Your Guide to Using the Family History Library

You can use the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, in any one of its numerous Family History Centers located in cities and towns world wide, or on the web at www.FamilySearch.Org. It is the largest and best genealogy library in the world and you will find much -- not all! -- of what you need to research your family by taking advantage of the resources found here.


  • famlysearchlogo Always takes You back to this page


  • familysearchsigninFirst, sign in (create account)


This is where you want to be.





Using the newly organized FamilySearch.Org

The website of the Family History Library is The default page is one of 5 pages (see the top row, above the white box)

  • Family Search (the default page) -- it is the page you will use the most and is described below
    • When you are elsewhere in the site, click the Tree logo, upper left, to take you back to this default page.
  • Learn-- takes you to a wealth of helpful information. You will want to take time to explore it.
    • The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a way to get information about almost any topic related to genealogy, usually with special reference to resources available from the Family History Library.
    • If you are new to genealogy, start here.
    • Don't overlook the many research courses offered online -- all for free.
  • Family History Centers-- use this to find the location of the nearest Family History Center
  • Indexing-- these records are indexed by people like you and me. Go here if you want to help.
  • Blog -- a wide variety of information, ranging from status of indexing projects to Basic Canadian Research to German villages. Fun to read.
  • Site Map

FamilySearch (the default page)

We want to pay attention to the component parts: Records, Trees, Catalog, Books -- each a link to a specific search page.

The default search screen is to search the records collection. If you want to search Trees, the Catalog or books, select that choice, which will then be underlined to show you which search screen you are on.

  • Records -- Search an ever growing collection of indexes and digitized imgages. New material is added almost daily.
  • Trees -- Information from submitted pedigrees.
    • Now (5/2011) the Tree's Section consists only of Ancestral File entries. (explanation of Ancestral File)
    • Each record may contain links to records of parents, spouses or children.
    • These records are created from work submitted to the FHL by other researchers and may or may not be accurate.
  • Catalog -- the listing of every book and film owned by The Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
  • Books -- Links to an offsite collection of digital books put online by Brigham Young University.
    • You can't search the books collection from this page.
    • How to use the BYU Books Collection has videos to help you better learn to use it.

  • Using (3 minutes) -- this video gives you the basics but provides no information on how you can search it more effectively using filters and refining search terms. So don't stop here.
  • Searching Historical Records covers how to use filters and change search criteria. This is something you want to become an expert on doing! Watching this will help you go about getting the practice to hone your skills.
  • Finding a Record Collection
  • Browsing Record Collections

For more information, see Cyndi'sList page that covers FamilySearch


This lower part of the page covers the old FamilySearch page. It will be converted over time, but in the meantime, the links are still good (to the old site)

Search For Ancestors (all resource in one search, i.e. Ancestral File, Census, IGI, PRF, SSDI and VRI search)

Search the records

Search the Catalog to find what is available from the Family History Library. If an item has been filmed, it can be obtained on loan (a few exceptions may be noted on the records) through your nearest Family History Center.

  • The Family History Center now offers a three part video lesson on how to find materials in their catalog. Each video is 10-15 minutes long. Also see an online. Remember: you can search the catalog a variety of ways....
    • By location -- be sure to use the "View Related Places" link (upper right corner) to search all related jurisdictions.
    • By surname -- to find family histories that cover a specific family. You aren't searching the whole book; only the description of the book as it appears in the catalog.
    • By Keyword (if you have a common surname, this is much handier than the surname search because you can combine the name with a place or another surname, e.g. Smith Pennsylvania or Smith Jones )
    • And if you know exactly what you want, use the title or author search.
    • The film or fiche number search is handy if you want to see what the heck you ordered! Often more than one item is on a roll and you may have neglected to note which # is the one you want.
    • The subject search is especially useful for finding titles that are not specific to a name or place, e.g. African Americans or Adoption.


  • Forms -- offers some unique forms, as well as the more common ones.
  • Genealogical Word Lists -- lists of common genealogical term in several languages
  • Letter Writing Guides -- some genealogical form letters in a several languages.
  • Maps -- of the U.S. and several countries. They print out somewhat better than they appear on screen, but you may have to spend some time playing with your printing "preferences" to get them to appear as you want on the page.
  • Reference Documents (here is where you will find the "Historical Background" documents for each state and many countries. There are a few other reference documents that can be helpful too. Peruse the list to see what else might be of use to you.)
  • Research Guidance... these are tricky. You really have to spend time with each one you use to see what might be helpful to you. Choose the locality you are researching. Some parts will be be only generic advice, others will have information that is location specific. Notice that when you select a record type and time span, you are then given 3 tabs to view separately byclicking the tab
    1) Historical Background 2) For Beginners and 3) Search Strategy
  • Research Outlines These are much more direct that Research Guidance. Many (but unfortunately not all) are available in .pdf format so can be printed a a booklet.
  • Resource Guides -- Many (but not all) are available in .pdf format. They cover both subjects (e.g. African American Quick Guide) and some locations (e.g. Finding Your Ancestors in Finland Before 1900)
  • Step by Step Guides (this is where you fill find the Statewide Indexes and Collections documents, as well as a variety of other useful guides. Again, peruse the list to see what might be useful to you. )

    ... The HELP tab (upper right corner of page) takes you to a very helpful page, but it comes up in a separate window, so I can't link to it.


Research Series: Classes Online As I write this there is a comprehensive series on England and a 1 hour class on Italy, but I hope more will be added. Check often.

Family Search Labs

Family Search Labs is a suite of new services;Click the link above to view a paragraph explanation for each of them. For running information on their development, follow the FamilySearch Labs blog. The componant parts of Family Search Labs are

  • Record Search -- more and more data online-- indexed and browsable.
  • Family Tree -- aka "New Family Search"; currently only available to members of the Church as it is being tested, it will eventually become one huge family tree.
  • Standard Finder -- finds places, names dates under a variety of spellings; a handy utility
  • Research Wiki -- an encyclopedia of information, being built over time. It is a Wiki, so anyone can contribute information. In fact, for it to become a robust source, people will need to be active contributers.

Family History Library Resources: these pages are nice summaries of resources available for specific purposes. At this point three are available; keep an eye on the home page to see if more are added.

Back to Bobbie's Genealogy Classroom


This page last updated January 3, 2014