Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Hello Everyone ~

My husband is spending 2.5 weeks in the Salt Lake City area for business and has invited us to drive over (an 8 hour drive) for a weekend. As an anniversary gift, he is sending me over to the Family History Library for a whole day! I know this doesn't really cost anything, but he's finally starting to get the picture about what excites me! :) We have two young children, so it's an added bonus of some alone time!

Since I'm a recent addict to genealogy, I don't have years of research under my belt and this will be my first trip to the Library. Does anyone have any pointers on how to make the best of this trip? I know I should exhaust all my resources locally and online before visiting the library, but the opportunity has presented itself and I'm going to snatch it up! I only have about 2 weeks before this visit. I will be working to get all my records updated before I go (I'm still entering information found into my software program) so that I have all my information at my fingertips.

Are there things that I shouldn't waste my time on? I am a big fan of all the records online becuase it helps someone like me who can't make a lot of trips outside my home to support my hobby. So I'd rather save those types of things for when I'm home. Does anyone know if they have vital records such as birth records? I have an world subscription, have been on the record search pilot site for Family Search, and have access to through my Ohio Genealogical Society membership. I'm hoping to find information at the library that would be difficult to find somewhere else and/or would save me money.

Should I focus on one ancestral line this trip or try to get info on several? I have one that I'm working on more than the others right now because I'm trying to find as much information on American soil before jumping overseas. This particular line seems to be going on forever, but I'm moving slowly through it. It is based in Ohio.

Sorry for my babbling... I'm feeling a little giddy and I have all these questions so that I don't waste any precious time there! I appreciate any advice anyone can give!


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I've never been to the FHL, so this is all my best guesses and instinct... I would go to and do a search in their library catalog for anything you may find information in, and print out the information for each. Prioritize books first, as those don't get circulated. Then film. The plus side of getting them at the FHL is not paying for the processing, and a faster turn around. However, make sure that you look in the catalog for whether it says "FHL" or "vault." My understanding is that if it says "vault," you have to request it in advance to make sure they have it at the library on the day you're there.

Whether you should do one ancestral line or several depends on a lot of factors, such as how much you think you'll find on each and whether you think you'll be back. I would prefer to look at books on several families than film on just one family, because films can be sent to you. But if there aren't a lot of books that look promising, then I might look at all the film on one family or location.

Enjoy your trip!

That's great advice about the books. I hadn't realized they weren't circulated. I've actually started browsing on the catalog online and found some books I want to look at. Thank you so much!

Hi, Monica.

Carefully note the advice pf Patricia; it is sound. You did well by asking us for advice re LDS and research in general. I have been there several times and was nearly overwhelmed every time I opened the door. Virtually all library research begins at home as you THINK - THINK !! .

You must always keep in mind that genealogy, like politics, is local and is about "where". Why? Because, just you have done, your ancestors left 90% or more of the records of their lives and activities in the counties "where" they lived, some few of their records at the State level, and even fewer at NARA.

By all means, go to LDS with an intent to trace only one line as far and completely as you can in that one (1) day. Take a second line materials with you, just in case you are disappointed in what you find in the first search,

The researcher has not been born that can do much more than scratch the surface of information available within that great library. To try otherwise will but cause you to digress .from here to the South Seas, and come away with little more than you now know.

I suggest that you will do best by staying away from the "pay-for' sites until you have learned what is available "where" they lived, Then, knowing from a censuses where they lived at the date of that census, move backward in the cenususes as far as you can. When you lose him in moving backwards, go to the his/their county websites looking for that family (ancestor} and there make a complete a list of what they have and have published, e.g., try Googling the following {"Ohio Marion county death records free"}. or perhaps {"Tennessee archives Hancock county genealogy}. Simply remove my suggested proper namesr names and insert your word choices,

If you try these efforts as a beginning, you should quickly move ahead. Always keep in mind, Monica, that the interenet contains less than 5% of records that are available to you. That is true, even though the pay-for sites advertise 80 quadrillion names or more for you to examine. Good luck

Thanks Paul! That is great advice... I am worried about being overwhelmed when I walk in there. I've already started looking through the catalog online. After the initial excitement, I am trying to approach this with a little more calm. I'm just going to look up as much stuff as I can from home and hopefully that will be enough to keep me busy for one day. I live close enough that I can always plan another visit in the future.

Also, thanks for reminder about the records available online. :) It just amazes me how much is on the internet, and while I don't forget there are other records out there, it's not always in the front of my mind. Money is tight right now and luckily, my current Ancestry subscription is free because I won it as a prize at a Family History Expo. And I love it! My husband doesn't quite understand the obsession with genealogy so I find myself trying to spend as little as possible. So I'm trying to suck whatever I can out of while I have the free subscription. It's really helped with the census records -- and I'm a girl who likes to have original records whenever possible. :) Also, I'm lucky that my local library has a pretty decent genealogy section so I visit there as well. I know eventually I will exhaust my local resources and have to start going elsewhere.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond!
You're in for a wonderful time when you visit the Family History Library. I was there for my first time several years ago and I have to say that as a librarian and a genealogy subject specialist I was still amazed and overwhelmed by what was before me when I walked through the door.

As others have mentioned prepare to search one line but have another as a backup just in case.

I recommend trying to develop some sort of research plan. Have some goals in mind and and write them down. This will help keep you focused and you'll get better results out of your research time.

You're searching their catalog. Check for records that you need that aren't as easily accessed from where you live. You mentioned ancestors in Ohio, check FHL's catalog for resources they have for Ohio. If you find resources listed as "Vault" these sometimes take several days to bring to the library, however you can call or email your requests for these before you arrive. See "Preparing Your Visit" item #6.

Do your homework about the library? What are the rules for using the library? What record collections are available? Copying costs, etc. Check out the following link for the Family History Library. You'll find information about hours, services, floor plan, and more. You'll even find a link to "Preparing to Visit the Library".

Above all never be afraid to ask for assistance. Sometimes a few minutes with staff can save you hours of frustration.

You're in for a treat. Enjoy your visit. If you have any other specific questions don't hesitate to ask.

I've posted 3 U.S. collection summaries in the group called THE Family History Library. And related items in Serious Queries and in FHLC.

Remember that the FHLC is the key. Bring its prints along with your locality-based Research Logs; we also have a group on Organization.

Remember that 2/3 of the collections are international, so perhaps that is how you choose your target family. Also, as you can see in our Ohio group, it has the best overall collection of any state in the FHL collections. Whichever locality you choose, read the free Research Outline about it on Once you are in the FHL, you can use its Wiki as well as every commercial site if you need a quick look on a new clue.

Also, early in the day, find out who the staff experts are in your locality (and when they are scheduled for the reference desk). The many missionaries are eager to help but have varied training. Do ask them how to use the digital copiers and other equipment.
Make time to visit the FamilySearch Center in the JSMB if you can.
When will you be there? Maybe we'll meet. Some months are very busy with tour groups or conferences.

Correction about books: over 40% of the compiled genealogies have now been digitized and are free online via BYU & FHLC. Many of the locality indexes and guides have been put on film, and don't forget the 750,000 fiche.

Challenge: get your husband to join you for at least half a day. He can get the bug, get films, make copies, find food, etc.
Good hunting.

I have been into genealogy for over fifty years and have been to Salt Lake several times. There is some advice that is important.
I) Get your "to do" list prioritized and printed. When your there you need to be focused. Legacy has a great "Missing information" report. The "brothers" offer all kinds of help locating the records they have but generally they won't help specifically. You will probably be directed to a computer and told to work on Ancestry. They have scads of microfilm that has not been transcribed - that is where the treasures are.
2) The films are catalogued. If you are into a particular parish at a particular point in time - search for it. The films are generally individually indexed so you can go to a specific record. If you scan an entire film it will take three to four hours for a fast scan - take a break from motion sickness. The Mormons often have a 1/2 to 1 hour teaching discussion (genealogy).
3) Keep a log of where you have looked so you don't waste time looking there again.
4) Print all suspects - it costs a few pennies. Sort them out at home.
There is probably more advice but thats a start - good luck! You will find something.
5) The Mormons put on an excellent indoctrination program for first timers.
Dave Plaskett
The "brothers" means what? "Indoctrination program"?
Are you referring to the free hour-long classes? Some are now online, but there are different subjects taught every day. shows the monthly schedule.
Are you referring to the orientation room? The volunteer hosts will give an overview helpful for researchers of different abilities.
Are you referring to the reference librarians? As I posted earlier, the professional staff are on each floor and can give very specific advice if you ask about their expertise. Most are accredited genealogists, many have language skills, computer skills, librarian skills, etc.
1. Search the catalog online before you go, and make a list of the items you want to find. ( > library tab)
2. Don't spend time on resources that you can get online or at your local library, so check places like Google Books, InternetArchive & HeritageQuest books to see if any of the books you want are online already.
3. There are millions of rolls of microfilm at that library, of original records from all over the world. If you have foreign ancestors to research, this may be the only way to see a parish register for free. Aside from flying to another country and hoping they'll let you look at the books, you can always rent the microfilm from your local Family History Center, but they will charge $5.50 to cover postage. Looking at films at the Salt Lake Family History Library is free, free, free, so take advantage.

But whatever you do, PLAN AHEAD!!!!! Research the library catalog online thoroughly! and have fun!

You recieved some really good advice for your trip. I just wanted to share a little something that I have started doing that may help you if you husband's business trips take you near another place to research.

When you find a library or historical society that has an online catalog search it and print out copies of the catalog entries for the things you would like to search. Then put them in a note book with dividers for that site. ie FHL, XX state Archives. I then make notes such as the surnames that I would be looking for and the time frame on the print out.

Then when you find out you will be nearby and might get a chance to go you can pull the copies for that library, review them, check for anything new and be ready to go from there. That way you aren't trying to do everything at the last minute. I always forget stuff if I do that. You can then put them in order by priority. Things that you can only get there or things that may have only one or two things on a microfilm vs something I can get online through ancestry or at a local library.

Once I get to where I am researching I use the print outs to make notes. If a microfilm has a lot of information on it then it may be worth it to order it through so I would make a note such as "lots of docs on x family. Order." That way I know that the film is going to be worth ordering at the local FHC and I can spend more time on it. I also will put my print out with any copies I get from that source and paper clip them together. That way when I get home I have my copies with the source citation right there together. Makes data entry much easier.

One last thing to do is check with the library you are planning on visiting to make sure there will be no unexpected closings or restrictions on there collections. Also check to make sure they aren't having any special events. If they are having a speaker or a seminar then you may want to attend and more people will be there wanting to use their resources and you may not be able to access everything or spend a lot of time using it.

The last time I went to the FHL I had won a stay at the hotel next door for 7 nights. I planned my trip for months and went with a notebook filled with print outs of sources I wanted to check. I got through almost all of them. I stayed focused and came back with reams of documents. I could barely fit everything into my suitcases.

Once again I hope that you had a great day there. I also hope that this may help you if you get a chance to go back again.

I have created a excel file with the following heading:

Floor Import Film No Title Family/Client Result

Floor - what floor is the film on... this would be sort key
Import - Vault - need to be taken care of first day or advance
Film no. - film no or book call no make sure that you add the item no
Title - Title of that film or what you expect to look for
Family/Client - what family are you working on or client's family
Result - F -found NF - Not found PC - Poor Copy M - film missing or taken out

This help me stay focus and stay one floor at a time...

If anyone is interested in excel file - you can email me...

Debbe Hagner, AG (30+ years of experience) over 25 times been to FHL...
This is great! I like this format so that you can be more prepared for a trip to the FHL. Especially if you need things from the vault that you might order ahead so they are there when you arrive. I wish I'd known more about materials in the vault and the time it might take to get them to the FHL. It also eliminates wasted time allowing you to structure your research so that you don't waste time going from one floor to the next constantly. I'm going to add this to all my research trip folders especially those places with several floors, locations or remote storage of materials.



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