Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog

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What Is the Family History Library Catalog?

The Family History Library Catalog describes the records in the collection at the Family History Library. It is a guide to family histories; birth, marriage, and death records; census records; church registers; and many other records that may contain genealogical information. These records may be in a book, on microfiche or microfilm, or in a computer file. Most microfilm and microfiche records can be sent to your nearest Family History Center.

The catalog is available at

Before you use the Family History Library Catalog, choose a person about whom you want to find more information, and decide what you want to learn about him or her. For example, you may want to find your great-grandmother's death date and place. To do this, you need to decide what types of records are likely to contain that information.

Which Catalog Search Should I Try?

The type of search you should do is determined by the kind of catalog entries or records you want to find. Click on the name of each search to learn more.

Use the following table to determine what type of search to do:

Do This Type of Search:

To Find the Following Types of Catalog Entries:

Place Search

For research or records about people of a locality where an ancestor lived.

Surname Search

For works primarily about a family, or about an individual.

Keyword Search

To find selected words in various significant parts of a catalog entry.

Title Search

For records by words in their titles.

Film/Fiche Search

Catalog entries that have a certain microfilm or microfiche number.

Author Search

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

Subject Search

To discover works based on the topics they cover.

Call Number Search

Catalog entries that have a certain book, compact disc, or pedigree call number.

When It's Not in the Catalog

Before concluding it is not in the Family History Library Catalog try the following strategies:

  • Look again in Surname Search for variations of the family name.
  • Change the jurisdiction in Place Search. For example, if it is not at the county level, try again under the town, state, or national levels, or in neighboring counties and towns.
  • Try a variety of searches. Use a Keyword Search, Subject Search, Author Search, or Title Search.
  • Try again later. The Family History Library 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 telephone or mail to learn if they have records about an ancestor.

Search the Internet. Many records are being digitized and put on the Internet. Search engines like Google, or Yahoo can help locate information. Also the Family History Library Internet Favorites can help find useful genealogical Internet sites.