Family History is a hobby and I’ve pursued off and on since I was a teen. It’s amazing how much easier it is now than even a couple of years ago. It is a fun hobby to pair with travel, because when we can connect our family with a place we visit, it makes the memories even more special.
If you are planning a trip to Salt Lake City, consider a stop at the Family History Library downtown to see what you can learn about your family. The vast family history resources at the Family History Library are available to all, free of charge.
Here is what you need to know to make the most of your visit to the Family History Library.
Start your family tree before you go
Start working on your family tree before your trip. This will help you pinpoint specific things you want to find out about your family when you arrive at the Family History Library.
You already have access to many of the free resources at the Family History Library on your home computer. To start your family tree:
- Go to www.FamilySearch.org
- Choose “Join for Free”. If you are a member of the LDS Church and you already have a user name and password for LDS Tools, LDS.org or another site, sign in with that information.
- Choose “Family Booklet.” The My Family booklet is a tool to help you preserve and share information about yourself, your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. You can include memories and photos, as well as names and dates.
Once you start entering information for your deceased grandparents and great-grandparents, you might find that research has already been done for your family. Thanks to the efforts of others, it was easy for me to find that research on my line goes back to the 1300’s and that my husband is related (twice) to a Mayflower passenger. So, those photos we took of Plymouth Rock aren’t just ancient history to my children. They’re personal.
If you need more help getting started, the LDS Church sponsors small satellite family history libraries throughout the world. To find one near you, check www.familysearch.org/locations.
At the library
Here are some of the resources available at the Family History Library.
- Work stations with access to FamilySearch.org and free access to many fee-based sites like Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com and MyHeritage.com.
- Free advice from family history experts and volunteers.
- Free family history classes daily – from beginner to expert levels. Check here for the class schedule.
- Records from the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
- Over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources.
A majority of the records contain information about people who lived before 1930. Any information you enter into FamilySearch about yourself or any other living person will not be visible to anyone but yourself.
If you have older children
Get them involved! Teens and tweens can create their own FamilySearch accounts and help research their family history. Older kids may enjoy finding photos and stories for their ancestors in the Memories section of FamilySearch.org. If others have also researched your ancestors, photos and stories may already be in FamilySearch. If not, the Family History Library is a good place to find some.
Teens, tweens and adults can help make more free online records available to researchers through Indexing. Volunteer indexers transcribe names, dates and other important information from vital records, census data, immigration records and other records from around the world. Learn more about indexing at www.familysearch.org/indexing.
If you have young children
Honestly, there is not a lot to capture the attention of young children at the Family History Library. They are welcome, but you won’t see many young children around the library. It’s not a place to run or use “outdoor voices.” Here are some options for for families with young children:
- Divide and Conquer – The Church History Museum next door has a fun play area on the top floor. There is no cost to visit. One parent or a responsible older child can take young children there while the other parent is at the library.
- Try the Family Search Center instead – The Family Search Center at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on the other side of Temple Square has all of the same online resources and expert help that the library has. It also has a small family history themed play area that is fun for younger children. If you don’t need the books and microfilms at the library, this is a good alternative.
- Online games – I feel like a bad parent by suggesting that you consider parking your child in front of an online game at the Family History Library. However, they have plenty of computers and it will likely buy you some research time.
Good to Know
Where: 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City. Across the street to the west from Temple Square.
- Mon: 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
- Tues-Fri: 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
- Sat: 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
- Sun: Closed
- Closed on most holidays
How Much: FREE. Use of materials and computers, expert assistance and classes are offered at no charge. There will be a small cost for printouts and photocopies.
How Long: 1-2 hours for most families. Family history enthusiasts could spend days here.
Amenities: Restrooms, drinking fountains, snack room. Food and drink are not sold inside the Family History Library, and may be consumed in the snack room only.