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Discover Hidden Treasures at Your Local Family History Center, Part 2 - Books and Local Materials

Just knowing who your ancestors were isn't enough. You need to know who they were in the context of the time in which they lived.


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Besides the 727,000 microfiche and 3,725 digital resources available through the LDS Family History Centers (FHC), the main library in Salt Lake City, founded in 1894 and the largest library of its kind worldwide, has 356,000 books, genealogical magazines, journals, and newsletters available. The extensive archive includes county and local histories, family histories and genealogies, biographies, gazetteers, atlases, and maps, as well as how-to books on genealogy and medieval books, including those on pedigrees. Many have already been scanned as part of a massive LDS Church scanning project and can be ordered as Adobe PDF files online. Others are available on microfilm or microfiche through the catalog at the Family History Library Web site,,

The archive also includes specialized collections such as the Filipino card collection and the "Liahona Elders Journal." Books, reproduced as PDF files, are also available from the collections the Allen County Public Library, the Houston Public Library—Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, the Mid-Continent Public Library—Midwest Genealogy Center, the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, the library of BYU in Idaho, the BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the LDS Church History Library.

Genealogists love to write books about their research. However, you'll soon discover that they publish most of their books dealing with family history with vanity presses, so they're especially hard to locate. Even if you could purchase one of these books from one of a handful of good genealogical book stores-unfortunately many of these mom and pop stores are closing due to poor sales—you'll pay a lot for it. Some books dealing with the larger New England families can cost hundreds of dollars. But you can get the books you desperately need for your research without the expense or the disappointment of not being able to locate them by borrowing them from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City through the online catalog at

Just knowing who your ancestors were isn't enough. You need to know who they were in the context of the time in which they lived. Searching the book catalog by Subject can go a long way towards putting your ancestor's life in perspective. And today, with the ability to search it from the comfort of your home, it doesn't matter where you live, even if the nearest FHC is hundreds of miles away.

You can also search the Family History Library's list of genealogical books and family histories by Author/Title. Even books which are currently out of print or considered rare may be accessed on either film or fiche and ordered.

None of the above libraries nor the Family History Library in Salt Lake City actually loan books. Instead, you're free to save those you order, that are saved as Adobe PDF files, to your computer to use at any time. Microfilm and microfiche can only be used at your local FHC. A short term loan of microfilm costs $5.50 for 90 days and an extended loan is $13.75 (updated from the first installment of this column in December, 2011).

Local Content

Each branch of the Family History Library has its own small library of local books and histories. Branch librarians know quite a bit about local color, history and shortcuts to research. Quite often an enterprising local historian will have made a hobby out of indexing county census records. The Family History Library nearest that county may have copies of those censuses. All branches have a listing of branches throughout the country, along with their phone numbers and hours. Sometimes a quick call can save hours of research time.

In this digital age, it's possible to do a comprehensive search of a particular person or family. First, run a quick genealogical study in the Ancestral File, then use the Author/Title index and find a history of his or her family. From this information, create a timeline of the person's life. Then using this, you'll be able to use the Subject file to locate vital records. Here, you'll find court cases, lawsuits, and probate records, marriage records, and perhaps a clipping file with newspaper articles mentioning the person and other bits of information, some of which can be hard to locate using traditional research methods.

Local FHCs can also offer a wealth of resources, including referrals to persons who may have specialized knowledge about an individual or family, whether they be local experts, volunteers at the center, or other researchers. Maybe you've come up empty-handed when researching a particular person, Charles Brown, but know he lived somewhere in upstate New York. A call to a local FHC in Albany gets you the number of a local historian in Saranac Lake who, in turn, gives you the number of the town hall in the small town of Keene where the person lived. Because of their help, you're now able to fill out the history of that relative and see where he fits into your family genealogy. And while you're at it, you might ask the volunteer at the FHC in Albany if that center has a published genealogy of the Brown family.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2012.

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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