They come not to look at today or even the future, but at the past. Genealogists come from all walks of life for the sole purpose of discovering more about their ancestors and ultimately themselves. For some it's just looking for that one missing puzzle piece or connecting dots. For others, it's the start of a new adventure.
The Family History Library is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which created the library in 1894 for the purpose of assisting their members in gathering genealogy records and documenting family history. More than 1,900 people patronize the library each day. That's roughly 60,000 a month or three-quarters of a million people annually. It is the largest library of its kind in the world with 142,000-square feet on five floors. And best of all, there is no admission fee.
The magnitude of the collection, when looking for a single person - say your great, great, great grandfather on your mother's side, is enormous. Fortunately the staff is extremely helpful and many serious, as well as amateur researchers come well prepared to look for that needle in a haystack. And for many, securing that one piece of the puzzle is all worth the journey.
The biggest challenge is in wrapping your hands around the extensive amount of data, which is comprised of has more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records, 742,000 pieces of microfiche, 310,000 books, 4,500 periodicals and 700-electronic resources. The library offers more than 200 computers, 500 microfilm and 36 microfiche readers, plus 28 microfilm and microfiche copiers, four-microfilm scanners and 15 regular copy machines.
Before you go, get organized. Make a plan. Bring along a summary of your existing materials so that you can readily access relative resources.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world for family tree researchers. The church maintains extensive online resources, including more than 36 million names in what they label their ancestral database, 600 million names of deceased individuals in their international index and 125 million more in an addendum. Volunteers have submitted the data electronically from original church (birth, baptism or marriage) records. Researchers have also submitted data. And the pedigree resource links 80 million names into specific families. Most records are from before the year 1930, a demarcation line in genealogy, so as to allow the living privacy.
And if the trip to Salt Lake is out of reach, there are more than 4,000 local family history centers in more than 88 countries. Manned by volunteers, approximately 100,000 rolls of microfilm float among these satellite locations in a given month.
While in Salt Lake City, spend time in the library, but make sure to stay a few extra days to get a glimpse of all that the area has to offer. In addition to activities in the city, there are 15 national parks and monuments within one day's drive.
Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau
90 South West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Family History Library
35 North West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400