Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about four libraries in or near Salt Lake City, Utah, for RootsTech 2020 attendees to visit, and provides many links for more information. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
So, you’re coming to RootsTech and you want to take some time to research. The obvious place to visit is the Family History Library. Why wouldn’t you? It’s across the street! But if you’re looking for some additional places to research in Salt Lake City, Utah, don’t forget that the Family History Library isn’t the only library in town (or within driving distance). Here are a few others you might also be interested in during your visit.
A little over a mile from the Family History Library is the Salt Lake City Public Library. According to the FamilySearch Research Wiki:
“The Salt Lake City Public Library has a good heraldry collection, and better than average Western Americana collection including books about Latter-day Saints and other ethnic pioneers… Their noteworthy genealogically related databases include: HeritageQuest Online, The Pioneer (Utah’s online library), Utah Digital Newspapers, Digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps 1865-1970, Gale Virtual Reference Library, and the Biography Resource Center.” (1)
In addition to research and browsing the shelves, this magnificent library building include stores and a café, so you may want to just check it out because it’s such a unique library. Take a virtual tour via YouTube.
Before You Go
Use the online catalog to conduct searches for items of possible interest. You can access the library from the light rail system Trax, which also stops in front of the Salt Palace and is a great way to get from the Salt Lake City Airport to hotels around the Salt Palace. Learn more at the UTA website.
Do you descend from a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Then do yourself a favor and consider spending an afternoon at the Church History Library. Located a block from the Family History Library (across Temple Square), the Church History Library includes archival and library items “…by or about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members.” These items include:
- 270,000 books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers.
- 240,000 collections of original, unpublished records (journals, diaries, correspondence, minutes, and so forth).
- 5 million patriarchal blessings for Church members.
- 13,000 photograph collections.
- 23,000 audiovisual items. (2)
Before You Go
The Library’s catalog is online, so make sure to consult that to identify possible items of interest. To learn more about collections you might be interested in, see their online Research Guides, including a Latter-day Saint Family and Local History Sources Research Guide Overview.
You might also want to check out their web page, Find Your Family in Church History, for links to the Missionary (1830-1930) and the Pioneer (1847-1868) databases.
Located in Salt Lake City – but not downtown – is the University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library. I love academic libraries for genealogical research because they not only have great collections of books and subscription websites, they also have valuable special collections. If you are researching the American West or Mormon history, you might be interested in the University of Utah’s Special Collections of Western and Great Basin history materials, Mormon history resources, and Utah and Idaho state documents.
If you can’t get to the University of Utah Library, consider at least checking out their online Digital Collections which include:
- Topaz Japanese-American Relocations Center Digital Collection
- Box Elder Historical Newspaper collection, 1904-1926
- Brigham City Museum of Art & History Newspaper Collection
- Historical Diaries
- Intermountain Indian School
- Logan Polk Directories
Before You Go
Check out the library’s research guides including this one about their Map Collections. Research guides might help you identify resources you want to peruse during your visit. If you decide to visit the library’s Special Collections, make sure to consult their Visiting/Using web page before you go since they have different hours and rules than the main library. You may also want to contact them prior to your visit since the items they have are stored in closed stacks and not available for browsing.
Have access to a car? While not in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young University (BYU) is only about 43 miles south of Salt Lake City. Why would you be interested in this academic library? Aside from their library and archival collections, they are also the home of the BYU Family History Library. According to the FamilySearch Research Wiki:
“The BYU Family History Library, located in the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, has 300,000+ microfilms, hundreds of thousands of microfiche, newspapers on microfilm, numerous subscription online databases, and access to many well-known online genealogical databases.” (3)
Their website has tools that you can use from home as well as those restricted to on-site use. Make sure to look at their A-Z listing of resources.
Before You Go
Probably one of the best things about the BYU Family History Library is their hours. They are open from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. You can learn more about exceptions and closures from their Library Hours web page. Also, take advantage of their Live Library Chat found on their website to speak to someone in real time and learn more about visiting and resources.
Do Your Homework before You Go
If you want to visit other libraries while you’re in Utah for RootsTech 2020, I highly recommend that you check out their websites and online catalogs. In addition, there are other places to research in and around Salt Lake City, including the Utah State Archives and the Utah State Historical Society. Learn more from the Utah Archives and Libraries web page on the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
Also, consider perusing the online resource Mountain West Digital Library, which is “[A]n essential resource for any student of the American West” (Review of MWDL in College & Research Libraries News, December 2011). The Mountain West Digital Library is a collaborative collection of libraries, museums, and archives: universities, colleges, public libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies. Starting in 2001 as a program of the Utah Academic Library Consortium, MWDL has been joined over the last decade by partners in other states in the West as well, including Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, and Hawaii. (4)
I love the opportunity to travel and visit libraries and archives. If you’re traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah, for RootsTech 2020, the upcoming National Genealogical Society conference, or a research trip, consider exploring other repositories aside from the Family History Library.
(1) “Salt Lake City Public Library,” FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Salt_Lake_City_Public_Library: accessed 13 February 2020).
(2) “Introduction to the Library,” Church History Library (https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/about-the-facility?lang=eng: accessed 16 February 2020).
(3) “BYU Family History Library,” FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/BYU_Family_History_Library: accessed 13 February 2020).
(4) “About,” Mountain West Digital Library (https://mwdl.org/about.php: accessed 13 February 2020).