I was in Salt Lake City this past week for RootsTech and took the opportunity to visit the Family History Library and found a few interesting items.
The Family History Library is the largest genealogy library in the world holding over 2 million microfilms of important genealogical records and about half a million books. It was founded in 1894 by the LDS church to help their members in family history research but is generously open to everyone to visit.
There is one floor filled with microfilms of US records ranging from vitals, church records, old newspaper, military records and other records that were saved and might be interesting for researchers looking for people born before 1930. There is another floor entirely full of genealogy books organized by each state and there is also an international floor in the basement with both microfilm and genealogy books – mostly in foreign languages. This is where I spent most of my time. On the ground floor is the Family Discovery Center where you can look up immigration patterns on large screens, take pictures in your ancestors clothes, and even make your own video recording to include in your family tree. In total there are 5 floors.
I found a few missing vital records for our family tree in the US microfilm collection and was able to look at some interesting maps and books on the areas our families are from. One of my favorite finds was a microfilm of the ‘Civil Registration of Jewish births, marriages, and deaths for Wiżajny, Poland from 1829-1880′. Wiżajny is where I currently believe the Michloskys are from. I haven’t confirmed this and am still looking for a record or source that places these surnames there. I came up with this assumption by taking the name of a shtetl of origin I found for Jacob Michlosky in a history book and searched on JewishGen. Present day Wiżajny, Poland (Vizhon [Yid]) was the closest match. I found the the civil registration records in the Family History Library by searching ‘Wizanjy’ in the place search option in the catalog and then clicking on Jewish Records under the findings list.
Unfortunately these documents were only in Russian and Polish and very tiny writing so I couldn’t search through them for a connection. But being able to look at them was still well worth the effort as you can see they are beautiful. Knowing that they are there is also helpful. I might try to take a Russian, Polish or Yiddish for genealogists course and maybe one day be able to look through them meaningfully for a Michlosky (our surname possibly from there) reference.
Some tips for visiting the Family History Library
- If you are in Salt Lake City, make sure you set time aside to visit the FHL – both for research and the Discovery Center (30 minutes to an hour in the Discovery Center)
- Ask for help! The people there are so nice and eager to help you – they will help you learn how to find microfilm, how to use the microfilm readers, how to save documents you find in the best format, and even give you advice on genealogical brick walls
- Bring a USB – you can use their computers to save documents found on microfilm. You can also buy one there if needed
- Bring bottled water
- You can bring your own computer, but there are computers there to use (I did not need my own)
- Try to come prepared with microfilm or books that you would like to look at. This will save time and help you not be so overwhelmed. You can search the Library catalog from home here https://familysearch.org/catalog/search
- Look for and/or request your microfilm list when you first get there. One of the microfilms I wanted (1 out of 10) was in storage and took a couple days to come in.
- Bring your camera/smart phone and have a scan app on it – and charger!
- Also (which I did not know) there might be a Family History Library Center near you and you can request an interlibrary loan if you can’t make it to SLC!
Notes and Links
- Family History Library Site
- Family Center Library Locations around the world
- JewishGen – where I searched our ancestral town names
- JewishGen site for Wiżajny, Poland
- Wiżajny, Poland Present Day Information
- Wiżajny, Poland Jewish MicroFilm Records Microfilm Source