Getting Started in the Family History Library: Part 2

Family History Library Entrance

©Jenny Lanctot

After my recent (first) trip to Salt Lake City, I had that whole “if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now” experience, and compiled some helpful tips for Getting Started in the Family History Library. (You can read Part 1 here). Here are the rest!

©Jenny Lanctot

©Jenny Lanctot

8. Copy Cards. Unless you plan on making digital images of everything you find, you’ll want to find one of these machines and get yourself a copy card. Fill it with whatever amount you think you’ll need and keep it with you. You can help offset some costs for the library if you return your empty card when you’re done. They’ll put it back in one of the machines and someone else can use it.

9. Lockers. Did you bring too much stuff? Need a place to stash your heavy coat or lunchbox? Lockers are available in several locations for your use, but bring your dimes. That’s all those lockers will eat.

10. Snacks. Speaking of eating, let’s be honest; research makes you hungry. And thirsty. The folks at the FHL aren’t fooling around when it comes to keeping you fed and hydrated. On the right side of the main floor just past the computers is an entire room dedicated to nothing but snacks and beverages! But if you’re looking for a caffeine fix, you won’t find it here. It’s okay though. You can stay hopped up on chocolate and other carbs for pretty much the entire day. You’ll have to stay in the snack room to eat and drink anything other than bottled water, though.

11. More than genealogy. While everything in the library is genealogically related somehow, it’s not only about genealogy. There are sections on each floor specifically for reference books. These are the resources which help you understand what you read in all the other resources. These include legal dictionaries, gazetteers and map books, encyclopedias, and more!

©Jenny Lanctot

©Jenny Lanctot

12. Explore the basement. You’ll find much more than just U.S. records at the Family History Library. The lowest basement level, floor B2, holds materials related to the British Isles. Level B1 is the International floor, which holds materials from everywhere else.

13. Explore the attic. While some will likely spend most of their time on the main or second floors, don’t discount the third floor. This floor holds U.S. and Canada reference books and maps. This is also where you’ll find books for specific localities within the United States and Canada. If your family spent any length of time in a place, you’ll want to be sure to check out this floor.

© Jenny Lanctot

© Jenny Lanctot

14. Write everything down. Even if you are making copies of everything you find – digital or otherwise – write down where you found it and be sure to do it in such a way that your copies (or images) are attached to your source information. Trust me on this. I made the mistake of taking pictures of some microfilm images and forgot to write down the roll number. How embarrassed was I when I realized I had no idea where I found the information? Fortunately, I was able to go back the next day and basically re-do what I did the day before. Save yourself some time and remember to do it the first go-round!

15. The most important thing. Have fun! Relax and enjoy the thrill of the hunt! If you get stuck or confused, feel free to ask the staff for help. They are super friendly and will bend over backward to help you out of whatever jam you find yourself in.

My trip to the FHL was a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait to do it again. Maybe I’ll see you there!

About Jenny Lanctot

Jenny Lanctot is a paralegal, genealogist, and writer. In addition to her regular column Getting Started in IDG’s digital magazine Going In-Depth, she writes her personal blog Are My Roots Showing? and is a regular contributor to the FGS Voice blog. Her articles have appeared in the Florida State Genealogical Society newsletter Florida Lines and the Chattanooga Delta Genealogy Society quarterly Southern Roots & Shoots.

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