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Leaving a Legacy: Donating to the Family History Library

An important way that you can ensure the safety of your genealogical records, and help other researchers is by donating your research to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.


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In an earlier article, "Protecting Your Records From Catastrphoic Events," I outlined some ways in which you can ensure the safety of your genealogical records and heirlooms. As a follow-up, I wanted to provide you with another idea for leaving a legacy and creating a "back-up" for your materials. An important way that you can ensure the safety of your genealogical records, and help other researchers, is by donating your research to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Family History Library, located in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah is the largest genealogical library in the world. Founded in 1894, they began to acquire genealogical records to assist members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in tracing their ancestry. The Library is now the repository for over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, 742,000 microfiche, 310,000 books and other materials such as journals, maps and electronic resources. 100,000 microfilms are circulated to Family History Centers each month. Over 1900 visitors, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, visit the Family History Library each day. Countless others visit the more than 4,000 Family History Centers located in 88 countries. With the advent of the Internet, the Library began utilizing their website,, to provide the genealogical community with the Library Card Catalogue and such records as the 1880 U.S. Federal Census; 1881 British Census; 1881 Canadian Census; the Social Security Death Index; the International Genealogical Index (IGI); the Ancestral File; and the Pedigree Resource File. For many of us family historians, our local Family History Center and the Family Search website are our first stop to beginning research on a family line.

Anyone who has been to the Family History Library or one of its Family History Centers, knows that gifts of genealogical information make up a large part of the collection. Donors provide everything from family history books, indexed local records, county and state histories and other items useful to the family historian. I know that I have benefited greatly from the family history books and other materials donated by genealogical societies and family historians. By donating your work you not only ensure that it is in a safe place but you also allow fellow researchers access to your hard work and knowledge.

The Family History Library has guidelines for the donation of materials. Like any library or archive, they can only accept certain items. According to the Library they can only accept items that are "useful to researchers." So the item must be readable and help family historians find names, dates, and places. The item you donate must add new information to the library's collection and fit in available library space. And probably the most obvious guideline is that it must not violate current privacy and copyright laws.

So what kinds of materials does the library accept? According to their Guidelines sheet, "Donations to the Family History Library," they accept the following:

· Family Histories with genealogical information

· Genealogical periodicals

· Cemetery records

· Church records and histories

· Court records

· Probate records

· Vital records

The Library also accepts other kinds of materials but they ask that you contact the library prior to donating the following:

· Local histories

· Indexes to records

· Passenger lists

· Naturalization records

· Military records

· Newspaper extracts

· Land Records

· Autobiographies with genealogical material

· Directories

· Well organized collections of genealogical and research materials.

Next Steps

So you have the material that would be perfect for the Family History Library. Now what do you do? When preparing your materials for donation to the Family History Library, it's important to keep some preferences in mind. First, due to the need for usable materials and considering the space required to store documents, the Library suggests that materials be in a clear, readable format. Although they accept materials on floppy disks, they prefer paper copies. Materials that are unbound and double sided are preferable for the Library. Double-sided manuscripts take up less shelf space and unbound materials are easier to process for microfilming.

If you do decide to donate your materials, you must grant the Library permission to use the material as needed. At the same time, please add a permission to microfilm the materials. This is vital for the material to be available to as many researchers as possible. Material that is microfilmed can be loaned out to the over 4,000 Family History Centers around the world. Materials not microfilmed stay at the Family History Library in Salt Lake and must be viewed there. To grant your permission, just type up a letter that grants the Library permission to film the materials and to use the material as needed and sign it. If you are not the copyright holder of the material, you will need to get that permission from the copyright holder.

Once you have this material and permission letter ready, mail your donation to:

Family History Library, Gifts, 35 N. West Temple Street, Salt lake City, UT 84150-3400. To read more about donating to the Family History Library, go to their website at and click on the Family History Library tab. From there, click on Gifts and Donations on the left side menu bar. This will lead you to another link that provides information found in the guideline sheet, Donations to the Family History Library. If you have further questions about the donation process, you can phone the Family History Library Acquisitions Department at 801-240-2337 or email them at

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

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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