Tips for Genealogy Research in Salt Lake City

from some helpful folks
who have been there!

Address of Main Family History Library:
35 North West Temple, Salt Lake City
Phone: 801-240-2331
Hours of Library:
7:30 AM-5:00 PM Mondays
7:30 AM-10:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday
Closed Sundays

Internet Resources


    Best Western SLC Plaza, 801-521-0130 (formerly Howard Johnsons very near library)

    City Creek Inn (1-1/2 blocks away), (801) 533-9100

    Carlton Hotel, 801-355-3418 (3 blocks away)

    Comfort Inn Airport, 801-537-7444, 200 N. Admiral Byrd Rd., Salt Lake City, UT

    Marriott, Hilton

    Perry Hotel, 110 West 300 South, 800-331-0073

    Royal Executive Inn (about 2 blocks away), 801-521-3450

    Shilo Inn, 206 South West Temple, (800) 222-2244

    Travel Lodge, 100 block of North Temple, 801-533-8200 (very near library)

    Wyndham, 215 West South Temple, 800-553-0075


Going to Salt Lake City to do Family History Research
by J. Carlyle Parker

How to Gather 1001 Names an Hour from the FHC
by Robert Ragan

The Top 10 Tips for a
Successful SLC Research Trip

1. Be prepared. Get film and book numbers from local LDS Family History Center before you go to SLC

2. Establish goals and priorities prior to making your trip to SLC. Make a list of your problems and list sources that might give you answers - GET IDEAS ON WHERE TO LOOK!

3. Plan your trip so that Sunday falls in the middle of your stay and use that day for resting and planning the rest of your research time

4. Look at books first, since they aren't available through interlibrary loan

5. Organize your research so that you don't have to run back and forth between floors

6. If film has to be brought from the vault, order it on arrival (or before) and leave it for last

7. Census records are listed by year, state and county, so you don't need the number

8. Bring rolls of quarters for copy machines or use available bill changers

9. Attend Sunday morning service at the Tabernacle or choir rehearsal on Thursday night

10. Ask LDS receptionist for pass to their cafeteria

Some E-Mail tips from fellow researchers:

Joanne's question to the Quaker-Roots discussion list:
Do any of you know of any websites or other good sources of information for folks planning a research trip to Salt Lake City? I tried the internet search engines and surprisingly got nowhere. What is a good motel to make reservations at near the library? Any advice from those of you who have made this pilgrimage? Am I looking for trouble traveling there in March?

From Lorin Ronnow:
My wife and I own and operate the City Creek Inn located just one block and a half from the LDS library in Salt Lake City. We offer the best value around for visiting researchers. All of our rooms are newly remodeled but maintain the old fashioned charm that sets us apart from the others. We cater to genealogists by offering at least a 10% discount from our already low rates (even more for stays of 7 nights or more). Our current winter rates are $48.00 for one queen bed and $58.00 for two queen beds less the discount. Our rooms are non-smoking. Please visit our website. Our address is 230 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103. Our telephone is (801) 533-9100 and our fax is (801) 533-9149.

From Ralph:
A Travel Lodge and a Howard Johnson are within walking distance.

From Judy:
I liked the Howard Johnson because it is right next door to the library and across the street from Temple Square and the Tabernacle where they gave noon organ concerts. I had to walk around the block occasionally for exercise and the noon break was nice. Temple Square is a nice place to walk even tho I couldn't go in because I'm not LDS. You have been advised to have all the film and book numbers you need ahead of time? Get them at your local LDS FHC before you go. If you haven't been to SLC you'll be awed by the rows of books to browse and resent the time spent to look up numbers when you could be reading film or standing in line at the copy machines. We usually do the books first, as there are some that are not filmed and can't be loaned out.

From Shirley:
I was in Salt Lake City in January and again in July. I found both times to be pleasant. The weather there is usually mild, although it did snow one day during my January visit. Since I am from Arizona, it was a novelty for me. There is a good book you should be able to get or order from any good bookstore or a genealogy store, if you have one in your area. It is called "Going to Salt Lake City to do Family History Research" by J. Carlyle Parker. It has a good overview of the Family History Library, a list of motels and restaurants and a plan for what to do before you get there to make your research more efficient. While in Salt Lake, I stayed at the Carlton Hotel (801-355-3418). It is about 3 blocks from the library. It is a nice walk, if you are so inclined, but they also run a shuttle to and from the library. They even picked me up at the airport. They are a bed and breakfast. You can order anything from the menu in their little restaurant. It is a modest place, clean and friendly. The price is moderate. A friend of mine found it in Dollarhide's genealogy newsletter. Howard Johnson's is literally in the library's backyard. It is more expensive by about $20/night, if I remember right. I found some information on a website, but it wasn't from the Family History Library. I have never seen a website for them. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I may have found it through Helm's Toolbox. I have listed that URL below. (note: this URL doesn't work). Good luck in Salt Lake. I love to go there. It is a wonderful place to do research. Depending on what days of the week you are there, I recommend either the Sunday morning TV service at the Tabernacle or going to choir rehearsal on Thursday night. The public is invited, and it is a great experience -- if you enjoy music.

From Chuck:
I am leading a tour to Salt Lake City in April and have arranged the local details with the LDS. I picked the Royal Executive Inn as the best rate and about 2 blocks from the Library. Their telephone number is 1-801-521-3450. The LDS library does not have a web page although it is under discussion with the Elders!! I have made two separate trips of one week to Salt Lake City so have a fair understanding of the city. There are several good web pages on Salt Lake City that give you excellent information of restaurants and local events. Try searchin in an engine for Travel, Salt Lake City. There is a tourism page that is good and the Chamber of Commerce has a good page. I have been in contact with the Library directly on arranging tours and the use of their library and have found them very cooperative. Salt Lake CIty is a neat town, good shopping, good restaurants and great micobrewery restaurants.

From Ralph:
You might try the Utah Valley PAF usersgroup Web Page at:

From Chuck J.:
I stayed at a businessman hotel about two weeks away the last two times I went to Salt Lake City but since I am taking 12 people with me I needed a hotel closer to the library and with a little more service. I am aware of the Travel Lodge and it is well located. I have never stayed there but it is a good chain and I am sure you will not be disappointed.

From Larry:
The best luck I have had staying in Salt Lake City is to stay at a Bed-and-Breakfast. Often cheaper than a hotel or motel, certainly a great deal more comfortable and pleasant, many are near downtown. My favorite was an older Victorian home (I've forgotten the name, but I could probably look it up-it's been a few years).

From Jennifer:
I was just there the first of August. Stayed at the Travel Lodge [100 block of North Temple -- should be about $38/day. About the best rate you can get that close to the temple. Should have problems in Mar only if you drive. They still get lots of snow there. But, the folks at the Travel Lodge are super friendly and I expect that all the sidewalks would be shoveled, and it is only a two block walk to the library. There is a restaurant across the street and a mini-mart less than a block west. Start your planning now. Go to the closest FHC and look up the film numbers for everything [except census records - they are listed by year, state & county, so you don't need the number] that you think you might want to look at. Especially books, since you can't order them in to your local FHC, and restricted films. If you are going to do foreign research, check to be sure the films don't have to be brought to the library from the vault. If they do, call the library ahead of time on them or plan to do them the last or next to last day. They have lots of good classes every day -- if you will be there long enough, plan to go to some. Hope this helps.

From Pat:
My wife and I spent some time at the Family History Center in July; but, like you, I found very little helpful info at any WEB sites prior to going. We did bring back some printed material about the Center, I believe, and I'd be happy to share whatever I have with you. Also, re: hotels, motels, etc., we loved the History Center so much we're going back in early November of this year and staying at a Best Western (formerly Howard Johnson's) just a block from Temple Square and the Family History Center. Haven't stayed there before, but the location seems great, and I could fill you in on it or other motels on our return.

From someone at AOL:
I was there in March of this year and it was just delightful. Spring flowers were being set out in Temple Square and the weather was pleasant. Even the day it snowed was comfortable as it melted on the walks and roads but put a beautiful coat of white on the surrounding mountains. I took a light trenchcoat and a sweater - layers are good. I stayed at Doubletree about 2 blocks from the square, library & museum. My basic room had a desk, sofa & coffee table in addition to the usual. This came in handy for the work I did in my room. Stayed there because they offered a 'deal'. Closer is the Howard Johnson, where I ate several meals. To be honest with you, I don't think Salt Lake City is a place you have to research much before going - it's not that big and very easy to get around in. As someone from the big bad Northeast, I was impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of people. The introductory tours and lectures ongoing every day on the square and in the library are worthwhile. I was impressed with the knowledge of the volunteers in the library and was able to speak at length with a real librarian about a challenging research problem by going to the library very early one morning. There is not much available in the way of food or beverage in the library - many people bring in their lunch, bottled drinks, snacks, which can be eaten in a little break room. Also took my laptop computer & learned from a helpful volunteer how to attach my new computer lock to my chair and why it was better than attaching it to the table. Salt Lake City is a snap - go, enjoy, learn lots about your family and about American history by visiting the museum across from the library.

From Karen:
Be sure to visit the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. They have Family Search computers set up and there is no time limit to use them. They are open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. The Tabernacle Choir practices at 8:00 on Thursday night and they are truly magnificent. I was just in Salt Lake City a week ago doing research. Also, Dee's restaraunt has really good food. Here's the list of suggestions people sent to me by e-mail about how to organize my research and where to get good food inexpensively. Thanks to all who responded:

Edward sent some tips that were previously addressed to Karen:
Think about what pieces of information do you want/need most right now and what sources are most likely to have that information or point you to the information? Make a list of these, set priorities, then make a list of things to search and in what order. You may have to modify the list as you find things but you will at least know what you want to do in what order.

If you have access to a FHC where you live, you should go there and look at the computer catalog and see what records you might want to access at SLC. I save my "problems" for SLC, where I can look at obscure records and books. For the census and other stuff I can get where I live, I don't waste my time in SLC. You should be flexible and go after leads that turn up while you're there. And if someone else is using the film you need, you should have another family available to work on. Take lots of dimes for copy machines.

Just returned from a trip there. It is Disneyland for genealogists! The best thing I did was on the advice of Dallas Genealogical Society: Pick one family to research. Take along a backup family and a list of quick lookups. That way, if you hit a brick wall, you can go on to something else -- or when your mind turns to mush, the lookups are easy. We spent 14 hours a day there, so I can tell you, your mind will eventually turn to mush!

Prepare a notebook or file folder for each surname you intend to work on. Sit down and make notes on any proplem you have with a family. Map out a course of action on which records would solve the problem you have, census, probate, land & deed records, etc. Do this before you go! If it is your first time to go (like me) you will have a tendency to run in a circle, so to speak, not really getting anything done. If you can, go to your nearest Family History Center and use their computer to print out what they have in their catalog for your locality. This allows you to save a lot of time by not having to use their computers for the catalog as much.

Researching the county records you need is the best thing to do there, I think. Go to the computer, punch in Library Catalog, and access everything they have on the time period and area you want. Then copy that on a print out, take it to a microfilm reader, stake out your area and look for the films.

What I found most helpful was to be well prepared. Before you go, plan to spend some time on the computer at your local Family History center, using the library catalog CD. You will probably find, as I did, some sources that are in book form only -- not on microfilm or fiche -- that look useful to your search. Books cannot be circulated to your local FHC so on the first day at least, go to the book section and begin there. The next thing I found helpful was to concentrate on those queries that involve looking at a series of microfilms -- city directories for a number of years, for example. It's great to be able to just go to the drawer and take out the next film in the series rather than having to order it and wait a week! In other words, concentrate on searching sources that can't be odered from your local FHC (i.e., books or maps) or that would be expensive and time-consuming to order. If you have a particular film, or a couple of films, that you want to search thoroughly, then you might be wasting your valuable time in SLC searching it/them.

In short:

1) give high priority to things that you can search most effectively in SLC and make notes of things that you can search in future at home.

2) Establish goals of what you want to accomplish and set priorities on them. Be sure that you have a good note taking system and that your research notes are organized so that you can find things quickly. Note *all* sources searched whether you found anything useful or not.

For me, the best use of my time there is to search those things that either are not available at your local FHC (printed books) or things that you want to scan through quickly to see if the source is useful or not. For example, if you need to search through several years of the index to English Vital Records (now on microfiche) then it is quickly done there while it would take a long time to order them one at a time or higher cost to order the entire bunch.

There is a large selection of printed books, many of which have not been microfilmed: Printed family histories, county histories, etc. You may not even know what to look for in the catalog but finding the right section and browsing the shelves can yield some surprising finds. They have 268,000 books on the first floor -- many wonderful family histories. Check here early on for your family names. You may hit a gold mine where someone else has already done the work.

The SLC FHL is organized by locality. The main floor is US/Canada books and general reference material. Second floor is US/Canada microfilms and fiche. First sub-level is European and second sub-level is British (or vice-versa). Organize your list so that you don't have to run back and forth between floors.

The U.S./Canadian films floor is the only one which has dry process microfilm copiers -- there are four of them (two standup and two sitdown). Many other wet process microfilm copiers available though. Just remember to come home and copy those "wet" copies over on Xerox, etc. or they will turn purple and be unreadable after a period of time.

Be aware that there is a procedure recently started because of limited microfilm cabinet space that certain infrequently used films are being taken off the "ready" shelves and put in an archive. They can be retrieved for you but such things may not be available until the next day. So if you have sources to search that may fall into this category, check on them the first day and see if you need to get your order in to have them retrieved for you.

You should be aware that there are some services that might be available in SLC that are cheaper than what you can do locally. For example, if you order a birth/marriage certificate from England it will cost you about 12 pounds. However, there is a service through the library to accomplish the same thing for 6 pounds.

Should I take a PowerBook along? What is going to help you make the most efficient use of your time while there? If you type stuff into the computer, will you be able to make sense of it later? Will you need to transcribe it to your central research notebook later? Is this more efficient than simply recording the data by hand in the first place? I used to use a portable tape recorder to record what I was doing and then transcribe the necessary stuff later. That can work for some kinds of things but you may find that you need to refer back to something you recorded two hours before and may not be able to find it as quickly as with handwritten notes. Do your computer skills make it faster than handwritten notes? I have used my laptop, but it just seemed too much of a hassle. They do have electrical hookups available. If you take your laptop, be sure to take a security chain to lock it to your reader. I did not take mine and did not miss it. I was mainly doing microfilm searches and making copies of what I found. I also copied two complete books from the Family History Section. If you want to take your laptop, and many did, they have quarter lockers so you can lock your things up and go to lunch or take a break.

I am most glad that I took rolls of coins - quarters, dimes and nickels - about four rolls of each. That allows you to by-pass the change machines which are busy, sometimes out of change and sometimes broken down. The change machines tend to run out about 8 p.m. when the attendants are gone! Copy machines take dimes and nickles. Change machines will change quarters, dollars, five dollars. If you have mass copying to do, try to do it early in the morning when the library first opens -- 7:30 a.m.; you will have better luck getting the best machines. I wish I had purchased before I went, a catalog case with wheels and a handle that allows you to pull it behind you each morning going to the library and also through the airport. My briefcase weighed about 45 lbs with all the copies and notebooks, etc.

My attitude was: I am here for 9 days, I don't know when I will be back, so I am staying every minute. Some people didn't do that, but I figured I could rest when I got home. Good luck, you will love it.

Mostly, just have a good time. The people in the library are wonderful, kind and helpful people and believe me, you will be in "Genealogy Heaven".

The library attendants are helpful, super nice, just ask anything.

One other word of advice -- no matter how avid a researcher you are, a week is a long time to be poring over records. Don't be upset if you feel researched out after several days. Take a break and walk around the beautiful square across the street and go on a guided tour.

You could write the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Bureau and get some tourist info. Everything is "walkable to" as SLC is pretty small. The Mormon Temple Square is right across the street from the library and there's a pioneer museum connected to the library. There's lots to see there, if you're lucky the Mormon Tabernacle Choir might be in town and/or practicing in the tabernacle. I took in the organ recital at the Tabernacle one day at noon. It takes 30 minutes and it is really a religious experience -- no pun intended. The choir rehearsal is Thursday night at 8 p.m. and is also a great treat.

Food: The Howard Johnson's right next door to the library has a buffet dining room. Food is okay, prices not bad, service was fast because most everyone eating was researching and in a big hurry to get back to the library. The waitpersons were all friendly and helpful. There is a break room on the first floor of the library selling drinks, sandwiches, chips, etc. There are many food places in the food courts of two malls within walking distance. Crossroads Mall is 1/2 block from the library. There is a McDonald's etc. in there. ZCMI Mall is 1 block beyond that.

As for the best buys for eating -- at least lunch -- ask the receptionist at the front desk for passes to the LDS cafeteria. The food is good, servings are very ample, and the selection is wide -- and the prices are best of all! It's only a block or so away -- easy to find. To get away from the noise, hustle, bustle, etc., try the restaurant located just across from Temple Square. It's located in Inn on the Square. Nice room, nice food, reasonable, quiet. There is a restaurant on the corner (JB's?) with a nice salad bar and good soup and a coffee shop around the corner (Dees) with average coffee shop fare (and a bit greasy.) I bring extra goodies (boxed orange juice, muffins, etc.) with me as this stuff is very expensive to buy from the little gas station marts nearby.

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