Jay W. Grant
801-374-2283 – Provo
The Utah South Area Family History Training Center was a Family History unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mission of this Center was to provide quality training in genealogical research and computer technology for those with family history callings and others who have a desire to learn or improve their skills in meeting their personal genealogy goals. The program was unique in the Church.
The Utah South Area Family History Training Center started in its current form in 1995, but was then known as the Family History Missionary Training Center.
Before that time, family history missionaries were being trained in research and basic computer technology at the Utah Valley Regional Family History Center at BYU. This program was administered by the Family History Department in Salt Lake City.
In May of 1995, the computer training was moved from the BYU campus to the gray chapel by the BYU football stadium. The first class was held in that building on May 5, and consisted of six senior couples and one senior sister. The lectures were given in a classroom made large enough by opening a set of accordion doors between two smaller rooms. A large 48-inch television was placed in the front of the class and connected to a computer to display the instructional material for all to see.
The back of the room contained four computers to be used for laboratory exercises. Across the hall was a small narrow room which appeared to have been a janitorial closet at one time. It was big enough to hold three computers. As the classes grew, it became necessary to use the computers in the various ward and stake clerks’ offices.
The research training remained at the UVRFHC location on the BYU campus until the spring of 1996. Due to the lack of classroom space on campus, all training was moved to the gray chapel. As the number of missionaries called to family history assignments continued to grow, it became apparent that we were outgrowing the gray chapel. By December of 1997, we had trained 801 missionaries and it was time to look for bigger facilities.
At this time, two seminary buildings in the Provo area were no longer to be used by CES due to Dixon and Farrer Junior High Schools changing to middle schools. Arrangements were made for those seminary buildings to be turned over to the Family History Department for the continued training of Family History missionaries.
The Farrer seminary building was refurbished with new carpets and new paint, and remodeled to accommodate adult students. In January of 1998, classes were held in the new facility for the first time. Research classes were held part of the week and the computer classes were held later in the week.
In December of 1998, remodeling of the Dixon building was complete. The instructional time was divided between the two buildings with research training taking the first three days of the week and computer training taking the last three days of the week. This worked fine until the classes became so large that neither building would accommodate the size of the group. It then became necessary to do "double sessions" with half the group doing research training while the other half did computer training. After the third day, the groups switched places and each building was involved solidly for the six day period.
For several months we had classes of 50 or more students at each session. At the beginning of 1999, the classes consisted almost entirely of missionaries. By the end of 1999 we had gone through a transition period of switching to teaching almost entirely non-missionaries. It was during this period of time that the Church decided to let local family history centers provide their staffing from their own membership, and the senior missionaries would be assigned to other responsibilities.
The result was that the Church would no longer supply an endless stream of students to be trained in family history, and thus our sponsorship by the Family History Department was coming to an end. During this period we continued to have full classes by accepting students from the Utah South Area who were desperately in need of training for their callings in family history.
At this time, it was arranged that the Utah South Area would assume sponsorship of our operation. This decision would result in providing training opportunities for church members from all over the world in addition to those in Utah. The training was consolidated in the Farrer building at this time and the Dixon building was turned into an Hispanic Family History Center.
Since the FHTC started, students have come from 42 states and 13 foreign countries, and we have sent missionaries to 217 different missions. As of 2015, over 10,000 students have taken our classes. We have had students come from as far as New Zealand and Scotland. Some students have attended more than once.
While our training classes are designed to help Church members prepare for their callings and personal activities in family history, we welcome non-LDS students who desire to participate in the same gospel-oriented program that we offer to members.
In the early part of 2009, the Farrer building started to show its age and the air quality within the facility became unsafe for some students and staff members. After due diligence in attempting to define and rectify the problem, the environmental issue persisted and the decision was made to vacate the location and find new quarters.
Our Area Advisers undertook the task of finding us a new home. They eventually secured the use of CES space in the Orem University Third Stake building on Geneva Road in Orem. In April 2009 we moved our entire operation of computers and equipment and continued our instructional program in our new home in May of 2009.
In 2015, the rooms we were using in the stake center were needed for other things. Although we looked diligently for a new location, in the end we were informed that the decision had been made to close the Family History Training Center.
We express profound gratitude to the many students, missionaries, and volunteers who made the Family History Training Center successful. You have blessed countless lives, and your influence will continue.