Going to the Family History Library

The blocks contain ten acres, cut into twenty half-acre lots and are separated by streets eight rods wide… Walking that distance in the open sun is an invitation to sun stroke.

– Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country, 1942

I read Mormon Country in the mid-1990s. Two years ago, while trodding slowly toward the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, these lines came back to me. Yep, I thought, the streets are wide and the blocks are long in Utah. 

Suffering from a cold that had kept me from skiing with my family — the reason I was in Salt Lake — I had decided to walk from my hotel to the Latter Day Saints’ Family History Library. Before setting out, I looked at a map and realized that the library was only a few blocks from my hotel. I just didn’t understand how big those blocks were. I also didn’t know that my “cold” was actually pneumonia, or that the late December wind was blowing hard in the opposite direction of my walking path.  

Back then, I was a genealogy dabbler. I had heard about the library and wondered what it was like, but I didn’t have any solid research plans to pursue there. I was just curious and tired of watching Oprah in the hotel through a Nyquil haze. After a half hour or so of trudging along, however, I started to long for Stegner’s hot sun. Illness and winter weather finally got to me. I never made it to the library. Instead, I turned to walk back to my hotel, pushed along by the wind.

Over the last two years, I have become a dedicated genealogist. I have solid research plans now, along with countless family history questions to answer. As a result, I am thrilled that I get to go back to Salt Lake next month. On this upcoming trip, I will set aside at least a couple of days to do nothing but research at the Family History Library. Now I just have to figure out exactly what I want to research while I am there. First up: reviewing the “planning your visit” resources on the library’s website.  

Have you been to the Family History Library? Do you have any hints for a first timer?


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