How to Prepare for Your First Visit to the Family History Library

October 4, 2019  - by 

What you do before visiting the FamilySearch Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, will help you find what you need while you are there.

Preparing for the Family History Library includes more than packing your luggage.

Plan Your Visit with the End Result in Mind

A group of teenagers at the discovery center looking excited while sitting on a couch.

What do you plan on doing while at the library? Are you looking for a fun, immersive family history experience in the Discovery Center? Do you need one-on-one help to grow your family tree?  Do you want to scan pages from a catalog, book, or record that is available only at the library?

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, consider creating a FamilySearch account.

Once you’ve signed up, try your best to add the first four generations to your 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 home page. A menu of options will take you to the catalog. 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

To make your visit successful, take printed copies with key data or a flash drive with most of the data that relates to the people or questions you are researching, including your source logs. It’s also a good idea to have a blank flash drive to use to copy information that you find at the library.

Finally, before you leave for the FHL, please check  the library hours, class schedules, driving directions, and parking.

With preparation and your plan in hand, you can look forward to a fascinating visit and a chance to have the time of your life!

For Additional Information

Ask questions at the Family History Library—the staff and missionaries are there to serve you!

For additional information, visit the FamilySearch wiki article “Family History Library.”

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  1. Busco Ronco Scrivia. Frazione Pietrafraccia, Genova, Italy, todos los datos de familias Casella, Oliveri u Olivieri y Ansaldi.

    Translation: I’m looking for Ronco Scrivia. Frazione Pietrafraccia, Genova, Italy, all data of Casella, Oliveri and Olivieri and Ansaldi families.