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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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

Part of a huge microfilm collection of local county histories in the BYU Family History Library
There is a significant physical difference between doing research in the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library and the Brigham Young University, Family History Library. In the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL), the collections of books and microfilm are concentrated in a relatively small area. The FHL's collections are on mainly on four floors; two basement levels and two upper story levels. The first floor is now dedicated to classrooms and an extensive Family Discovery Area with all sorts of high-tech activities. At BYU, the Family History Library is extensive, but only a small part of the huge Harold B. Lee Library (Lee Library). In both cases, it is extremely important to plan your visits by using their online catalogs.

Visitors to the BYU Family History Library usually concentrate on the computers with support from the volunteers and missionaries. Very few of these casual visitors realize the extent of the research resources in the rest of the Lee Library. Unlike the concentrated collections in the Salt Lake FHL, the collections at the Lee Library are scattered throughout the general collections. Let me illustrate this contrast by choosing a random subject for research. Let's suppose I was researching my ancestors in a county in Massachusetts. I choose "Barnstable County" for this illustration.

In either library, I would need to determine whether or not I needed to physically visit the library to do some research. Because of their close proximity, I am not forced into an either/or situation. I can visit both libraries. I plan my visit by searching in the catalogs for both libraries. Here is a screenshot of the categories of records available for that county at the Salt Lake FHL.

Barnstable County, Massachusetts records from the Catalog
Many of the records listed are on microfilm with some already digitized and available online. For example here are the Church records available from the FHL.

Barnstable County, Massachusetts Church Records from the Catalog

Realistically, there are only two items. The list seems to have four copies of the same set of records. The church records turn out to be an article in a journal.

I need to check further to find this particular journal article. It turns out to be part of a Serial Issue.
The question is do I need to visit the library to view this publication? A quick check in the Lee Library catalog shows that they have the same serial publication.

But the Lee Library catalog also shows that this particular serial, The Mayflower descendant, is online but I have to be in the library to see the online version. Now, we come to a new issue. Can I find this same item somewhere else? I always check to see if I can avoid a trip to either library by finding the item online.

As a matter of fact, I do find this exact item on the Internet Archive.
Here is a screenshot of the exact article I looked for.

The article is completely searchable, word for word, and I can download a copy to my own computer if I wish to do so.

This example shows the interaction between both of these huge genealogy libraries and the reality of the ongoing digitization projects around the world. In this case, I do not have to make a physical visit to either library. In addition, neither library makes their copies available online so I will have to go to the library if the item was not easily available online.

But let's go back to the Lee Library and the BYU Family History Library and take a closer look at the catalog. If I am looking for Barnstable County, Massachusetts records, a search in the Lee Library Catalog shows that there are 622 results.

Now I have a substantial basis for doing research in the Library. If there are items I would like to examine, in each case, I would take the time to check to see if the items were digitized and available online. When I do a further search for church records from Barnstable County, I find that the Lee Library has 201 results.

A considerably larger selection of items than the two found in the Salt Lake FHL Catalog. Some of these 201 items may also be online or in the Salt Lake FHL, but it is almost certain that some are not.

In the case of both libraries, I would choose some items I was interested in reviewing and go to the shelves and begin the process of checking all of the surrounding items. In the case of the Lee Library, I can do a virtual search of the adjacent shelves online.

Here is an example.

I can browse by title, subject, call number, genres, journals, and creators.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the number of items to review and yes, it does take a considerable amount of time and repeated searches to find all the relevant information. But it should also be clear that as a genealogical researcher, we cannot ignore the resources that are available and conclude that we have done a thorough search.

The previous posts in this series.

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