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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Occupational Records  by Beverly Rice, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Family History Library

Let us start with the Family History Library (FHL), as a repository. FHL is the largest genealogy library in the world, and in conjunction, FamilySearch Centers (FSC) gives the researcher access to millions of books and microfilmed records throughout the world. Although FHL is the largest genealogy library in the world it does not have all the records that are needed to complete your family history research. It is an excellent starting point but not the only source.

When you access the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) on the Internet, it is important to understand the search options. There are 6 basic searches.

  • Place search
  • Surname search
  • Author search
  • Subject search
  • Title search
  • Keyword search

In order to access the resources available at the FHL the researcher must utilize more than one type of search. When searching records related to and occupation you must ask for more than just “railroads”. For example a search for “railroads” retrieved over 1400 items using a keyword search on the online catalog. This is too many to be of good value. A more specific response of such as the name of the line on which your ancestor worked is needed. The entry of “Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” (railroad) brought back 4entries with 3 directly related to this rail line. While 3 of these titles were related to personnel records, the fourth related to the building of this railroad. The following is an example of what was retrieved in the above search.

The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Co., Lamar Moore

These notebooks were compiled from some company records and describe the steps and difficulties involved in constructing a continuous line from Missouri to California. Other states involved were: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

The referenced books would add to the fuller picture of a person involved in the construction of the rail line in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. This record was also located by entering the words “railroad New Mexico” in the keyword search. However the 3 titles related to personnel files of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fee railroad were not brought up on the screen in second search. You can also use the place search and subject search to access these catalog entries.

This cross-reference search feature is available in most library catalogs allowing you to refine a search. This also gives you the ability to cross check your search results.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Occupational Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.