I am on my first research trip to Salt Lake City and my first few days in the FHL has been quite a learning experience. I watched the into video and met a number of very friendly, helpful volunteers and elders. I sat down at a computer and started tackling some of the databases that are only available onsite. Soon, my mind was awash with details on sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. The information was coming so fast that I soon got off track and was lead away from some relatives in favour of other family clusters. It was difficult to remember if I had searched each relative using all of the "individual", "marriage" or "parent" search options available (was accessing the Scottish DOS system).

After three days in the library, I'm starting to get into a rhythm in my research, but I suspect that someone must've already come up with some type of worksheet for checking off what you've already searched, what still needs to be searched, etc. Not sure if this would be a generic template, or something specific to the FHL's collections and unique databases.

NOTE: I'm not looking for a list of suggestions and best practices, I'm wanting to know if an actual worksheet template has already been devised for checking off as you actively go through your research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

NOTE 2: Since the research is done in steps, it is not as simple as checking off a column that says Find So-And-So's Birthday, Christening Date, Tombstone Inscription, etc. because each of these tasks involve multiple steps. I might need to first look up the parish number, or check a finding aid (list) in a binder, or locate a microfilm index that then leads me to an actual microfilm number... but these are only steps that might lead me to the records I seek. I'm getting bogged down in the details on the journey to the actual record and my notebook is becoming gobbledygook!

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    Here's an example of a custom workbook (I've also added this link to the end of my answer): onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/12/11/…
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 23:16
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    @JanMurphy Ooooo... I love this link, very useful! Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 0:59
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    I love the idea of the printed working copy notebook. And the form examples look useful. The workbook idea made me think of a custom notebook I put together for myself. Using a Lihit Lab Aqua Drops Twist Ring Notebook and extra paper (blank or lined), I put together a custom notebook where I can print my own pages single or double sided, add or remove pages, and move them around. It's thin and rather lightweight. The paper is smaller than we often have in the US, it's semi B5. And I often prefer this smaller format. I bought the paper and notebook from jetpens.com
    – Annie
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 5:01
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    @Annie I've never seen this type of customizable notebook before. Looks great! I'm gonna get one for my next trip. I see they also have a hole punch jetpens.com/Lihit-Lab-Hole-Punch-for-Twist-Ring-Notebook/pd/… so I could custom make my own templates, print them off and add them to the ring. Maybe I should start using these for research, since I always end up with scribbled notes on multiple families that then can't be separated neatly from coil notebooks. This way I could just pluck the page of scribbles out and add to the appropriate family book as launch pad for 'next time'. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:30
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    I travelled earlier this year for around 2 months with one of my notebooks. I added a pocket to one of the pages by taping an angled piece of paper to one of the page. And I keep some removable posts for notes or tabs attached in the back cover.
    – Annie
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 2:07

2 Answers 2


A friend has offered to take me along on her trips to the local FHC, which has prompted me to think about the question of how to make a general checklist to use while I am pulling and viewing microfilm.

Reference works called registers e.g. Register of New York City death records describe the holdings at the FHL and the process needed to use them. If a user can find a work like this in advance of a library visit, it would be possible to walk through the process in advance and create a checklist (e.g. with a spreadsheet). But supposing you don't have the register in advance, or you discover a resource while you are there? A general checklist would be useful.

How can we make a general checklist, when the individual steps for each set of film or database might be different?

Here's my preliminary list of the items that would be useful to put on a general checklist:

  • The location of the repository and the date (or period) of the visit.
  • The type of material or onsite database which is being used.
  • The collection which is being searched.
  • A list of the steps needed, in order, to pull the microfilm or to work through the entire onsite online database -- e.g. the options described above:

all of the "individual", "marriage" or "parent" search options available (was accessing the Scottish DOS system)

List all of these in the order you need to do them, if an order matters -- but even if it doesn't, make a list and number that list.

Below this header, a spreadsheet. The names of the people you want to search for and any identifiers go in the left-hand column, with the information for each person in a single row. Across the top in columns put "step 1" "step 2" "step 3" and so on, according to the numbered list you just made.

As you go through the search process:

  • If you need to make notes about each search result, put a number in each box. Then write down your observations, using that number as a cross-reference to which person it belongs to.
  • If you want the checklist to be more simple, and you don't need to use it as a cross-reference, then just cross out the box as you finish that step to show where you have already been.

Would this be clear enough to give you a visual summary of where you left off?

This post by Diane Boumenot from her blog One Rhode Island Family shows her efforts in making a customized workbook before her trip to the FHL: A Workbook for My Visit to the Family History Library. She offers her Word document for the microfilms page for download. (Thanks to Randy Seaver for the pointer to this post in his entry FGS Conference, RootsTech Conference and the Family History Library - a Win-Win-Win For Me on his blog Genea-Musings.)

In Setting the stage for success by Jen Baldwin, a post from her blog Ancestral Breezes (published 22 December 2014), Baldwin talks about using Evernote and Excel as part of her preparation.

Genealogist Michael John Neill offers a Planning a Trip to the Family History Library Webinar, scheduled for 5 January 2016 at 3 PM central time (there's a modest fee). There are two pre-registration options, one for the live webinar, and one for getting a copy of the recording and handout after the session. The syllabus includes:

  • Organizing tasks while at the library to take advantage of the structure of the library
  • Onsite organizational strategies
  • Tracking paper and digital copies

Click through to his blog post to see the full list.

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    I like all these suggestions on how to make your own, so I'm marking it as 'answered'. Thanks! Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 1:00

As far as a Checklist or a Template would be concerned, I believe that would depend on the research plan you've conducted. To the best of my knowledge there isn't a checklist or a template so to speak that's provided by the LDS (Latter Day Saints) nor the (FHL) Family History Library. That being said, there is a Family History Consultants Guide (.pdf).

Family History Consultants Guide

In this guide you'll find Personal Training Plans (Checklist, page 22), examples of the different types of documents you'll encounter while at the (FHL, page 25). This guide is a treasure trove of wonderful information (46 pages), and best of all it's free to the public.

I hope this assist you with your research, have a great Genealogical journey. : }

If the link in the original answer doesn't work, try this snapshot at the Internet Archive.


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