A Guide to ResearchEdit This Page
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Why Family History?
Why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do family history research? They love their families on earth and believe that families can be together forever.
Purpose of the Guide
Family History Library and Related Services
Family History Library
Since it was established in 1894, the Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has become the largest of its kind in the world. The library has collected millions of microfilms, thousands of microfiche and books, and many other records. Most of the microfilms have been acquired through an extensive microfilming program that began in 1938. Microfilmers are presently filming original documents in churches, courthouses, and other archives in many countries. The originals of these microfilms are preserved in a vault in the mountains near Salt Lake City. The library is located at 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah. The telephone number is 1-866-406-1830; Email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of the microfilms are available for use at the Family History Library and in family history centers. The Family History Library is designed to help individuals who need help in learning and searching records to extend their family lines. Many of the records in the library are available through the family history centers. Some of the information collected by the library is available on the Internet at FamilySearch.
Family History Centers
Family history centers are located throughout the world. Each has a basic collection of records and research publications to assist researchers. Each center has computers with Internet access. Most records available on microfilm or microfiche at the Family History Library may be ordered for use at the centers.
Services and Resources
Workers in the Library and family history center can help you learn how to use the records. They can't do research for you, but can help you use the library's catalog to locate records or Web sites, to do your own research.
The FamilySearch Center is designed to introduce individuals unacquainted with family history to experience the excitement of discovering their ancestors. The center, located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at 15 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, has access to the Internet.
Family History research involves five basic steps. Each step is explained below. Staff members in the Family History Library or family history centers will be glad to help you complete these steps. A Research Overview is available as a video presentation to introduce you to the research process.
1. Identify What You Know About Your Family
Fill Out a Pedigree Chart and Family Group Record
Recall as much information as you can about yourself and your family members. Record what you know on pedigree charts and family group sheets. Estimate dates and places if necessary.
- A pedigree chart provides space to record information on four generations: yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents.
- A family group record provides space to record information about the parents and children of a family. You can also record the source of your information. Fill out a family group record for each couple on your pedigree chart.
Gather Additional Information
Organize Your Records
Organize your records for easy access (see step 5 for suggestions on organizing).
2. Decide What You Want to Learn About Your Family
Select an Ancestor
To select an ancestor, look at the entries on your pedigree chart that have one of the following problems:
- Missing information: names, dates, or places are missing.
- Incomplete information: part of a name, date, or place is missing.
- Unverified information: information cannot be traced to a credible source (that is, someone who would have known the information first hand).
- Conflicting information: information from two sources does not agree.
Select a Research Question
Identify questions you want to answer about the person you selected. For example:
- Where was he born? or married?
- Where or when did he die?
- Who were his parents?
Select one question as your research objective. By focusing on one question at a time, you increase your chances for success.
Prepare a Research Log
Use a research log to keep track of the records you want to search and the information you found. At the top of the log, write the name of the ancestor you selected, your research objective, and when and where he may have lived.
3. Select Records to Search
Identify a Record Category
- These are records of previous research on individuals and families already done by others, such as family histories, biographies, or genealogies with pedigree charts and family group records. Though compiled records are very helpful, some information may be inaccurate or incomplete. The information is submitted by library patrons and is not verified by the Family History Library. Always carefully evaluate the information you find.
- These are records created at the time of important events in your ancestors' lives. For example, a local church or the local government may have recorded your ancestors' births, christenings, marriages, and burials.
- These are records dealing with geographical, historical, or cultural information. They include local histories, maps, gazetteers, language dictionaries, and guidebooks. Search these records to learn more about the area where your ancestors lived and the events that may have affected their lives and the records about them.
- These help you find the location of records; name indexes; library catalogs; or Web sites.
You will need the name of your ancestor to search this file. Printed instructions and computerized help messages are available to help you use the file. You may also ask a staff member for assistance. You can hand-copy the information you find, make a printed paper copy at cost, or copy the information onto a diskette to use with your home computer.
Ancestral File, Pedigree Chart
International Genealogical Index
To find a family history, you will need to use the "Surname" section of the Family History Library Catalog (if using the microfiche edition) or the "Surname" search in FamilySearch. The catalog does not list every name found in a family history. Only major families found in a history are listed. Look for your ancestor's surname (last name).
Family History Library Catalog Entry, Surname Section
Other Sources of Compiled Records
Other sources of compiled records are available. Take your pedigree chart and research log to a staff member to determine whether any of the following sources would be helpful and how to locate them. Most compiled records are described in the Family History Library Catalog.
- Genealogical periodicals and indexes, such as the Periodical Source Index
- Family newsletters
- Local histories
- Family Group Records Collection
Vital Records and Civil Registration
- British 1851 Census
Other Original Documents
Choose a Record Type
See the chart on the last page of this guide, or
Use a printed research outline for your country, state, or province. Each country research outline includes a chart showing which types of original records contain information for various types of research objectives. The outlines also describe what records are available for an area and a time period, or
Take your research log to a staff member and ask for help in determining which type of record you should search for.
Select Specific Records to Search
When you find the records for the place where your ancestor lived, read the descriptions to see if a record covers the time period you need. Indexes are often available for original records. If one is available, search the index first.
Family History Library Catalog Entry, Locality Section
Describe the Records on Your Research Log
Identify a record category. Search compiled records first. Then search original records.
Choose a record type. Use the chart in this guide or a research outline.
Select specific records to search. Find the locality and record type in the Locality section of the Family History Library Catalog.
Describe the records in your research log.
4. Obtain and Search the Record
Obtain the Record
At the Family History Library
FHL US/CAN Film
3075101 Item 7
FHL US/CAN Book
To obtain the record, do the following:
Go to the floor that has the records for that geographical area. These areas are listed beside the elevators on each floor. You can also ask a staff member for help or obtain a map of the library from the information desks.
Locate the book, microfilm, or microfiche storage areas.
Look for the call number of the record. Records are filed numerically by call number. Library attendants are located next to the copy centers on each floor and can assist you.
Take the microfilms or microfiche to the appropriate reader to use them.
At a Family History Center
Search the Record
Record the Results
Many family history centers have equipment for photocopying books, microfilm, and microfiche. If a center does not have the equipment, you can request photocopies of pages of books, microfilms, or microfiche from the Family History Library. Ask a staff member for a photoduplication request form. You will need to list the author, title, and call number of the record, and specific page numbers. Fees are listed on the form.
Please be aware that many of the books, microfilms, and microfiche in the library are copyrighted. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.
5. Use the Information
Evaluate the Information
In order to evaluate your information, consider the following:
- Did you find the information you were looking for?
- Is the information complete?
- Does the information conflict with other information you have?
- Is the source of the information credible?
Transfer the Information
Organize Your Records
Organize your records for easy access. One possible order is as follows:
- Pedigree charts numbered and arranged numerically
- Family group records in alphabetical order by the husband's name
- Notes, research logs, and copies of documents behind the related family group record
Contribute to Ancestral File. Submit your family information on a floppy diskette (using Personal Ancestral File or other FamilySearch-compatible software). See the printed instructions in Contributing Information to Ancestral File for more information, or contact FamilySearch™ Support, 15 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150; telephone 1-800-346-6044.
Share your family history. If you have written a family history, compiled an index, or created a database of genealogical information, you can place it in the Family History Library to be preserved and used by others. If possible, please grant permission (or obtain it from the copyright owner) for the library to microfilm the record and circulate it wherever the library chooses. Contact the Acquisitions Unit, Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, for more information.
Submit names for temple ordinance work. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may want to submit names of ancestors for temple ordinance work. A staff member or your ward family history consultant can help you.
Repeat the Process
Repeat the research process by choosing—
- Another record to look at, or
- Another research objective for this person, or
- Another ancestor to learn about.
You can learn more about how to do research in the and at family history centers.
Indexing of Records
If you have a current indexing project that you will be publishing, please register it by writing to the Genealogical Projects Registry, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150. To obtain information from the registry, write to Genealogical Projects Registry, National Genealogical Society, 4527 Seventeenth Street North, Arlington, VA 22207-2399, USA.
The following services are also available to you.
Accredited Genealogist® Professionals
If you wish to hire a researcher, ask a staff member for a list of accredited genealogist® professionals and the publication Hiring a Professional Genealogist. A list of qualified researchers can be found at www.icapgen.org. These people have passed a major examination in a geographic or subject area. They sign a code of ethics and renew their credentials every five years.
Family History Centers
Family History centers are located throughout the world. You can use most of the Family History Library's microfilms on loan. Ask a staff member for a list of addresses for a specific area.
Other Libraries and Archives
- Please handle the equipment, books, and other materials carefully.
- Please maintain a quiet atmosphere for research.
- Do not leave personal belongings unattended. The library or center is not responsible for items that are lost or stolen.
- Children under twelve must be kept under the control of their parents.
- Food and drinks are not permitted in a family history center. In the Family History Library, they are permitted only in the snack room.
- Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the building or on the grounds.
The Family History Library has the following additional rules. Ask a staff member at the FamilySearch Center or a family history center for the rules for their facilities.
- You may take up to five rolls of microfilm from the cabinets at any given time. Please refile each microfilm you use.
- If the library is busy and you expect to be away from a microfilm reader for more than thirty minutes, take your materials with you so someone else can use the machine. Materials left at an unused reader for more than thirty minutes may be removed by a library attendant.
- You may take up to five books from the shelves at any given time. Please return books to the red shelves at the end of the stacks where the books were found.
- When using photocopy equipment, please limit yourself to five copies when others are waiting.
Selecting Record Types
To obtain information about—
| RECORD TYPES|
Look in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality section for these record types:
||First look for:||Then look for:|
|Age||Census, Vital Records*, Cemeteries||Miltary Records, Taxation, Obituaries|
|Birth date||Vital Records*, Church Records, Bible Records||Cemeteries, Obituaries, Census, Newspapers, Military Records|
|Birth date||Vital Records*, Church Records, Bible Records||Cemeteries, Obituaries, Census, Newspapers, Military Records|
|Birthplace||Vital Records*, Church Records, Census||Newspapers, Obituaries, Military Records|
|City or parish of foreign birth||Church Records, Genealogy, Biography, Obituaries, Naturalization and Citizenship||Emigration and Immigration, Vital Records*, History|
|Country of foreign birth||Census, Emigration and Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship, Vital Records*||Military Records, Church Records, Newspapers, Obituaries|
|County origins and boundaries||History, Maps||Gazetteers|
|Death||Vital Records, Cemeteries, Probate Records, Church Records, Obituaries||Newspapers, Military Records, Court Records, Land and Property|
|Divorce||Court Records, Divorce Records||Newspapers, Vital Records*|
|Ethnicity||Minorities, Native Races, Societies||Church Records, Emigration and Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship|
|Historical background||History, Periodicals, Genealogy||Church History, Minorities|
|Immigration or emigration date||Emigration and Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship, Genealogy||Census, Biography, Newspapers, Church Records|
|Maiden name||Vital Records*, Church Records, Newspapers, Bible Records||Military Records, Cemeteries, Probate Records, Obituaries|
|Marriage||Vital Records*, Church Records, Census, Newspapers, Bible Records||Biography, Genealogy, Military Records, Probate Records, Land and Property, Nobility|
|Occupation||Census, Directories, Emigration and Immigration, Civil Registration, Occupations, Probate Records||Newspapers, Court Records, Obituaries, Officials and Employees|
|Parents, children, and other family members||Vital Records*, Church Records, Census, Probate Records, Obituaries||Bible Records, Newspapers, Emigration and Immigration, Land and Property|
|Physical description||Military Records, Biography, Court Records||Naturalization and Citizenship, Civil Registration, Church Records, Emigration and Immigration, Genealogy, Newspapers|
|Place-finding aids||Gazetteers, Maps||Directories, History, Periodicals, Land and Property, Taxation|
|Place (town) of residence when you know only the state||Census, Genealogy, Military Records, Vital Records*, Church Records, Directories||Biography, Probate Records, History, Land and Property, Taxation|
|Places family has lived||Census, Land and Property, History||Military Records, Taxation, Obituaries|
|Previous research (compiled genealogy)||Genealogy, Periodicals, History||Biography, Societies, Nobility|
|Record-finding aids||Archives and Libraries, Societies, Genealogy||Periodicals|
|Religion||Church Records, History, Biography, Civil Registration||Bible Records, Cemeteries, Obituaries, Genealogy|
*Outside the United States and Canada, see "Civil Registration" instead of "Vital Records."
Note: Also search the Family History Library Catalog, Subject section for key topics in your objective.