which has been in that location for 41 years, is the oldest.