Using the FamilySearch Catalog

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

See also Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog.

The FamilySearch Catalog is the key to accessing the vast collection of microfilm, microfiche, and printed volumes at the Family History Library. Therefore effective use of the catalog increases the effective use of the collection.

Record coverage[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Catalog includes records from all over the world.  The largest collections of records are from North America, Europe and the British Isles, Central America, and South America, with more limited collections of records from Asia and the Pacific islands.  The records range from the mid-1900s back as far as the 1300s, in some instances.

Where to find the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Access the FamilySearch Catalog at

Using the Search categories[edit | edit source]

All Family History Library materials (microfilm, microfiche, books, CDs, etc.) are cataloged a variety of ways to help you more easily locate them.  You may find what you're looking for by searching for a place (e.g., Pike County, Illinois), or by the category of records (e.g., Military records) or by your family surname.  The same roll of microfilm or book or microfiche may be catalogued two or three or more ways.  There are eight types of searches available to help you locate information to help you in your family history research:

  1. Places
  2. Surnames
  3. Titles
  4. Authors
  5. Subjects
  6. Keywords
  7. Call Number
  8. Film/Fiche Number

The following is an explanation of how to use the search fields, and what results you might expect using certain criteria.

Places Search

• Search all jurisdictions

- If a record contains information for two or more towns the record will be found on the county level.
- If a record contains information for two or more counties the record will be found on the state level.
- If a record contains information for two or more states the record will be found on the country level.

• If part of a place name has the word Saint or Mount, and you get zero results, try St. or Mt.

• For non-English place names, usually the non-English name will be used in the catalog.

• Do not type the word 'county' when doing a place search or you will get zero results.

- Determine the ancestry of a county. You need to determine which county was over the area where your ancestor lived when the ancestor lived there. See Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 or Ancestry's Red Book : American State, County & Town Sources.

• Records may be cataloged under different topics or they may also be part of a collection with other types of records. For example,

- Divorces may be cataloged with the topics of divorces or court records or vital records.
- Obituaries may be cataloged with the topics of obituaries or newspapers.
- Guardianships may be cataloged with the topics of guardianship, probate records or court records.

• The topic of 'Church records' is only used for Christian religions, never for Jewish, Islamic, or Shinto records.

Surnames Search

• Try spelling variations for a surname.

• Look for related family surnames also. For many years, only 7-10 surnames were used for a book even if more surnames appear in it.

General Tips • If the catalog shows multiple pages for a search result or a film list, scroll to the bottom of the first page and put an estimate in the box for Get Records.

• Use Ctrl F to search a page for a word or number, such as a film number.


Old Film Numbers • Find the current film number for:

- F F.H. 76
- F Gs. 26
- F Me.W 22b pt.2

Old Book Numbers • Find the current call number for:

- 929.273 B728b
- P.B. 633
- P.B.A. #1120
- 403.43 H113h