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You can start digging for your roots right here in Duncan

People all over the world are digging deeper to discover who they really are.

And they're doing it — researching their family roots — in Duncan, too.

That's thanks to folks with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church members and community volunteers are among those willing to help connect people with their family histories and help them better understand where they came from by gathering written personal histories, preserving oral histories and recording interviews of life experiences of elderly family members.

Duncan's Family History Centre (FHC) is located at the church on Tzouhalem Road.

"Among other things, we teach the classes at the Cowichan (public) Library in Duncan and we've done a couple at the South Cowichan Library in Mill Bay too," explained the centre's director Lori Hamilton. "They invited us because their patrons often have genealogy questions and the librarian knows it's what we do, so this offers a great service to the public for free."

Hamilton said people come to the FHC typically for three main reasons.

"To use the genealogy paid subscription sites for free," she said. "There's quite a list. The best-known probably being Ancestry.com, Find My Past, and World Vital Records. This page lists all of the paid sites accessible for free in the FHC, plus a few details of each to give you a sense of how broad the scope is."

People often pop by to view a microfilm from their collection of about 2.5 million rolls.

"Anyone can order them online," Hamilton said. "They pay a fee that covers postage, and the films arrive and must be viewed in the FHC. The films remain for a few weeks to indefinitely, depending on what the patron wants.

"For the past few years, the church has been working on getting the microfilms digitized and indexed. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers are making it possible for more people to simply search for the names of their ancestors and have them pop up on their computer screen with the image of the original record.

"It sure beats scrolling through a film, hoping to find your people," she said.

A lot of people come to the centre simply for a helping hand.

"Yes, you can do so much from your home computer now. And there are all kinds of fabulous free (and paid) lessons and classes you can do online as you go along," said Hamilton. "There's just so much to learn, it's endless. And often overwhelming."

Hamilton and volunteers help limit people's focus so they can accomplish something specific and feel more confident going forward.

"We're all volunteers there, from the church and the community," Hamilton said. "We have varying levels of ability, but can usually help people with what they need or refer them to somebody who knows more about their area of research."

The FHC's hours are Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays 6:30 to  8 p.m., until mid-June.

After that, they're open by appointment only.

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