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02 August 2014

The Search is on! – Researching at the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Pt. 1

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to join CGS on a research trip? 
We’re happy to present a series by CGS Member Daniel Spelce on his experiences researching at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on a trip hosted this past April by past president Jane Lindsey and our former head of Research, Nancy Petersen, CG. Another CGS research trip to SLC is coming up soon, in April 2015. 

Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT. Photo: Daniel Spelce

Good evening dear family, friends, and fellow travelers,

This morning our California Genealogical Society (CGS) expeditionary band of twenty-six family historians walked two blocks from our hotel to the Family History Library (FHL) (open from 8 am to 5 pm on Mon. & Sat.; 8 am - 9 pm, Tues.- Fri. check for hours). A group of nearly seventy-five people were already lined up to enter when we arrived shortly before opening. Stanislaus and Orange county genealogy groups are here from California this week, along with CGS.

Ground floor computer lab at the FHL. Photo: Daniel Spelce

The library’s five floors of vast resources are open to the public (  The ground floor, seen in the photo above, provides computer labs for using the site and many other databases. The first basement level houses the international collection of resources, comprising books, maps, online access, and microfilm. The second basement level focuses on the British Isles. The second floor specializes in United States and Canada microfilm, supplemented with reference books. The third floor houses the great collection of United States and Canada genealogy and history books.

Taking the everyday experience and connectedness of all people, regardless of how simple, humble, or famous, as an overarching perspective of this vast collection of resources makes them distinctly wonderful. As current president of the California Genealogical Society, Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, underscores, “Genealogy is the democratization of history.” The library provides a plentiful corps of volunteer and paid staff who occasionally check in, kindly offering assistance with the research endeavor of each library user. While volunteers certainly bear a range of skills, the staff does provide many adept, highly-skilled family history researchers to help library users. The library makes itself family-friendly by welcoming children, young people, and parents, as the picture shows.

Collection of family histories, first floor, FHL. Photo: Daniel Spelce
Behind the main computer lab on the first floor is the collection of family histories. These are histories of families often written by family members themselves. These volumes depict the vision Ellen, Felicia, Fred, and I imagine resulting from the workshops we are developing for researching and writing family histories with young people in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. The library is digitizing this collection of books, using the freed space for employing expanding technology-based resources. Perhaps the young historians Ellen, Felicia, Fred, and I work with will choose to use their writing skills to make movies, or publish online. Their choice! Their pleasure. We view genealogy and family history as bearing a great opportunity for empowerment and healing among people, especially young people.

End of Part I - Stay tuned for more!

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.