The largest collection of genealogical resources in the world is housed within Granite Mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah. This mountain vault contains more than two million rolls of microfilmed documents, as well as countless microfiche, all available for a small fee on loan to any patron at a Family History Center. There are more than 3,500 Family History Centers around the world. To find the Family History Center nearest you,visit the FamilySearch site at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp.
These two million plus rolls of microfilm are now being digitized and indexed, and are rapidly appearing on line. You can view the current available sources at the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot. In addition to the Record Search Pilot, the Family History Library's various finding aids are also available online. A visit to your local Family History Center may surprise you with even more records and references not available online. Our large regional Family History Center in Oakland provides free access to many subscription genealogy sites and maintains a valuable catalog to resources at twelve local family history centers.
Please note that this page uses the current web site at FamilySearch.org. There is a beta site that is now available, and it appears to be the future of FamilySearch: http://beta.familysearch.org/. If you explore the resources at both sites, you may discover that some resources are easier to find and use on one; other resources may be easier to find and use on the other.
The Ancestral File is a collection of genealogical information taken from records submitted by patrons to the Family History Department since 1978. This source is, at best, a secondary source. Use it with caution! The Ancestral File cannot be used to prove your ancestry. Use it for clues and for contacting relatives and others researching your family.
The Pedigree Resource is a lineage linked database of records submitted by individuals through the FamilySearch Internet program. Like the Ancestral File, information is organized in family groups and pedigree charts. Unlike the Ancestral File, occasionally notes and sources have also been submitted. This source is also available in a CD-ROM version. Again, this is at best a secondary source.
The International Genealogical Index is explained in detail in an online article by Helen S. Ullmann, "What is the I.G.I.?". This finding aid is available in both microfiche and CD-ROM versions at the local Family History Centers. as well as the computerized version. The IGI is an index based on patron submissions and on extractions from original documents. It now contains more than 350,000,000 names and is an extraordinary source when used to find those original records.
The Family History Library Catalog is, in my opinion, the most valuable reference available at the Family History Center or at FamilySearch. This catalog references the more than two million rolls of microfilmed records and 379,000 microfiched pages obtained throughout the world. Most of these are microcopies of original records such as: probate records, land records, church records, tax lists, census records, and vital records. Also included are microcopies of books and other secondary sources. Most of the records date from 1550 to 1920. These records are available to you, on loan, for a small fee, at any local Family History Center. Remember, they must be ordered from the FHC and used there. They cannot be used at your home.
The beta site's version of the Family History Library Catalog is labelled simply "Library Catalog" and can be found at: http://beta.familysearch.org/#form=catalog. It has a few advantages over the original site's catalog. In addition to the standard category breakdowns, this catalog can be broken down by time period and digital images are easily found.
The FHLC on microfiche is arranged by Author, Title, Subject, and Locality. The online version provides searches by Place, Surname, Author, Subject, Call Number, and Film/Fiche searches. For best results, look for the available records within your ancestor's Place or Locality. This is the best way to find all the records which may be of value to you.
FamilySearch.org has an excellent section called Research Helps. This section can be sorted by place, title, subject, and document type. Sort the page by document type and view the Research Outline for your geographic area. You will find much useful, well-organized and easily accessed information.
The FamilySearch Wiki, part of the beta site, is even easier to use. Explore this resource at FamilySearch Beta's "How To" section: http://learning.beta.familysearch.org/.
Local Family History Centers also contain a reference library that includes general and local reference volumes, as well as many microformed copies of original documents on
Visit the Family History Center in person or online. Working on the Family History Center Scavenger Hunt may help you become familiar with the many available resources.