By Dawne

The Genealogy Center
has thousands and thousands of books. Many of these are indexes to or abstracts of records found in courthouses, churches, cemetery offices, and other locations. How can you best use these resources and where can they lead you? Here are some FAQs and answers that might give you some ideas.

•    "I found an index to deeds. What do the numbers 6: 413 mean next to my ancestor’s name?"

Typically, two numbers separated by a colon in a record index book refer to volume or book and page number, although you will want to look at the prefatory material in the specific book to be certain. In the fictional example above, the most likely answer is that the deed will appear in the county courthouse deed volume number 6, on page 413.

•    "I found a county death record index that includes my ancestor. Do you have the records? If not, where are they?"

The answer to the first question is “maybe.” County governments nearly always retain their original record volumes, so if The Genealogy Center does have the records, they will be copies on microfilm or microfiche. You can find out if The Center has them by checking the State Records section of the Microtext Catalog, which is the second option under the Databases>Free Databases drop-down menu on our website. If you find that we do not have the records you need, you can request copies from the county courthouse in the county where the event took place, or check the Family History Library (FHL) catalog at to see if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has microfilmed copies of the records that you can borrow for $7.50 per roll and use at your closest Family History Center or affiliate library. Also, the FHL is in the process of digitizing and making available many of its microfilmed records, so when you check the catalog, you might be lucky enough to find that images of the records appear online at FamilySearch..

•    "I found reference in a book to a manuscript collection that might have information on my ancestor. Do you have those manuscripts here? If not, where can they be found?"

The Genealogy Center does not maintain a collection of manuscripts – any personal genealogy files, letters, and other papers that are donated to The Center are either preservation photocopied, bound, catalogued, and put on our shelves, or scanned and made available digitally on our website. The Center does have a number of books that describe manuscript collections held at other libraries and archives. Check the front part of the book that mentions the collection to see if it tells what facility holds the manuscripts. Then Google that facility to find contact information for inquiring about getting copies from the collection.
The advice that has been given in a couple of these examples will work to solve many of the questions you might have about record indexes and abstracts held in The Genealogy Center’s collection – after you find your ancestor’s name in the book, look at the front matter for an explanation of what the book includes, what abbreviations and symbols mean, when the book was compiled, and where the original material was held at that time. The book might even provide steps for securing copies of the original records – at least as the procedure was at the time of publication. Then you might Google the record facility to obtain contact information so you can inquire about current procedures. Whereas we used to have to request records by mail, enclosing a check and self-addressed, stamped envelope, you might be able to place your order online, pay with credit card, and receive the record as a digital copy sent to your email address!

And if the book has no explanation in the front (or back), or has an explanation you don’t understand – please bring it to the Ask Desk and let one of The Genealogy Center’s reference librarians try to help. We have seen (almost) everything and will be happy to try to help you crack the code and determine what your next step should be in securing a copy of the record you need.