How to Prepare for A Visit to the Family History Library

The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City was specially built to aid in genealogical research. Since the library is open to the public free of charge and maintained FamilySearch, it has become a  hotspot for those looking to research their ancestry and chart their genealogy.

Going to the FHL with a specific purpose will ease unnecessary stress and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Prepare to Research at the Family History Library

If you plan on researching your family history at the FHL but don’t know where to start, follow these simple steps and suggestions.

1. Review Your Family Tree

First things first—look at your family tree and see what areas you are most interested in researching. If you are a beginner at genealogy and don’t have a family tree mapped out, check out the MyLife app(Android or iOS). Once you sign up, you can map out the generations to your personal tree. After you’ve filled in what you can, you’ll be able to see where you have missing information or could add to your tree.

2. Decide What Areas You Want to Focus on

A woman looks at her family tree on the computer.

Is there a specific family line you want to research? Do you want to find more information about a particular ancestor? Determine the questions you hope to answer. Then write down realistic and specific goals for your visit based on answering those questions.

3. Gather Information about Your Family

Find all the information you can about the ancestor or family line you plan on researching. You can do this by asking family members and searching online databases, including FamilySearch’s online records.

Make a list of ancestors based on memories, electronic records, and printed records and bring it with you to help with your research. Establish where your ancestors lived, and then create a list of cities, states, and countries that you plan on researching.

4. Record the Sources of Your Family’s Information

Be sure to record the sources of your findings—including dead-ends—to refer to later and to share with an FHL consultant. Your source logs will let FHL staff see where you’ve already looked. They will then be able to focus attention on different areas.

5. Search the FamilySearch Catalog

A screenshot of the FamilySearch catalog

Look at your list of places your ancestors lived. Pick one of those locations, and then go to the Search button at the top of the FamilySearch.org. When you type in a place-name, you will see what records are available for that locale.

Note: Even after searching the FamilySearch Catalog before visiting the FHL, when you are at the FHL, ask one of the staff to review your searches and share any tips or tricks that might help with future searches.

6. Create a List of Records You Want to View at the Library during Your Visit

As you compare records from family and other sources such as the FamilySearch Catalog, create (and take with you) a list of records you plan on viewing while at the FHL. You can print a list of the records or open each document to get call numbers or film and item numbers that identify the item you want to look up.

You may also want to make a list of books, photos, or documents that can be seen only at the library. Search these items first unless you plan a return trip.

You can order microfilms before your visit so they will be ready when you arrive. The phone number for the FHL is 1-801-240-6996.

What to Bring

It’s a good idea to come to a flash drive or a notebook so that you can store copies or notes of your research with you.

As with most places, logistics can be a pain if planned incorrectly. So be sure to research the opening and closing time, location and parking before you arrive.

 

 

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