Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Unique Genealogical Highlights of the Brigham Young University Family History Library -- Part Three

BYU Family History Library Microfilm Cabinets

With the huge collections of digitized records going online and all the huge repositories around the world, it would be difficult to claim uniqueness for any record. But the reality of genealogical records is that many of them are unique and even some of those that have been published or microfilmed have been released only in very limited quantities. A huge library, such as the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library (Lee Library) by its very nature will acquire a large number of unique items. But in the case of the Lee Library, because of the emphasis of its sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), there are even more genealogically important items than there would be in a library without this type of connection. For an insight into the basis for the LDS interest in genealogy see the article on Temples.

The resources in the Lee Library and particularly in the BYU Family History Library fall into several general categories as follows:

1. Physical items such as books, serial publications, maps, microfilm records, microfiche, photos and other media items.
2. An extensive list of online resources, many of which can only be accessed while in the Lee Library itself.
3. Support resources such as scanners for books, single sheet document and photo scanners, high-speed, sheet-fed document and photo scanners, book scanners, microfilm scanners and film negative scanners.
4. Preserved original documents, manuscripts, photos and other ephemera in special, underground storage vaults.

Access to many of these items requires a physical visit to the Lee Library. Given the background and the Lee Library's sponsoring institution, you would expect the Library to have a sizable number of documents relating to Mormon history and you would be correct. But, the Lee Library is a major research library that supports approximately 30,000 students enrolled in nearly 200 different student majors with many of those majors offering graduate degrees. See BYU Graduate Studies.

In addition, BYU has extensive academic offerings that specialize in family history. The university maintains a Family History Portal that links to many of the resources on campus for family history.

It is important to bear in mind when doing research at the BYU Family History Library that it is only a part of the larger Lee Library and all of the resources of the main library are available to researchers.

Genealogists are not necessarily oriented towards working and doing research in a major academic library. From my own observations, most of the patrons who come to the BYU Family History Library are entirely unaware of the extended resources in the Lee Library, even when they are physically present in the Library itself. The BYU Family History Libraries main area is underground in the Lee Library's Second Level. The BYU Family History Library main area houses the genealogy reference books, the scanning equipment, a huge collection of microfilm and microfiche records, many individual computer stations and comfortable study areas that include a large number of chairs and tables. There is also a huge collection of books from the University's Religious Studies Department. The rest of the vast resources are scattered around the main library on the Library's six levels. Here is an example of the floor map for Level 2 where the main Family History Library room is located.
The BYU Family History Library is the area on the extreme right of the map that extends out from the main area of the Library. Yes, it is that relatively small area. Here is another copy of the map with the BYU Family History Library outlined in red.

Remember there are five more levels to this huge library.

If you are anxious to begin investigating the specific holdings of the Lee Library and our BYU Family History Library then you can do so by looking at the Catalog on the main page of the Lee Library's website.

Entry to the Catalog is that white search field at the top of the page. Meanwhile, stay tuned and I will continue this extensive investigation into the world's second largest family history library.

The previous posts in this series.

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