Saturday, March 28, 2009

Using the LDS Family History Library Catalog

When I work with genealogy enthusiasts in my local society, and I ask them "how many of you have used the Family History Library Catalog in the past year," I'm always surprised by how few persons are even aware of this resource.

Acting on the premise that "you can tell people what they should do, but then you have to show them how to do it" (which applies to many of my society colleagues, it seems), I've prepared this short, illustrated post on how to get to the FHL Catalog from a standing start. Be patient, there's a method to this madness...

Put in your web browser address bar, and tap your Enter keyboard button. The old (soon-to-be "classic") FamilySearch home page comes up:

Put your mouse on the "Library" tab on the menu bar, and scroll down to the "Library Catalog" item on the menu, as shown above. click on "Library Catalog." This screen appears.

There are several choices on this page. I wanted to perform a "Place Search" so I clicked on that button and this Search screen appeared:

I entered Place = "Jefferson" and Part of = "New York" because I wanted to search for resources for Jefferson County, New York.

There are three places with Jefferson in their place names in New York. I clicked on the first one that said "New York, Jefferson" and this web page came up (two screens, they overlap a bit):

Here is a set of links for all of the holdings concerning Jefferson County, New York at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City - books, microfilms, microfiches, etc. By clicking on one of the subject links, the user can see what is available.

If you find something that you want to review, then you have several choices:

* You can rent microfilms and microfiches from a local Family History Center for a modest fee and review the information at the FHC when it comes in (usually one to three weeks).

* You can travel to Salt Lake City to review the item.

* You can hire someone in Salt Lake City to review the item for you.

Please note: Very few of these items are online at this time. The stated goal of the Family History Library is to digitize the images of the records in the FHL, then index them, and make them available to genealogy researchers. This effort is ongoing, but it's going to take many years to image and index all of the records.

While the FHL Catalog is online through,, the typical search engines do not find these resources because they are buried deeply in the web site and require the FHLC search engine to find them. However, in the not too distant future, the web site will contain the Family History Library Catalog items (at a minimum, the list of what's available, with a link to the item if it has been digitized). The powers that be at keep saying that GenSeek is coming soon - I hope so! I'm guessing that it will be announced at the National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh NC in May.

I use the LDS Family History Library Catalog extensively in my own genealogical research. Everyone should be using it. I you are not, please give it a long tryout - you may solve many brickwall elusive ancestor problems using these more traditional genealogy resources.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Randy as you know I was at the library that day also. The persons in charge had no clue about the files I wanted to access. I have in the past plugged a state and county into the system and got the film numbers for the items I needed to order regarding various data on that county. It seems to have dissappeared.
I was wanting to get a complete print out of Clearfield Co PA for land, grantor grantee, probate and will data so I could order the films. I have been given a new lead and was hoping to persue it. Susi