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The Family History Library Catalog

A Necessary Search Tool for All Genealogists


The Family History Library Catalog, the gem of the Family History Library, describes over 2 million rolls of microfilm and hundreds of thousands of books and maps. It does not contain the actual records, however, only descriptions of them - but is an important step in the genealogy process for learning about what records might be available for your area of interest.

The records described in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) come from throughout the world. This catalog is also available on CD and microfiche at the Family History Library and at local Family History Centers, but to have it available for searching online is of amazing benefit. You can do much of your research from home at whatever time is convenient and, therefore, maximize your research time at your local Family History Center (FHC). To access the online version of the Family History Library Catalog go to the Familysearch homepage (www.familysearch.org) and select "Library Catalog" from the Library navigation tab at the top of the page. Here you are presented with the following options:

  • Place Search - Use this option to find catalog entries about a place or for records from a place.

  • Surname Search - Use this option to find catalog entries about records that include a specific surname, such as written family histories.

  • Keyword Search - Use this option to find catalog entries about records that contain a certain word or phrase. You can use this to search for keywords in titles, authors, places, series and subjects.

  • Title Search - Use this option to find catalog entries about records that contain a certain word or combination of words in the title.

  • Film/Fiche Search - Use a Film/Fiche Search to find the titles of items on a specific microfilm or microfiche in the Family History Library Catalog.

  • Author Search - Use an Author Search to find the Author Details record for a person, church, society, government agency, and so forth identified as an author of a specific reference. The Author Details record lists titles linked to the author and may include notes and references.

  • Call Number Search - Use a Call Number Search to find an item by its call number (the number used to locate items on the shelves in the Family History Library or the FamilySearch Center).
Let's start with the place search, as this is the one that I find the most useful. The place search screen contains two boxes:
  • Place
  • Part of (optional)
In the first box, type the place you want to find entries for. I would suggest that you start your search with a very specific place name, such as a city, town or county. The Family History Library contains a huge amount of information and if you search on something broad (such as a country) you will end up with too many results to wade through.

The second field is optional. Since many places have the same names, you can limit your search by adding a jurisdiction (a larger geographic area that includes your search location) of the place you want to find. For example, you can add the state name in the second box after entering a county name in the first box. If you do not know the name of the jurisdiction, then just search on the location name itself. The catalog will return a list of all jurisdictions which contain that particular place name and you can then select the one which best meets your expectations.

Place Search Tips

Keep in mind while searching, that the names of the countries in the FHL catalog are in English, but the names of the states, provinces, regions, cities, towns and other jurisdictions are in the language of the country in which they are located.

Place Search will only find the information if it is part of the place-name. For example, if I had searched for North Carolina in the above example, my results list would show places named North Carolina (there is only one - the U.S. State of N.C.), but it would not list places in North Carolina. To see places that are part of North Carolina, select View Related Places. The next screen would display all counties in North Carolina. To see the towns in one of the counties, you would click on the county, then click View Related Places again.

The more specific you make your search, the shorter your lists of results will be.

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