|by Raymond S. Wright III, Ph.D., AG
|Making Sense of the Family History Library Catalog
|The Family History Library has more than two million rolls of microfilm with original records like births, marriages, deaths, censuses,
probate records, and more. Learn how to search through all of the information to find what you are looking for.
also provides access to the collections of the Family History Library
through the Family History Library Catalog. Every library must have a
catalog, otherwise you and I cannot find the library materials we need.
All materials received by the Family History Library are described in
a computer based catalog. The database thus created is available to Library
users in Salt Lake City and in every LDS Family History Family Center.
A microfiche version allows researchers to search under authors
and titles, subjects, surnames, and localities. A CD version of the Family History
Library Catalog provides a locality search, surname search, microfilm/fiche
number search, and a computer number search. Both the microfiche and CD
versions are found in family history centers.
The author/title and subject searches are similar in many ways to
catalog searches in most public and college libraries. The locality
and surname searches are unique to the Family History Library Catalog.
The Family History Library adds thousands of published genealogies and
family histories to its already large collection of this type of publication.
The surname catalog permits you to type in any surname you desire and
learn if there are family histories or genealogies in the Library that
contain these names. Often there will be hundreds of books with your
surname mentioned in them. The search can be narrowed by adding key
words such as localities where your family lived or other surnames found
in your pedigree.
The approximately two million rolls of microfilm at the Family History
Library contain original records like births, marriages, deaths, censuses,
probate records, passenger lists, naturalization records, and many other
document types. Librarians at the Family History Library make these
millions of manuscripts available to us by describing them in the library
catalog under the jurisdiction that created them parishes, towns, counties,
states, provinces, and nations. The wise researcher recognizes that
his ancestors may be described in city, county, state and national records.
Gazetteers help us learn which jurisdictions were responsible for
the areas where our family members lived. A gazetteer is a book that
provides descriptions of the communities in a nation. The descriptions
normally show which religious and civil authorities had responsibility
for these localities. Knowing the city, county, and state in which ancestors
lived permits us to use several search levels in the Family History
Library Catalog: town/city/parish search; county, non-Canadian province
search, or the state/nation search.
About the Author
Raymond S. Wright III is a professor at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah),
where he has taught courses in family history and genealogy since 1990. He received
his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah. An Accredited Genealogist
of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wright was manager of
library operations there from 1979-1990. During his employment, Wright did numerous
research assignments in archives and libraries in the United States and many
foreign countries. He is a specialist on genealogical records in Europe, Africa
and the Middle East. Wright has served twice as chairman of the American Library Association's
Genealogy Committee. He is also author of The Genealogist's Handbook: Modern
Methods for Researching Family History.