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Family History Archives: Buried Treasure

So many resources are being made available online, it's sometimes hard to keep up. The BYU Family History Archives is one buried treasure worth investigating.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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Published family histories have long been a resource for genealogists. Today, a growing number of these family histories are being digitized and made available online, many at no cost. One very useful resource that works collaboratively with the Family History Library's card catalog, is the BYU Family History Archives.

As of this writing there are 47, 298 items listed the collection. This number will increase as the LDS Church's digitization efforts and BYU's collaboration with other repositories continues. The collection includes many types of books, including family histories, county and local histories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy magazines, and periodicals, among others. The collection also includes some specialized materials, include the Filipino card collection and the "Liahona Elders Journal."

The books are said to come from a number of collections including the following well-known repositories:

  • LDS Family History Library
  • Allen County Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana
  • Public Library's Clayton Center for Genealogical Research
  • Mid-Contient Public Library
  • BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Church History Library
This collaboration is especially interesting, considering some periodicals listed in PERSI may be available through this collection, and not require ordering through the mails. As a university library, BYU has its own collection of materials that can be only enhanced by collaboration with other major repositories.

There are several ways to access information on the site.

  1. Search by Surname, Author, or Title. On the Family History Archives home page, you can search by surname, author, or title. A surname search will typically bring up all titles with that surname as part of the subject list, even though the book may not be devoted to that family specifically. My entry for the Brown family yielded 287 results. Brown is said the be the fifth most common name in the United States. By contrast, my search for the Rockett family yielded on three results. One book that was long ago removed from the shelves of the Family History Library and made available only on microfilm, is now available digitally and is included in the collection. If you know someone has published a book and have the name of an author or title, you can search for that, as well. For example, if you find a book through one of the Internet search engines that is not available in full-text on Google Books or some other web site, try entering the title and/or author in the Family Search Archives. Cross-Referencing Perhaps my favorite part of Family History Archive is its cross-referencing in the Family History Library Catalog. When you do a search in the Family History Catalog, IF a book listed in the catalog has been digitized as part of this collection, you will find a link back to the Family History Archive, in the Notes section, printed in red. So when researching in the Family History Catalog, be on the lookout for this digital link. While not all books have been digitized, we can look forward to the collection growing over time. Of course the same caveat applies applies to these materials as applies to any other aquired materials: verify, verify, verify.
  2. Browse Individual Collections. Again, on the Family History Archives home page, the Browse drop down list allows you view the holdings in each collection, although browsing may not be the most efficient method for locating specific information. In so doing, however, you may come across information that will suggest for you a more targeted search. The Browse list includes the following collections: Family History Books Collection Family History - Serials Family History - Filipino Cards Family History - Liahona Elders Journal Family History - Oral Histories Family History - Medieval Family History - Gazetters
  3. Search for Specific Terms Also, on the Family History Archives home page, although it does not say "keyword," there is a Search All text box that allows you enter a specific search term. A search for Claiborne, Louisiana yielded the "Biographical and historical memoirs of northwest Louisiana." While there are other histories about Claiborne Parish, specifically, it appears the histories of the broadest interest may have been selected for digitization. Or it may be, that was the only title currently available.
The site also offers valuable search tips to help increase your success. And in the event you have something to share, the Family History Archives accepts donations. A link on the site directs you to information on how to contribute.

The Family History Archives is an excellent resource, and I encourage you to visit the site and experiment with various searches -- you may be pleasantly surprised.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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