Book and Film Numbers Used by the Family History Library
The Family History Library has used a few different methods to number its books and films since the library started in 1894. These old numbers for books and films are no longer used so the current numbers for the books and films must be determined.
There have been two systems for numbering books and three systems for numbering films.
1. Previous book numbering system
The first numbering system for books used a topic code or a geographic code and a number, such as:
- R8A21 (reference books began with an 'R')
- NY 134 (a book about New York)
- Eng 369 (a book about England)
The numbers were assigned in the order the book was received into the library's collection.
Family histories were grouped into classes 'A' or 'B', such as:
There was no direct corrolation between any of the letters in the call number and the surname of the family whom the book was about.
2. Current book numbering system
The current book numbering system is based on the universally recognized Dewey Decimal system, with only slight alterations. The Dewey Decimal system designator for histories is the 900 series. Since the majority of the library's books are historical in nature, the 900 series is used most in the library. Other designators seen in the library are:
- 000 series for general works (such as 030 for encyclopedias and 040 for biographies)
- 200 series for religion
- 400 series for language (including dictionaries)
The 940 series is for European histories. These include:
- 941 British Isles (in the Family History Library this is for Scotland and 941.5 for Ireland)
- 942 England & Wales in particular
- 943 Central Europe; Germany
- 944 France & Monaco
- 945 Italian Peninsula & adjacent islands
- 946 Iberian Peninsula & adjacent islands
- 947 Eastern Europe; Russia
- 948 Northern Europe; Scandinavia
For the United States and Canada, these are the designators:
- 970 General history of North America
- 971 Canada
- 972 Middle America; Mexico
- 973 United States
- 974 Northeastern United States
- 975 Southeastern United States
- 976 South central United States
- 977 North central United States
- 978 Western United States
- 979 Great Basin & Pacific Slope
All of these designators are used in the Family History Library with slight additions and variations. Within a region, such as 974 for Northeastern United States, an added period (.) and additional number designates a state within that region, such as 974.7 for New York state. Additional numbers after the .7 further narrow the designation to a county within the state. Another example would be 942.1 for the county of Middlesex in England.
The numbers may be followed by a slash and a letter and number, such as /A1. This last part indicates a city or town within a county. An example would be 942.1/L1 = London, Middlesex, England.
The remaining part of a book number indicates the subject of the book and the name of the author such as:
- H2ab for a history by Benjamin Allen
- X22b for a census index created by the Bedfordshire Family History Society
1. First numbering System
The first numbering system for films used an F (for film), then F.H. (for family history) or a geographic code, then a number or a letter and number and often a part number. A part number designated a separate film in a film series. Examples:
- F F.H. 441
- F Ga. 7
- F Me. 11 pt. 289
- F Pa. C 9f pt. 1
- F Mass. H3
- F N.Y. C 16b
- F Vt. W 25a pt. 2
2. Second numbering system
The second numbering system was just numbers, starting at number 1, often with a part number attached. These numbers were also called "red numbers" because, for a number of years, the numbers were printed in red ink on the film boxes. Again a part number designated a separate film in a series of films. Examples:
- 1379 pt. 4
- 2756 pt. 356
- 7079 pt. 2
- 14505 pt. 1059
The tricky part of this system is how to know if a number without a part number -- such as 2745 -- is an old, red number or if it is a current number. Old, red numbers stopped at about 60,000, so any past that are current numbers.
3. Third numbering system
The current numbering system started over with number 1 and new films are assigned the next sequential number. No letters or part numbers are used. As the library now has over 2 million films in its collection, zeros are sometimes added on the front of a film number to make it a 7-digit number, but they are not needed. Numbers are good with or without the leading zeros. For example:
Converting Old Film Numbers to New
Here are several ways to convert the old GS film numbers into the current Family History Library film numbers.
- Use the "Old microfilm number conversion" charts in this wiki.
- Search the The Family History Library Catalog by the locality or author of the record on the film.
- Consult List of all film call numbers in the Genealogical Society from 1938 to April 1958, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Genealogical Society, Library Division. Available on fiche.
- Use the old CD version of the catalog in the DOS version of FamilySearch. This version is available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and may be available in a family history center near you. The center staff can help you convert the number.
If you need to convert an old GS book number, consult one of these resources, most of which are available on film or fiche.
- Changed call numbers, Great Britain. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Society. Library Division.
- Changed numbers of American publications and United States. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Society. Library Division.
- Changed numbers of Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Society. Library Division.
- Changes of family history "A" group call numbers. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Society. Library Division.
- Changes of family history "B" group call numbers. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Society. Library Division.
- Contact the Family History Library.
- Converting Old FHL Film Numbers to Current Numbers
- Category:Old microfilm number conversion (links to conversion tables)
- Introduction to the Family History Library Catalog
- Family History Library Catalog Place Search
- Family History Library Catalog Surname Search
- Family History Library Catalog Keyword Search
- Family History Library Catalog Title Search
- Family History Library Catalog Film and Fiche Search
- Family History Library Catalog Author Search
- Family History Library Catalog Subject Search
- Family History Library Catalog Call Number Search (for books and other printed materials)