Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Church History and Genealogy: Part Three -- LDS Church Records

By Mark A. Philbrick -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
There are three main repositories for records about the history and membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are The Church History Library, The Family History Library, and the Brigham Young University Library. Both the Church History Library and The Family History Library are located in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The Brigham Young University Library is located in Provo, Utah. All three of these institutions have extensive online collections of documents. In addition to these three repositories, there are a number of other universities in Utah, including the University of Utah, also in Salt Lake City, Utah, that have sizable collections of documents and other publications of value to genealogical researchers who are investigating their ancestors who were members of the Church.

The first place to begin looking for LDS Church records is on the website. You will have more success in finding specific records in the Catalog if you begin your search for the specific places where events in your ancestors' lives occurred and then looking to see if there are any associated Church records listed. Here is a screenshot of a catalog listing for Church Records in Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona, United States.

If the community was larger and had members of more than one church denomination, then the can be much more extensive, such as this one for New York State that has 70 entries.

However, you will also see that there are entries for specific LDS Church records in each applicable geographic location in the catalog.

The Church History Library Catalog also has extensive references to genealogically pertinent documents such as diaries and journals. Here is a screenshot of some items in that catalog.

You might be able to see that there are 181 items as a result of a search for Joseph City, Arizona that includes 46 journals, photographs and correspondence. If your ancestors came from a small town, such as Joseph City, Arizona, there is very good chance that some of these documents will have information about your family members.

All of the universities of any size in the world very likely have a "special collections" library of non-circulating items accumulated by the libraries over time. These special collections libraries are a gold mine of very specific information about all sorts of subjects. In Utah, the major universities have special collections libraries that include extremely valuable genealogical information about Church members. For example, the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library has a major collection of LDS related documents, many of which are genealogically significant.

Here is a screenshot of a search for LDS Church Membership in the BYU Special Collections Library.

If you systematically search for the same types of documents in all of these different institutions, you will undoubtedly find some very interesting and helpful items.

Here are previous posts in this series:

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