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New Library Lookup Service—For When You Can’t Visit the Family History Library

The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, has long been a go-to place to find genealogical research materials and is the flagship library for FamilySearch International. With the closure of the library a year ago due to the COVID 19 pandemic, people have had to rely largely on online materials, unable to access records that are only viewable at the Family History Library or other locations. A new Library Lookup Service will soon provide greater access to these records globally. 

Online Records and Limited Access Records 

With a free FamilySearch account, you can search through a large database of records online on This search often provides a text index of the record for quick reference and a complete image of the record. Some books and materials, however, only have the index available. The full images for these records can only be accessed at the Family History Library, family history centers, or affiliate libraries—primarily due to copyright restrictions or partner agreements.

Guests looking up records at a FamilySearch center.

Due to COVID-19 conditions, visiting one of these facilities to look at materials has not been possible. To offset pandemic restrictions and as part of an effort to serve a global audience living too far away to visit the library, the Family History Library has launched its own lookup service.

How the Lookup Service Works 

Upon request, staff and volunteers at the library will look up specific records in their collections that cannot be viewed online. Since Library Lookup is not a research service, people will need to identify the specific record from that they need to see. 

As mentioned, an online search might provide only basic information from a document, yet frequently the original document contains more information. To use the Lookup service, visit the online request form to request a copy of the image of the original document. 

Requests may take a few weeks to process, depending on the volume of requests being handled at a given time. 

Special Cases for Books 

Many books in the FamilySearch collections have not yet been digitized, also because of copyright limitations. Those same restrictions mean that the library cannot copy large numbers of pages from any one book. 

Man copying a book on a photocopy machine.

When requesting a book, please be as specific as possible about what you are seeking. Using the same online request form, guests can provide the title or call number of the book, along with the page number they would like copied. The staff will send a PDF copy of the page or pages, as allowed. In cases where page numbers are unknown, staff can check the index in a book for the listing of a name or chosen term to help provide the right pages.  

Available in Many Languages 

The FHL Library Lookup Service is available in about 15 languages and can help you access various records from countries worldwide. Sometimes books at the Family History Library are also available through other sources, as explained here

Books in multiple languages at a library.

Continuing Service after the Reopening 

Renovation work has been done inside the Family History Library during the closure to prepare for guests when it is time to reopen. The exact date for reopening for the library and FamilySearch centers is dependent on government and local leadership guidelines. That date will be announced as soon as it is available.  After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the library reopens, the Library Lookup Service will continue as part of the FamilySearch global outreach.

Entrance to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Source: Family Search

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