Yesterday, I shared six of my best tips to prepare for a trip to the Family History Library and RootsTech 2018. Here are six more tips today, plus a bonus tip!
7. Even if you use Evernote or some other tech note taking system, pack a pad of paper. I also bring a paper version of my “to do” list and my ancient, typewritten pedigree charts, as I have been in the library when the computers are off line or the server is down. It is absolutely horrid being in that library with no access to one’s notes!
I travel just with an iPad, no lap top in the library although I keep one in my hotel room, and have never had difficulty getting on a computer in the library when I needed to. My iPad also has 4G, so when the internet was spotty in the library, I still had access. I NEVER enter new information into my genealogy software when I am on the road. I much prefer reviewing all my notes when I am home. Besides, who wants to waste research time entering computer data when you’re in the Family History Library???
8. When in Salt Lake, be sure to eat a substantial healthy breakfast before going in the library or to RootsTech sessions and be sure to take time to eat a good lunch, too. My two favorite lunch spots are the Nauvoo Cafe in the Joseph Smith Building and the cafeteria downstairs in the LDS Church’s headquarters building on the other side of Temple Square. Just pick up an entry card to go there at the reception desk right inside the Family History Library. Both are very reasonable in cost. There is also a food court in the City Creek Center Mall, the Blue Lemon with great sandwiches and soup, the Lion House Pantry in Brigham Young’s home next to the Joseph Smith building, the Olive Garden near the Hilton Hotel and JB’s, next to the Plaza Hotel, along with several other local restaurant options. There are also food vendors inside the convention center during RootsTech. If you head to lunch before 11:30, you will beat the business crowd in the restaurants. The lines can be very long!
9. What do I work on first when I get to the library? I always begin with items for which I know I will need help. I’ve been doing a lot of Danish and Swedish research and, while I can make out basic words, I often need help reading the old German script or navigating obscure military records. I head directly for the Scandinavian section and settle in.
Also, by beginning with difficult items, when I am feeling tired and need a change of focus, I have easy items to renew my energy.
That leads me to the next topic – help available in the library. There are library workers – both paid staff and volunteers – who can help with generalized searches, but there are also many specialists available to help with family research located any where in the world.
I have never needed help while researching U.S. and Canadian records, although many library workers have asked if I needed assistance. Working through my Danish and Swedish lines, though, would have been impossible for me to do on my own. I don’t speak any Scandinavian languages and reading the old Gothic writing is not my strong point either. I also would not have found my Slovak family records without help.
The library specialists are absolutely fabulous! Not only can they translate, they are excellent at reading the old (sometimes very faint) records and can give suggestions for further research.
A year or two ago, the library instituted a new method for requesting help from the specialists. Until then, there were reference desk areas on each floor. If one had a question, he/she went to the desk to seek advice or get help reading a microfilm.
The reference desks are all gone. They have been replaced with a small reception desk and lounge seating.
If you need help, go to the reception desk, give your name and state the type of help you need. (For example, my name is Linda and I need a Swedish record translated.) The receptionist (for lack of a better description) enters your name into a computer list and assigns a specialist to help you. Much like waiting to be seated in a busy restaurant, you will be given a pager. You can either sit in the lounge seating and wait or return to your table or computer and continue to work on something else until the specialist is available. When the pager vibrates, you return to the reception desk and the specialist will be there.
The library was not busy when I was there last week so I never had to wait for more than a minute or two. I asked several receptionists how they liked the new system; each said it took some getting used to, but it seemed to work fairly well. The downside is that, like at a crowded restaurant, if the library is busy, the wait can be long. However, it would have been long standing in line at the reference desk, too, and you wouldn’t be free to work at your seat because you’d lose your place in line. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this new system, but I think it is an improvement over standing in lines at busy times.
10. Technology in the Library –If it has been more than a year since your last visit to the Family History Library, you won’t recognize the first floor when you enter the library. It has been totally renovated and has become the Discovery Center. Volunteers help beginners learn how to find family history information.
Upstairs, the Family History Library has equipment needed to scan images from microfilm, to produce photocopies, etc. Don’t worry if you are technologically challenged, as there are volunteers staffing the equipment areas and all are most willing to help/teach you how to use the machines.
As you head to your research floor, you will notice a variety of machines tucked in an area to the side on each floor that allow various types of images to be created and saved.
Access to photocopy machines is by cards, which you can purchase in the library. You can choose the amount to put on the card. I recommend starting with a small amount – $5 or less – as I find so much that can be saved digitally that I am making fewer and fewer paper copies with each visit. Their new photocopy machines now have the capability to directly scan page images onto a flash drive – FOR FREE – so no paper copies are necessary unless you want them.
If you have a personal small hand scanner, you can use it in the library. (FYI: There are a few libraries that don’t allow the use of hand scanners.)
11. BSO’s: You have a research plan going into the library. What about all the BSO’s (bright shiny objects) discovered along the way? There is nothing wrong with following some new trails discovered on site. However, make sure that you are not using valuable research time going down rabbit holes that can be entered through your own computer at home!
12. Take a bit of time each day to enjoy Salt Lake City. Tours of Temple Square are available and you might be able to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practicing. The City Creek Center shopping mall is very close to Temple Square. It is fun to walk through and you can get some retail therapy if you need it.
Bonus Tip: Time to Leave – All good things must come to an end. Before you know it, it will be time to head home, hopefully with lots of new research treasures. I always time my flights to be the last one out for the day so I have as much time as possible in Salt Lake City. I travel with just a carry on and take my suitcase with me to the library on the last day. Although airport transportation is often available via my hotel, I tend to pay the small amount for a shuttle, again so I can spend every last possible minute in the library. It is also possible to take the TRAX light rail system out to the airport. Consider your options and make your decision BEFORE you leave home.
To summarize all this into one tip: Plan ahead before you leave home and you will have a most enjoyable visit to a fabulous library and a top notch genealogy conference!
This two-part series has mainly focused on packing beforehand and using time wisely in the Family History Center. I hope I’ve given you a few ideas. As RootsTech 2018 draws nearer, I will share a few more suggestions for you to have the best conference experience possible, too.