Saturday, August 02, 2008

Films in Salt Lake's Family History Library

NOTE: Click to hear the podcast version of this blog entry.

From: Claudia
Got a quick question I forgot to ask during the Cruise. When I look up items on the website in the library catalog, I know that I can usually order those items through my local Family History Center but if I were making the trip to Salt Lake, would the items be available there also? I am not sure where the film is stored or if they are in circulation and not available in the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City. -- Thank you for any help you can offer me.

Congrats on saving money for our next genealogy cruise by avoiding on-site research when microfilm is available of pertinent records through your local LDS Family History Center. Neither you, nor your ancestors need be LDS to use these facilities.

Indeed, most microfilm, fiche, books, maps, et al are available in the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Some material is described in the Family History Library (FHL) with the word “vault” as a prefix to the call number. This means you should request the materials about a week before your anticipated arrival in Salt Lake City. This time frame is quite different when ordering books from the back stacks at the Library of Congress or files at the National Archives where only a few hours wait is required. I believe this is because the Family History Library typically files such titles “off site" and not in another location in the Library.

Unless prevented by original agreements with the archive or church holding the original records, copies of microfilm are distributed to local Family History Centers from regional support centers when patrons like you request them. In some cases, where a title is popular, there may be multiple copies in circulation.

Consequently, the film you require should be available at the Family History Library when you arrive, unless someone is studying the item at that exact moment you look for it. NOTE: Master microform copies are maintained in the Granite Mountain Records Vault where there is a systematic testing process to determine the possible need for remastering the original film.

It is advisable to print out the page from the Family History Library Catalog for each item you wish to view for several reasons:

  • Easily locate the desired item in the multi-level library facility holding over 3 million rolls of film and tens of thousands of books, maps, CDs, etc.
  • The catalog may list oddities discovered in the microfilming process such as misfiled papers included on the microfilm, quality of the original documents, etc.
  • Make quick notes about what you hope to find in the record or staple the printout to your Legacy Family Tree To-Do List item as discussed during our recent cruise of the Baltic.
  • Have adequate info to create workable source citations.
  • Attach the photocopy of the page(s) mentioning your ancestor.

It is important to note that the Family History Library Catalog lists the floor at the FHL where the item is located, for instance:

A book titled Abstracts of wills, inventories, and administrations accounts of Frederick County, Virginia compiled by J. Estelle Stewart King is listed in the Family History Library catalog with the following call number: “975.5992 P2kj - FHL US/CAN Book - Available”. This means the book is available on the US & CANADA floor, so you’d have to take the stairs or the elevator to the 3rd floor (the US & Canada floor) to locate the item in the book stacks.

However, the microfilm of the microfilm of the original Frederick County land survey books are found elsewhere in the Family History Library. Specifically, the Surveys of Frederick County, 1736-1758, 1782-1878, Frederick County, Virginia County Surveyor (Main Author) has the notation “ FHL US/CAN Film [ 31415 ]”. Now you could write down just the film number and search for it. But in this case, just go to the 2nd floor (the US & Canada film floor) to locate the item in the microfilm drawers.

It is also interesting to note that the description of this last item includes “Microfilm of original records at Frederick County Courthouse in Winchester, Virginia. -- Maps in the book for 1736-1758 are badly faded and unreadable. Volumes are individually indexed. Contains maps with surveyor's description of the property. […] Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1952.” This info should be noted in your description of the source in your genealogy management software. It might help to look at the original at the courthouse next time you visit Winchester.

The Main Floor of the Family History Library has many more FamilySearch computers than other floors and features a sizable collection of family history and biography books. This is the floor where you enter and exit the Library. In addition to the orientation room, this floor also has a small vending area for snacks in the northwest corner.

Basement 1 (B1) of the Family History Library is the International Floor with films and books combined.

Basement 2 (B2) of the Family History Library is the British Isles Floor with films and books combined.

Each floor has a compliment of computer work stations, a copy center, a reference desk, access to a pay phone, a coat closet, small storage lockers for valuables, rest rooms and access to the stairwell.

MAPS, etc.
Print out and review the floor plan of the Family History Library located online at About the Family History Library. There you will also find info about days and hours of operation. You can also time your visit to coincide with free classes offered at the Library.

Do not visit the FHL the first week of April or October as the Library is often swamped during the semi-annual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hotel rooms will be few and far between, and it will be nearly impossible to obtain a meal without a long wait.

See also Preparing to Visit the Library. Once you arrive, be sure to take the FHL’s orientation tour when you arrive.

To orient you to the greater Family History Library area in Salt Lake City, Ol’ Myrt has prepared her personal Google Map, namely DearMYRTLE's Salt Lake City Map, with tags for nearby hotels, restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores, etc.

Last but not least, considering dropping an email to Ol’ Myrt. If we’re researching at the FHL on the same day, we might share a break together.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.