Monday, January 5, 2009

Preparing to Visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

I am flying off to Salt Lake City on Thursday for five days in the capital of Utah and the home of the LDS Family History Library. I will have Saturday and Monday to visit the library and do some research. I have an all-day meeting on Friday, the library is closed on Sunday, and Tuesday is my fly-home day. I will be staying at the Little America Hotel if anybody wants to meet up with me while I'm there. I will have my laptop with me, and should be able to check email, blogs and Facebook while I'm there.

My preparations for the visit have included:

* A review of the floors at the library - see here. The US/Canada local history books are on floor 3, the US/Canada microfilms are on floor 2, FamilySearch and the surname books are on floor 1, the International films and books are on floor B1, and the British Isles films and books are on floor B2.

* Gather my basic research papers - my ahnentafel lists, my tables of sources already consulted for each surname, my list of books to find.

* Update and/or create research plans for each elusive ancestor I want to research. These include Elizabeth Dill, Thomas J. Newton, Mary Hoax, William Knapp, Hannah Smith and several others. These plans detail what I know about each research problem, what I've searched previously, and what I want to search for at the FHL.

* Print out pages from the FHL Catalog for the items in the research plan, and gather up all of the papers for each research problem.

* Get the latest FTM16 databases on the laptop so that I have my research information with me. I still need to test the laptop table locking device and create space on my flash drives and my camera for new information.

I'm really looking forward to this trip. My hope is that I can make one or more breakthroughs on my elusive ancestors so that I can work back in time to find more elusive ancestors!

What else should I be doing to make this trip successful? I know, write some advanced blog posts so that my Genea-Musings readers are amused or informed while I'm gone. I anticipate writing blog posts almost every night after a busy day - we'll see how that works out!


Kathryn Doyle said...


First of all, have a FANTASTIC time! I can't wait to read your reports.

The library is more crowded on Saturdays so get there for opening if you can. There are lockers on the first floor which refund the quarter at the end of the day. Lock up your coat and extras to lighten the load.

Park yourself on the floor where you plan to spend the most time and grab a good spot where you can lock up your laptop -- any microfilm reader or a spot at a table. If ambient light bothers you pick a reader in the middle of an aisle, otherwise take the first spot on the end - less walking and maneuvering between the chairs of your fellow researchers. Look at your reader number because the place is enormous and it is VERY easy to forget where your home base is!

Copies (microfilm or computer) all require use of a copy card -- available at the windows. Don't forget to write your name on it because you WILL leave it somewhere. And don't put too much cash on it for the same reason. You can add funds anywhere where there are copy machines. A tip - copiers are less busy on the basement floors than on the U.S. ones. If you have many pages to copy you can go down to another floor to use the machines.

When I was there last year (March 2008) they were selling Kingston 1GB thumb drives on the main floor for only $7-8 - a steal!

Ask at the main lobby desk about a pass to allow lunching in the LDS cafeteria - a short walk away. They have an amazing array of cafeteria choices at excellent prices. It is for office workers so I think it is only open during the week.

The library sponsors free lectures all the time. Be sure to look at the schedule for the week in case they are offering something you shouldn't miss. One of our members used a tip she learned at a talk on Danish and broke down a Swedish brick wall.

Check over the films you want to look at and make sure that they are available. Items labeled "vault" have to be pre-ordered.

Since films can be ordered locally but books can't, I always make time to just browse in the stacks. Ask about the map collections and oversized books - they are separate from the main stacks.

The library has some amazingly knowledgeable personnel. They also have many missionary volunteers with much less research knowledge. Especially on the international and British Isle floors, check at the desk and find out what day their experts are in the library or if someone is on call, if you have a specific question. One short conversation can open doors and save you hours, as you know.

Hope a couple of these tips help!

Kathryn Lake Hogan said...

Greetings Randy,
Along with Kathryn Doyle's tips, I also recommend taking breaks, and knowing when to call it a day. On my first trip to the FHL, I worked so long that first day, that I almost fell asleep face first in my dinner that night!
Have a prosperous time there.

DearMYRTLE said...

Sometimes the reader/printers are backed up with people waiting to make copies, so march right down to the International floor where there is hardly ever any wait time.

Bring a flash drive (or buy one at the copy attendant's window). You can save time, $$$ and space in your luggage by saving photocopies directly to your flash drive instead of printing things out.