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Cracking the FHL Catalog

By Rick Crume Premium

As the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City probably has something you could use among its 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records and thousands of microfiche, books, periodicals and electronic resources. The FamilySearch online catalog is genealogist-friendly, with detailed descriptions of the materials and these search options:

Place: Enter the name of a town, county (but don’t include the word county), state or country to see books and records for that location. As you type the place name, a dropdown menu will list matching places in the FamilySearch catalog. Choose the place that best fits your search.

For example, type Hamilton Ohio, and you can choose from “United States, Ohio, Hamilton”  (resources for Hamilton County, Ohio),  “United States, Ohio, Butler, Hamilton” (resources for the city of Hamilton in Butler County, Ohio), and “United States, Ohio, Jackson, Hamilton Township” (resources for Hamilton Township in Jackson County, Ohio).

Surname: Enter a last name to find published and unpublished family histories.


Keyword: This search finds a word anywhere in the catalog listing. If you’re searching on a common last name, add a place name or other keyword to narrow your search.
Title: Enter words from the title in any order (you needn’t enter the entire title).
Film/Fiche and Call Number: Use these if you already have the film or book number.
Author: Look for records created by a person, government, business or church.
Subject: This search uses Library of Congress subject headings.
Use links in the catalog listings to order microfilm or fiche for viewing at a branch FamilySearch Center near you (for a small fee), or print the catalog descriptions and take them with you to the FamilySearch Center or the Family History Library. Printed books don’t circulate.
Adapted from the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine