RootsTech Update: Making the FHL work for you

Two weeks ago I discussed the things you need to consider if you plan on attending RootsTech for the first time.

Today, we tackle the preparation for the Family History Library, which I will abbreviate as FHL.   And accessing the FHL and its vast collection of records, films and knowledges is one of the great side benefits of going to RootsTech!

They even have neato bazeato technology on the first floor!

The FHL is an outgrowth of one of the tenants of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which encourages its membership to undertake genealogy as way of honoring their ancestors and ensuring their inclusion in the eternal afterlife.  But genealogy is also way that Mormons help to build community.  It’s a commonality that is shared amongst its believers.

Good thing for all of us, because LDS Church has been a tireless collector of records and promoters of genealogy as a vocation and an advocation.

If you show up at the FHL with no game plan, frankly, you are going to get lost in your thoughts and overwhelmed. So, these are my hints for preparing for your visit are, in a nutshell to get organized, focus on records you cannot easily access in person or online, keep a record of the documents you are seeking, write out the brick walls you need to break down, understand how the FHL works and pay attention to sources during online searches:

  1. Get organized. For left brain people, this is easy.  For right brain people, not so much. Over the next eleven months, create a big picture for your research.  What do you want to get done, what do you need to get done and what haven’t you been able to get done.  Brick walls?  Add that to your list.
  2. Focus on records from places not easily accessed online, or in person.  Identify the areas of the nation, or the world,  where you just can’t get.  Try not to direct your time at the FHL on locally available records to where you live.  So, if you live in St. Louis, Missouri, and the historical society there has a set of records that may meet your needs, do that research in St. Louis.  If, you live in St. Louis and you are looking for New Mexico records that are not available online, shift that search to the FHL.  OR if you live in a place, and the local archives or library only has a poor quality copy, then shift that to the FHL.
  3. In addition to keeping a research log (which may seem like a pain if you are not a professional genealogist), add in a “Documents Sought” log.  This log should include any information that you find online that is in a transcript form when you need a copy of the actual original.
  4. Keep a log of “Brick Walls”.  We all “know” where we get stuck, but writing down a fact sheet for each brick wall, and all of the sources you have checked and not found what you are looking for will help you rethink the problem in a clearer fashion.  In other words, get the Brick Wall out of your head and onto paper.
  5. Read up on how the Family History Library works, how it is organized, what they keep on site, and what will need to be “paged” to the library floor from the LDS storage at Granite Mountain.  Depending on how that record is managed within the storage facility, that could impact how many days it takes to get to the FHL for your use.
  6. When you use online research sites, when an index comes up, or a transcription, look at the source information. The use FamilySearch’s website to see if the records are available through the library.

And remember, you can’t get everything done at once.  When you are planning your time at the library, remember to have fun, visit the first floor display, there is a vend-o-cafe in the building for breaks.   Right now, the key to getting the most out of the visit is to plan, prioritize and print (as in writing it down) out as much prep work as possible.

Below are a number of links, in one place, that I have collected to help you get the most out of your stay.  Don’t wait until the last minute, plan now and succeed next February!

Video on what Granite Mountain is, and the purpose it serves.

Family Search Wiki – numerous helpful topics, including information on the FHL.

FamilySearch’s broad overview of tips for how to get the most out of the library.

Of Graveyards and Things (Blog) tips.  More in depth, and other ideas that I haven’t covered.

See you Monday Morning!


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