New ‘Library’ Guidebook Invaluable

Genealogists hang out at libraries, but usually learn by trial and error how to use them to locate information about their ancestors.

The world’s largest genealogical library is the famed Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. It is a private library, but is open to all, free of charge.

This library has a collection of more than 165,000 books. However, its main collection is not in the printed materials but in its massive microfilm and microfiche collection of genealogical material. It contains more than 1.4 million reels of microfilms--equivalent to more than 5 million printed volumes.

A first-time visitor is usually dazzled by the amount of sources available. It is easy to get lost in the maze. While the arrangement of this library is one of the easiest to learn, it does have some peculiarities.


Written by 13 Specialists

A guidebook to this library has long been needed. Now there is an excellent one written by 13 specialists and professionals in their respective fields and expertly edited by Johni Cerny and Wendy Elliott. It is published by Ancestry, Box 476, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110.

Called “The Library,” it is a large book (more than 700 pages) and sells for $34.95, including postage, but is worth every nickel.

Whether you plan to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or utilize one of its many branch libraries scattered throughout the world, it is an invaluable reference.


The United States collection is divided into chapters on New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, Old South, New South, Midwest, Northern Plains States, Mountain States, Southwest and the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

Chapters on foreign countries include Canada, England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Germany and Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, South America, Central America and Mexico, South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands, Caribbean Islands and Africa.

Other sections are introduction to the U.S. collection, tools, resources and previous research, services of the Family History Library and Medieval Families Identification Unit, plus an appendix listing 100 reference works most frequently used by patrons, which are available on 1,200 microfiche.

If you are researching your German roots, use that chapter to discover what material is available, the dates it covers and how the collection is arranged.


For example, in the German collection at Salt Lake City contains nearly 100,000 reels of church parish registers, and the library has more than 150 periodicals devoted to German and German-American genealogy.

Within each chapter are charts showing the records by jurisdiction. If your ancestors came from Hesse-Darmstadt, a quick look at the chart on the German Empire, 1871-1918, shows the collection on this locality including records of archives and libraries, censuses, churches and transcripts, emigration and immigration, genealogy, history, Jewish history, maps, military records, naturalization/citizenship, periodicals and schools.

‘New South’ Chapter

Looking for information about available Missouri records? Consult the chapter called “The New South.” In “The Library,” this term refers to Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi.


Undoubtedly, this book puts the world’s largest genealogical library at your fingertips.

To learn how to make the most out of other libraries, read “A Guide to Library Research Methods” (1987, Oxford University Press, New York: $16.95) by Thomas Mann, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress.

This book has excellent advice for the genealogist on how to locate material in other libraries, utilize computer searches and systematic browsing.

Your local bookstore can order a copy of “Library Research Methods” for you.