If you are planning to attend either the FGS 2015 Conference or the 2015 Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City come February, you will likely want to swing around the corner and get some research in at the Family History Library. Having visited the FHL a few times (and once during a Rootstech conference), I thought I’d share a few tips with you for getting the most out of your visit.
#1 – Plan Ahead of Time
This is actually two tips in one. First, you’ll want to figure out about how much time you will be able to spend at the FHL. Will you be there are few extra days before or after the conference? Have you gone through the schedule for the conference(s) you are attending to see if there are pockets of time to squeeze in an hour or so of research? Note, I have not heard about extended hours, and according to the schedule as of today, the FHL will have regular hours during the conference (they will be open on Monday, February 16, which is President’s Day).
Once you have figured out about how much time you’ll have for research, you can start combing through your to-do lists, research plans, etc. Pick enough items to keep you busy to make the most of your time at the FHL. You may want to have a list of high priority items, as well as a list of other things ready to go just in case you have extra time. Keep in mind that with two major events right around the corner at the convention center, drawing in tons of people, the FHL will be BUSY!
#2 – Order Vault Films Day 1
If you have research that involves films that are in the vault, you will need to order them. Be sure to do this Day 1 to ensure you have enough time to get the film and review it. Any one of the staff or volunteers can direct you in how to order these films.
#3 – Come Prepared
When the FHL is super-busy, I tend to take high-quality photos of the microfilm (and even books), since the digital microfilm scanners are usually occupied. You might want to consider this option, especially during the conferences (and don’t forget to bring plenty of memory cards for your camera). If you do take your chances with the scanners, be sure to have a few USB flash drives to save your digital images (or cash if you plan to make paper copies). As an aside, when using the scanners, please abide by the FHL’s time limit.
You’ll also want to bring whatever it is that you use while conducting research on-site, whether it’s paper files/notebook, a tablet, a laptop, or a combination. I seem to go back and forth with bringing my laptop to the library or just bringing my Kindle. It sort of depends on what I’m working on. I have been able to get by for a week’s worth of research at the FHL with just my Kindle, using the Families app designed to work with Legacy Family Tree (you can read about my experience here; also there is a similar app that works with GEDCOM files, which you can read about here). The last time I was at the FHL, I was working on a specific case and I needed access to a variety of files that were stored on my laptop, so I usually had that with me at the library. Bring whatever you need to effectively work on the research you plan to do.
#4 – Wear Comfortable Shoes & Dress In Layers
This is also a conference tip. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, both at the conference and the library. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes. Additionally, the temperature can fluctuate at both the convention center and the library, so dress in layers to keep comfortable.
#5 – Research Consultants
Take advantage of the research consultants that are available on each floor of the FHL. If you are stuck on a problem or need helping reading a foreign language, this is the time to ask. And do it right away. The sooner you ask for help and get some guidance, the more time you can spend working on it at the library. Waiting until the last minute to consult with these fantastic people puts you is a position where you’ll likely have to wait until your next trip to follow up (or order films to your local Center and miss out on additional help from the experts).
#6 – Find a Quiet Place
Because the library will be busy, it can feel a little chaotic. If you’re like me and can’t focus with all the craziness around you, try to scope out a spot that’s quiet. I like spots with little foot traffic, preferably on the end of a row (otherwise I feel claustrophobic). Another tip—go to the International floor. This is usually the quietest floor (and there is usually less of a wait for the scanners). You CAN bring films from other floors down to the International floor, you just have to remember to return them to the correct floor/spot.
That about sums up my six tips for visiting the Family History Library, particularly during a busy time in conjunction with a conference. If you have other tips, please feel free to share them by leaving a comment below.