The FamilySearch Catalog: the Amazing Free Resource You Might Be Missing

How to find two-thirds of the free genealogy records on FamilySearch

Although many people doing genealogy are using the free Historical Records collections on FamilySearch, many people are unaware of one of the best resources on The FamilySearch Catalog.

What is the FamilySearch Catalog?

The FamilySearch Catalog is a comprehensive catalog of all of the records held by FamilySearch in their FamilySearch Centers throughout the world. Though many of the available records can also be accessed through the Historical Records collections there are some record collections that you can access only through using the FamilySearch Catalog. In fact, FamilySearch recently stated that 2/3 of their free genealogy records are currently only available through the FamilySearch catalog.

How Can I Use the FamilySearch Catalog?

Let's look at a specific example of how I can use the FamilySearch Catalog to find helpful record sources for finding my ancestors. I have ancestors that were living Wallingford, New Haven County, Connecticut in the 1800s and I am interested in finding records about Wallingford to find records.

I will first go to the FamilySearch Catalog by going to and clicking on the Catalog link under Search at the top of the page:

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Once I click on the Catalog link, I will get the main FamilySearch Catalog page.

On this main catalog page, I will begin with a Place search. It usually works best to start by typing the smallest geographical area first. I am interested in records for Wallingford, New Haven, Connecticut; the town is the smallest place: Wallingford. As I type in "Wallingford Connecticut", the appropriate place name will appear.

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I will then click on the yellow place name that appears on the screen and click on the Search button.

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I will then receive a summary screen listing the available records in the FamilySearch Catalog for Wallingford, Connecticut. As I click on the invidividual items the detailed information for each item will appear.

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As I click on individual items I will view more information about that particular record source. For example, if I select "Church records, 1758-1894" for the First Congregational Church, I will find more details about these records. catalog 6

At the bottom of the page, you will see the details about the item and how the record collection can be accessed:

  • If there are digital images available, there will be a small camera image like this: camera image
    When you click the camera image, you can view the images for the microfilm by going through them page by page.
  • If there are digital images available only through FamilySearch Centers, there will be small camera image with a key above it like this: locked camera image

  • There are many FamilySearch Centers throughout the world. To find one near you, you can use the FamilySearch Center locator.
  • If the record is only available on microfilm, there will be a circular image like this indicating that the record is on microfilm only: round film image
    You can go to the library listed and view the microfilm in person.
    More microfilms are being digitized daily. If the film you are interested in is not digitized yet, keep checking back and you may find it is digitized soon.
  • If the record is searchable online by individual names, you will see a magnifying glass image like this: search image
    When you click on the magnifying glass image, you will have the opportunity to search for individual names.
  • If the record collection is a book, there will be a book call number listed such as "974.67/W3 H2d." You can go to the library listed to view the book in person. Or you can click on the OCLC WorldCat link to the right of your screen to search other libraries for a copy of the book so that you can visit a library or request the book through interlibrary loan.

These are a few basics on using the FamilySearch Catalog by place. You can do a place search for larger geographical areas for records that apply to a large area such as "New Haven, Connecticut," "Connecticut", or "Denmark."

FamilySearch has an excellent in-depth video on using the FamilySearch catalog.

There are also other ways to search the catalog to find applicable records. More in-depth information about how to use the FamilySearch Catalog effectively can be found in a video explaining how to use the FamilySearch Catalog from the BYU Family History YouTube Channel.

Using the FamilySearch Catalog will give you access many records to help you move your genealogy research forward. The FamilySearch Catalog is a core resource for all of your research.

Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory which has more than 1.3 million sources to help you more easily locate the available records.

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