Researching at the Family History Library

Researching at the Family History Library

Planning a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City? Follow in the footsteps of a first-time visitor—and learn how to conquer the family tree capital.

Every genealogist dreams of going to the Family History Library (FHL for short). After all, the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Salt Lake City research facility has earned a reputation as the genealogical promised land: In a place that puts millions of ancestral records—including 2.4 million microfilms and 310,000 books covering 100-plus countries—within arm’s reach, you’re practically guaranteed to make new family tree discoveries. But when you’re preparing to visit the FHL for the first time, the logistics of actually capitalizing on those possibilities can seem scary. What if I can’t find the records I need? What if I can’t decipher the Danish baptismal books? What if I get lost in the maze of microfilm cabinets? The prospect of spoiling your chance to tap the world’s biggest family history collection puts you in a panic. Suddenly, your dream trip is giving you nightmares.

Relax: If you’re planning a trip to Salt Lake City—perhaps for the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference Sept. 7-10—I’m positive your experience will exceed your expectations. How can I be so sure? I recently made my own first journey to the FHL. Like you, I felt overwhelmed at the outset, especially since I had just two days to master this mega resource and find my family.

But I quickly discovered that whether you’ve been researching for 15 years or 15 minutes, the library will live up to its hype. To prove it, I chronicled my adventures (and misadventures) to share with Family Tree Magazine readers. You can use the lessons from my experience to ensure success on your own trip.

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