08 July 2016

My First Trip to the Family History Library

My family went on a big roadtrip for almost 3 weeks. Along the way we stopped by 2 different cities my ancestors lived, and I got 6 hours at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My kids weren't as interested in doing genealogy on vacation, but they did like walking around the cemetery at little. And while I was in the library, they went with their father to see temple square and things, so they were sufficiently entertained while I worked.

Anyway, it was my very first time going into the Family History Library. Some things I think I did right, and others I didn't. Here is a summary of my trip, which is hopefully helpful for your first trip there as well.

What I did right:

1. I had a plan. I knew exactly who and what I was looking for, which information I wanted to fill in, and approximately where to find it. I was focusing on my husband's family, which were all in one country, and I knew the records were all in microfilm (thanks to the British, there were pretty good records).

2. I wrote down the film numbers. I had a list of microfilm numbers, and what was in them, so I could go straight to the film and start researching. It's pretty easy to look at the catalog online from home and make a list. You can write down your own list, or make a 'catalog print list' right on the FamilySearch website and simply press print when your ready. Luckily my research was all on one floor of the building, no need to move around too much.

3. I brought my computer, notebook, and cell phone. I was able to take a quick cell phone shot of the indexes for the records (for reference while looking for the record itself), write things down, and even input things directly into my computer genealogy software. It's great to have access to technology while you are there, and to be able to record things in multiple ways. I happen to have a backpack with a place for my laptop, so it wasn't a big deal to carry it all in.

What did wrong:

1. didn't pay attention to where exactly the microfilm was located. Some was in the regular files, some was in the high density stacks (needing a worker to go get it for me), some was restricted (needing me to surrender my drivers license to view it), and some was in the Granite Vaults (needing to be ordered ahead of time). 
For the Fijian records I was looking at, most of the indexes were in the regular files, so I could go and look up people and find record numbers or dates. But then, the records themselves were in the Granite Vault, so I couldn't access it that day (and didn't have another day to come back). I also had a long list of restricted film to look through, but it requires you to give them your drivers license or ID before they go get it for you. I only had time for 2 rolls, and hope to be able to go back some day and see the rest.
If I had been a little more diligent in my prep before hand I could have had the Granite Vault films ordered and waiting for me when I got there.

2. Not giving enough time. 6 hours may seem like a lot, but when you are elbow deep in microfilm and research, is there ever really enough time? We were visiting friends and family in the area, so I wasn't able to carve out any more time, but next time I will try to wrangle a second day out of the trip.


Overall the trip was a success. I know I can order the granite vault films to be delivered to my local genealogy library ($7 per film), so I'm not too bummed that I didn't get to see it there. I loved being there in the library surrounded by so many other genealogists doing work, and even better, finally seeing more people my own age and younger doing genealogy (I am often the odd man out in the age department).
Can't wait until I make time to go back!