Category Archives: Using the FHL

Using the FHL – High Density and Vault

Rolling Shelves in High Density

A great number of the cataloged microfilm are available at the Family History Library at any given time, but some items are not as readily available. When the catalog states that an item is in the Vault it means that no one has ordered it to the FHL or that it has been sent back.

(Sending items back is a very recent occurrence. Previously, once an item was in the FHL, it stayed there forever.)

The Granite Mountain Vault is exactly what it sounds like. FamilySearch built a vault in the side of a mountain to secure the original microfilms and, more recently, to store the digital images of records that they collect.

The Vault is not accessible to patrons, but any item in the Vault can be ordered to the FHL. If you are planning a trip to Salt Lake City, you can order the films you will need online. If you are already in SLC, you can order a film from the Vault at the Access Services window on the appropriate floor of the Library. Vault orders generally take one day to arrive, except for late Friday and Saturday when the Vault is closed.

On the other hand, if something in the catalog says that it is Restricted, at Access Services, or in High Density, these can all be found at the Access Services window. Restricted items may require you to volunteer a government-issued ID while using the materials. High Density items are all on the B-1 floor, regardless of the geographical location of the material. These items generally take only a few minutes to retrieve. Patrons are not allowed in the High Density area.

Using the FHL – Microfilm Cabinets

The Family History Library is home to up to 2.4 million reels of microfilm. Rows of film cabinets line large areas on three floors of the building.

Microfilm CabinetsSigns at the end of each row direct you to which films are in that row. The lowest numbered films are in the farthest corner from the elevators. From there, the numbers increase moving up and down the aisles. This is the “Core”.

At the end of the Core begins the “Overflow”. Every film in the Library has been requested by a patron. When the drawers fill up, sometimes additional films do not fit in place and are placed in Overflow. (The US/Canada floor has a Census section in between the two areas. The British floor does not have Overflow.)

Overflow Film Drawers

Overflow Film Drawers

Each drawer shows the lowest numbered film in the drawer. The Core cabinets are labeled in white and the Overflow use pink.

Films in the Core and Overflow are self-serve. Each patron must find the films they want and return them back to their drawer when finished. It is not uncommon to see magnets or Post-its left on drawers to make returning the films easier. (Some patrons will write the drawer numbers right on the boxes [450 A-F in the image], but that is not the best idea. When films are shifted, which happens, that can get confusing.)

Typical films in a drawer

It is recommended that each patron only borrow up to five films at a time. Each reel has the film number written on the side, so be sure to put each reel in the correct box if you use more than one.

And be careful to replace the film in its proper order and in the correct drawer. Remember, if you misfile a film, the next person may not be able to find it — sometimes the next person is you.

Using the Family History Library

The Family History Library (FHL) is located in downtown Salt Lake City, just a few blocks away from the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, the location of the IAJGS conference. In this blog series, we will acquaint you with the resources available at the FHL, how to find them, how to use them, and hopefully make your visit to the Library as genealogically successful as possible.

The FHL is the home base of FamilySearch, the genealogical branch of the LDS Church. The majority of their genealogical collections reside at the FHL. While many conference attendees may have access to local Family History Centers or FamilySearch Libraries, and all attendees can access their vast collection online, the FHL offers opportunities beyond those.

During the conference, attendees will undoubtedly escape to the FHL to do some research. We hope you can find lots of time to learn more about your family history. Pioneer Day takes place the week before the conference, so be aware of that if you are planning an extended visit — the Library will be closed on July 24th.

The Library hours are:

  • 8am – 5pm on Monday,
  • 8am – 9pm Tuesday through Friday, and
  • 9am – 5pm on Saturday.

Closing announcements begin 45 minutes before closing and patrons are expected to exit the Library before the closing time.