Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog

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What Is the FamilySearch Catalog?[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Catalog (formerly Family History Library Catalog) describes genealogical resources held by FamilySearch, the Family History Library, and selected FamilySearch Centers.

The Catalog is a guide to birth, marriage, and death records; census records; church registers; books; periodicals; family histories and many other records that contain genealogical information. These records may be searchable online, on microfiche or microfilm, in a book or in a computer file.

Some entries in the FamilySearch Catalog include images of records. When an image is available in the catalog, a camera icon will appear to the right of the microfilm note associated with that image.

Where Is the Catalog Found?[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Catalog is found at the under the Search tab.

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Also, the FamilySearch Catalog has been made available via OCLC WorldCat[1] since 2014. OCLC WorldCat is an online union catalog of over 2 billion titles at 72,000 libraries in 172 countries and territories. Although it is the world’s largest bibliographic database for materials held around the world, OCLC WorldCat does not list sources housed in repositories outside their consortium.

Which Catalog Search Should I Try?[edit | edit source]

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The type of search you should do is determined by the kind of catalog entries or records you want to find. There are eight kinds of possible FamilySearch Catalog searches. In the catalog clicking on the name of the search will open or close that search.

The table below briefly describes each of the eight types of searches. For further details about each type of search, click on name of the search in the table.

Do This Type of Search:

To Find the Following Types of Catalog Entries:

Place Search

Look for a record by the name of a place (locality) where an ancestor lived.

Surnames Search

Find family histories (and more) by a particular family name.

Titles Search

Find a record by its title.

Author Search

To find the works of an author by his name (individual or corporate).

Subjects Search

To discover works based on the topics they cover.

Keywords Search

Get a record using any words or phrases in significant parts of its catalog entry. 

Call Number Search

See catalog entries by finding their book, compact disc, or pedigree call number.

Film/Fiche Number Search

See catalog details by finding the Library's microfilm or microfiche number. 

When you want to change to a new kind of search it helps to close the old search first. Close the old search by clicking the "X" in the upper right corner of the area around the search box. Then click on the new search type to open that kind of search.

Another way to close an old search is to click on the name of that type of search, for example, Places.

Combined Searches[edit | edit source]

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You can also combine two or more FamilySearch Catalog searches if a single search alone yields too many results to be practical. For example, you could combine a Surnames Search and a Keywords Search. First close all the other search types. Then click the Surnames and the Keywords searches. A search for "Smith" in the Surnames Search yields over 4,000 results. But combined with the Keywords Search for the phrase "Philadelphia cave" this combination returns only one result.

Combining Surnames and Keywords searches for a family name and a state where they lived is often a successful strategy. "Smith" in the Surnames field and combined with "Hawaii" in the Keywords field will yield a manageable 52 results.

Availability of an Item[edit | edit source]

Availability Status is determined for each individual copy or item. The status can vary based on several factors. The following are possible statuses that you may see and what they can mean:

  • Available: the item is available in the Library or Center in the Location and Collection/Shelf indicated for that copy record.
  • Missing: the item is currently missing from the shelf or location to which it is assigned.
  • Not Available: this status means the item is not available for use because it is in another location. The item could be with a cataloger, in binding or repair, in the preparation process to soon be shelved, waiting to be digitized, in transit to or from the Library or Center.
  • Off-site Storage: the item is in the off-site storage location in Salt Lake City, UT, after it was digitized. If the item is not available to view on the Digital Books site, you can request a digital copy to view at the Family History Library by following the link "Order off-site books to the Library" at the Library "Books" page.
  • On Loan: the item is not available because it is currently being digitized or because a staff member has requested to have the book at their desk for a project or assignment. The book will be returned and made available as soon as possible.

When It's Not in the Catalog[edit | edit source]

Before concluding that something is not in the FamilySearch Catalog, try the following strategies:

  • Search under another jurisdiction in a Places Search. For example, if there are no results for your topic on the county level, try searching again under the town, state, or national jurisdiction levels, or in neighboring counties and towns. If your ancestor lived in Cleveland, Ohio, you would make a place search for Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and Ohio.
  • Look again in Surnames Search for variations of the family name.
  • Try a variety of searches. Use a Keywords Search, Subjects Search, Authors Search, or Titles Search.
  • Try again later. FamilySearch is constantly acquiring new materials.

Try other repositories. Many other libraries and archives have information about ancestors. Try their online catalogs to see if they have what you need. For example, try catalogs like the WorldCat (world's largest network of online content and services), or the Daughters of the American Revolution Online Library Catalog.

If a repository's catalog is not online, try contacting them by phone or mail to learn if they have records about an ancestor. For a directory of U.S. historical genealogical societies see

Search the Internet. Many records are being digitized and put on the Internet. In FamilySearch's Historical Records Collections you will find billions of names across hundreds of Family History Library collections including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, Ancestral File, and the International Genealogical Index. Also, search engines like Google, or Yahoo can help locate many other historical sources available on the Internet.

Related Content[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]