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The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library

Updated on July 2, 2011

Published 1988

The Library, A Guide to the LDS Family History Library edited by Johni Cerny and Wendy Elliott. Published in 1988, the book may no longer be in print, but you might be able to find a copy at a used book store or an estate sale. My copy cost $32.95 new and still has its dust jacket. You certainly should be able to use your local genealogical library’s copy. While the library itself has far outpaced the book, the information in the book is still well worth reading.

The Library is one of at least three books that are a must for all serious and non-serious genealogical researchers. The Source, The Library, and The Handy Book are not books full of family information, but rather full to running over of “where to find” that family information... even if you don’t know what you need or how to find it! All three are teaching tools that teach you where to find the information you need to do your family history.

The blurb inside The Library states “The collections and services of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and its hundreds of branch Family History Center libraries through-out the world are concisely described in this comprehensive book.”

A full up-to-date listing of the “card catalog” of the FHL is online at, but nothing gives you the details like this book does. The authors did a fantastic job of outlining a large portion of what was available in1988 in the main library. What you should know is that what is available at the main library in SLC – in film or fiche form – is also available at the thousands of FHC for a small shipping fee, unless it is on the restricted list. The items were restricted by the owners, not by the library.

I was in Salt Lake Cityattending a genealogical workshop at the time the book was published. It was also at the same time that the Church changed the name of the library from the Genealogical Library to the Family History Library. If you get a chance to visit the library, be aware you will not learn everything you need to know about the library in a hundred two-week visits!

The Library is divided up into two sections with each section having chapters. The first part is an introduction to the Family History Library. A read-through of this book will help if you plan to visit, as it will give you a base to start your learning curve.

The second part of the book is about the records themselves. Each geographic region has its own chapter, with a special chapter on the now discontinued Medieval Families Identification Unit.

I have fond memories of working with that department as an “at home volunteer missionary” for eight years to help with the extraction of information. The Unit “primarily extracts and compiles royal, noble, and medieval genealogies; and its present area of concentration is Continental Europe.” “Missionary” status was open to anyone that wanted to work on medieval records. My assignment was to find and extract information about the pre-1600 Muscote family in England. This is one of my family lines that leads directly to the queens and kings of England, Scotland, and all the royalty throughout Europe. I had specific guidelines to go by and all the information I found is now available though the Family History Library.

A sampling to show how the book is complied, Chapter 7 United States: The Old South consists of 43 pages of details about the states of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The section on Georgia starts with a Historical Background overview from 1732 to 1870; then a section explains settlement and migration with some sources available such as Coulter, E. Merton, and Albert B. Saye, eds. A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1949. (FHL#975.8/W2L or microfilm 0007092)

If I had ancestors that were in Georgiain this time period, I would be interested in looking at this source as it tells us that the library has a copy both in book form and on microfilm. If we were in the library, we could look it up on the open selves on the second floor – the library has seven floors! – or we could go to the microfilm section and pull the microfilm #0007092 or we could order the microfilm at our nearest FamilyHistoryCenter. Another option would be to run a Goggle search for more information about the contents of the book and/or to see if the book is available for purchase.

My Google search on turn up this information:

Product Description: This is a list not only of the early settlers of Georgia but of the first settlers of Georgia, and it is apparently a complete list of all those who were sent by the Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America under Oglethorpe and the Earl of Egmont. Covering the period from 1732 to 1741, these two lists together contain the names and details of 3,000 immigrants, most of whom were assigned lots in Savannah and Frederica and a good number of whom would soon leave the colony for the Carolinas.

Information pertaining to each settler consists, generally, of name, age, occupation, place of origin, names of spouse, children and other family members, dates of embarkation and arrival, place of settlement, and date of death. In addition, some of the more notorious aspects of the settlers' lives are recounted in brief, telltale sketches.

About the Author: E. Merton Coulter was head of the History Department at the University of Georgia, editor of the Georgia Historical Quarterly, and a founding member and the first president of the Southern Historical Association. Albert B. Saye was a professor of political science at the University of Georgia and one of the most well-known scholars of Georgia history and politics. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

With more information, I now know about a source I did not know of before and I know whether or not I should look for it at my local genealogical library, as well as more about the creditability of the authors.

Confession: I have had The Library for more than twenty years, yet I am just now finding a book I really needed because I do have ancestors in that part ofGeorgia during that time period.

Also in the Georgiasection is a listing for the Georgia Library Collections. I took note of the following warning, Georgia’s records are enormous in volume and complex in nature. Time, geography, politics, and patriotism have all contributed in various ways to the creation and preservation of these documents. So much as survived, and so much that has survived is so out of the ordinary and confusing to the average person that many researchers suffer from “Georgia Shock” – a feeling of being overwhelmed when trying to grasp the basics of research in Georgia.” So wrote Robert S. Davis, Jr., in his excellent guide Research in Georgia....”

Following that information are sections on Archives and Libraries; Bible Records, Cemeteries, and Genealogy; Biography; Census Records; Church Records, Court Records; Directories; History; Land and Property Records; Maps; Medical Records; Military Records; Minorities; Newspapers, Obituaries; Occupations; Periodicals; Probate Records; Public Records; Schools; Slavery and Bondage; Taxation; Vital Records; and Voting Registers. And all of that was covered in about four pages!

The Library is a 763 page (with index) teaching tool. It is one of those books that does not give you the information you need, it teaches you to find it for yourself in little known books and records... in this case, all available from the Family History Library.

But then, we knew this book was already out of date the day it was published as the Church has several microfilming crews that have been working year around to microfilm and preserve records all over the world... and you have access to them at the Family History Library inSalt Lake Cityor at your nearestFamilyHistoryCenter.

There is one major difference you need to know about the Family History Library compared to a regular genealogical library. All libraries have books, records that have been compiled and typed into readable format. See my “standard warning below” and you will find I caution you about errors in such compilations.

However, at the FHL, you will also find microfilm and microfiche records that are photocopies of the actual records themselves. These are not the actual records, but photocopies... the next best thing, baring anyone manipulating them.

Unfortunately the film and fiche copies also have all the original defects of tears, holes, and water damage, plus the record is in the native language. I have ordered some films that turned out to be written in Medieval Latin. But, yes, I knew what I was getting because the “card catalog” told me the records were in Latin. I had a guide notebook that helped me pick out the information I needed. So make sure you know what you are pulling at the library or ordering before you pay your shipping fee at the Family History Center. A compiled book may be a better solution for you.

­The books I tell you about are only to make you aware they exist. Many can be found in your nearest local “genealogy” library. Many are out of print or into 3rd or 10th reprint. If they are available for purchase I will try to let you know, but check your local library first to see if it is something that you really want a copy of for your personal use.

My standard warning to all researchers: You would do well to remember that not everything is on the internet. Someone had to type and put up any information you find online; so with re-typing comes errors... on top of the original errors. However, there is a lot of information on the internet and you would do well to search for your genealogical information there first. Most of all remember that books, as well as the internet, are to be used as road maps to the “original” records.

Just don’t forget to document your research in case you have to go back to the same record over and over!


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