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Local Treasures

INL Intern researches his ancestry at the Idaho Falls FamilySearch Center

Published online: Nov 02, 2023 Articles Susan Stucki
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A recent personal visit to the Idaho Falls FamilySearch Center proved to unveil even more than expected.

Historic murals greet you as you arrive and capture the past in wall-length pictures of area places. I knew my mother could have named every person on the large entry mural as it is a Ririe family photographed on their farm. Where was Potato Alley in Idaho Falls? I thought I knew Idaho Falls’ history, but this was new to me. You, too, can discover tidbits of local history as you enjoy these displays. 

My discoveries included over 100 workstations that patrons use to research their roots. Willing volunteers are there to assist patrons even with non-English records if needed. 

I enjoyed connecting with a recent patron from Ghana, an INL intern, that had just visited the center hoping to find his ancestry. 

“My experience was great and exciting, being my first time coming to such a place where I could search for my ancestors,” he told me. “I could not find my ancestors but enjoyed my time in the center.”

My visit revealed even more offered activities. 

Book an evening at the center for some Mission Possible challenges.  For great team-building experiences with youth or families, sign up for an escape room where concentration and strategy are necessary to “break the codes.” Who wouldn’t love an All About Me scavenger hunt? Who do you look like? From where did your ancestors immigrate? 

In the green room, take a picture of you and your group with your choice of backgrounds of most any place in the world. Would it be fun to be in Paris? Well now you can choose a Parisan background. Or maybe your choice would be a mountain scene. Use your imagination and photograph yourself in the place of your dreams.

The center’s Do It Yourself Digitization area is nothing short of jaw dropping.  If you, like many, have family treasures that need preserved, their equipment is available at no cost. From diaries, cassettes, VHS tapes, 8mm movie films (raising my hand here), loose leaf papers, and about any other format of records can be transferred to your thumb drive.

Oh, to be an 8-11 year old. Activities can be scheduled for this age group, too. Their family history detective projects give kids the opportunity to dress up like the local notable person chosen and discover fun facts about some prominent Idaho families. Histories of Philo T. Farnsworth, Beaver Dick, and Charles Tautphaus are complete with details of their lives, dress-up clothes, and even a mock cemetery showing their burial places.

Our largest park in Idaho Falls is named after Charles Tautphaus. Did you know Tautphaus Park was established by him in the late 19th century when he made a 6-acre lake and fed it with water from the Idaho Canal, which he helped create? It became a city park in 1910 and was the center of many community events like rodeos and county fairs.

Richard Leigh, also known as "Beaver Dick," once lived in Rexburg, originally called Mosquito Bend. He played a role in the exploration of what would become America's first national park. “Beaver Dick” was one of the last of the real mountain men of this valley. 

Rigby was the boyhood home of the inventor of television, Philo T. Farnsworth. For years he worked on his vision and by 1927 made his first successful electronic television transmission. Kids can walk the path of history with the center’s tools. 

Historic murals, research and preservation areas, classrooms for free classes, and activities for families and groups can keep us busy when the weather cools and indoors is our place of choice. The possibilities of what the center offers are nothing short of staggering.

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