Saturday, August 27, 2005

Determining Book Lists for Family History Centers

From: Sherrie Burdick
I've written to you before about what books would be valuable resources in a FHC [Family History Center.] We are located in Duchesne, 120 miles east of Salt Lake City, Utah with lots of LDS members in our area. I'm looking at the S.E. Black's Nauvoo Baptisms book, the DUP (Daughters of Utah Pioneers - Women of Faith and Fortitude series. How valuable would these be or what else would you recommend?

Dear Sherrie,

Ol' Myrt here knows you want to have something on the shelf when that gentleman comes in and says "My name is Jones, and I hear the Mormon Library has my family history. I'd like to pick up a copy this afternoon!"

Your primary responsibility is to function as a satellite of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, assisting patrons in borrowing microfilm/fiche from the larger main library facility. You have also been provided with at least one computer and PAF Personal Ancestral File, so that patrons without computers can computerize their ancestors by name, date, locality and family relationship. In the case of your LDS Church members, you will encourage them to follow through by attending the temple. Most of the FHCs outside Utah have thousands more non-members using the facilities, and we're thankful to realize we're all part of the family of man. Isn't it wonderful that genealogists so willingly share information they have gained to help the next person?

Although it isn't necessary, FHC volunteers do tend to get involved in the research process with regular patrons of our centers. It should be foremost in our minds that our researchers are to become the experts on their families -- we just point them in the right direction. It is incumbent upon each patron to learn how to do research to prove his/her own family relationships.
Thank-you for specifying WHERE in Utah. That makes a difference in my recommendations because there might be useful library collections nearby. Let's prioritize:

Since budgets are always limited at Family History Centers, we try not to duplicate what's available at the local public library, with a few notable exceptions for US FHCs such as yours:
-- THE RED BOOK (from
-- THE HANDYBOOK FOR GENEALOGISTS (wait for the newest version to come out this fall from
-- EVIDENCE! Citation & Analysis for Family Historians (from

The first two books explain the formation of counties and US states, including parent counties and the dates records began to be kept. Addresses for obtaining vital records, etc. from an ancestor's distant courthouse are provided. Although the contact information is also available online, beginning genealogy researchers often handle print media more readily.

The third book explains how to compose useful and proper bibliographic citations whether one finds clues about an ancestor in a family bible, old letters, a compiled genealogy book, a probate record, an email, an online database, or a FHL microfilm.

Perhaps the best way to avoid duplication is to check the online catalog for the nearest library before making any purchases. Remember that the library may have genealogical department resources in microfilm/fiche format in addition to books and maps. From what I can tell, Duchesne is a wonderful small town between Heber City (69 miles west) and Roosevelt (28 miles east), north/north east of Price (54.80 miles.) It would appear that the nearest public library is the Duchesne County Library in Roosevelt, Utah whose catalog is online at:

If you know more about your local public library's genealogy collection, you'll be in a better position to encourage your patrons to also use that library for genealogical research.

Let's say your patron wants a book he has identified by author & title. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City does not loan books, though it may be available on microfilm or microfiche through the usual FHC ordering process. If the book is not available in microform, point the patron to the reference desk at the local public library. It is entirely possible that the another copy of the item can be obtained through ILL, if another library in the world has it to share.

Most interesting: you have a "fixed bookmobile site" located at 130 S Center Street, Duchesne, Utah, in the old county courthouse. Find out if your library participates in ILL.
Uintah Basin Bookmobile Library
PO Box 913
Duchesne, Utah 84021
(435) 738-2628

While your patrons may have chosen a particular religious orientation, this may not be the same affiliation of the patron's various ancestors. Wherever a Family History Center is located, it is wise to canvas researchers (perhaps with an extra column on the sign-in sheet) to determine where the majority of their ancestors lived, and the time period currently being researched. As you talk with patrons and watch the film orders, you'll also learn more about specific areas of focus. Several themes will emerge.

-- Some may be long-time residents, where several generations will be found in local court and church records.
-- Some may be transplants from other areas of the country with no ancestral ties to your community.
-- Some may be beginners, who need to canvas previously compiled genealogies for clues.
-- Some may be so advanced, their research involves areas in distant countries.
-- Some may be computer savvy, have a genealogy management program & access to the internet.
-- Some may not know the first thing about organizing and filing family information.
-- Some may need assistance in analysis of newly acquired information.
-- Some may be more "archivist" oriented, meaning they have lots of family heirlooms, documents, or photos they need to catalog and preserve.
-- Some may prefer online resources, so you'll have to pull them towards original documents, which are often available on microfilm through the FHL for the distant areas where their ancestors once lived.
-- Some may prefer microfilm resources, so you'll have to push them towards internet resources, where time-saving indices and scanned images of original documents have begun to appear more frequently.

Even though one usually finds genealogy indices, which are considered secondary evidence, online research can lead to finding a photocopy of the original document mentioning one's ancestor.

Perhaps the single most important new thing your FHC can do is become high speed capable and then avail yourselves of the "free access to AncestryPlus" for Family History Centers. This will allow your patrons to look at some but not all of databases. For a list of ALL databases at Ancestry see:

They happen to have a lot on early LDS, by the way.

Other important online resources include:
-- Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Database
-- (IGI, Ancestral File, & Pedigree Resource File, certain limited vital records indices, 1881 British & Canadian Census index & 1880 US Census index.)
-- Mailing Lists (surname, locality, etc.)
-- (sponsored by Ancestry) Message Boards (surname, locality, etc.)

(+ denotes fees involved, but still most noteworthy.)
-- (look at it through with links to Ancestry images & FHL/NARA microfilm #)
-- 1880 US Census Index (at with link to free scanned images (
-- + (not free, but it is index of most census, church and govt. records of interest)
-- + (not free, but its easy to use, and interfaces with ordering vital records for Eng/Wales.)
-- will point researchers to various free record collections such as VA, WV, IL vital records online.
-- + (perhaps through includes scanned census, compiled Revolutionary War pension files, old newspapers, and the extremely valuable PERSI (Periodical Source Index) of genealogical periodicals published since 1847.

Our FHC here in Bradenton, Florida learned that researchers with British ancestors tended to congregate at the FHC in St. Pete, before it was closed down several years ago. We sent patrons up there (about a 25 minute) drive to find experienced volunteers and a variety of microfilm resources that we just couldn't afford to duplicate.

In your case, I see that the Vernal FHC has the two book collections you are interested in purchasing. Why not take a field trip with your patrons -- carpooling to share expenses for the 1 hour drive? Do this on an annual basis to spark interest in continuing family history research if a lot of your church members have early church ancestors.
-- Vernal FHC

Annually repeat a series of how-to courses designed to put your patrons on that road to successful research. Use these books as your syllabus for several 4-week courses:
-- THE SOURCE: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (from

Check out the resources available online at Brigham Young University's Center for Family History & Genealogy:
-- Tutorials & Guides

For help in using the PAF Personal Ancestral File software, see:
-- PAF Lessons (download where you get PAF online at
-- PAF Users Guide (from Silicon Valley Computer Genealogy Group at:

Remember, your patrons may use other genealogy software programs, but you are not expected to know them all. Each software program has its own built-in manual, under "help" on the program's menu bar. Many have multi-media tutorials in online or CD format.

Your job is to be a cheerleader and a mentor. You want your patrons to become experts in their own field of study. Since you cannot possibly know everything, turn to the research experts that the Family History Library has asked to compose the valuable:

-- RESEARCH GUIDANCE & RESEARCH HELPS (from for every US State, Canadian Province and most countries of the world.) Click the "Search" tab, then find the links to both on the blue navigation bar.

The printed versions of the Research Outlines simply cannot stay as up-to-date, and do not include clickable hyperlinks to pertinent websites those experts consider essential. Whenever I have someone ask me a question about a place I have never researched, I refer them to these wonderful research outlines.

Having said all this, I think you can see that purchasing specific books on early LDS might not be necessary. You don't know that the majority of your patrons have early LDS members on their family tree. Also with the Vernal library so close, you can save that book money for reader/printer repairs and such.

Remember also, that the LDS Church was founded in the 1830s, and it is nothing to go many centuries earlier in our ancestral quest in England, Germany and elsewhere. Vital records are official records of birth, marriage & death that are kept by the local government. Prior records of note would include church records of christening, marriage & burials. It is possible that the Family History Library has microfilm copies of the civil registration and/or church records for the areas where your patrons' ancestors once lived.

Have your patrons check the Family History Library Catalog online at as it is much more complete than the CD version available at many FHCs.

While the task of running a FHC is daunting, remember that we help patrons one at a time. Certainly my few suggestions aren't complete. You will find your niche. Somehow, things manage to work out.

I recall a sweet lady in her 80s who had been away from our FHC for a number of weeks because of her research trip to England. She visited the town where her namesake great-grandmother once lived. A century had since passed and the researcher's parents were the first generation to live in the US. When our patron returned to the FHC, we naturally asked how the trip had gone. She got teary-eyed. Fortunately she found the old church where her ancestress had been buried. But over time, it had become a very large, over-grown cemetery. The older burial records were lost, so she had no choice but to walk up and down the rows for hours searching in vain for the woman's grave. Exhausted from the transatlantic flight and the heat of that particular day, our patron explained she finally had to sit down on a little bench to rest and wipe away her tears of frustration. Admitting defeat, she looked up and there across from her was the tombstone of her great-grandmother. Still over-whelmed by this miracle, our patron exclaimed:

"You cannot tell me that my great-grandmother didn't want me to find her!"

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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