Ryan Taylor Always something new at Salt Lake City
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By Ryan Taylor

There's always something new to find.

Someone said to me not long ago, "You've been doing genealogy so long, you can't have anything new to find."

That's never true. There are always new resources to use, or old ones to re-examine with a more experienced eye. The only way to come to the end of family history research is to call a halt and stop looking.

I spent a week in Salt Lake City recently, teaching English genealogy and doing a little of my own research. There were many changes at the Family History Library since I was there last.

Now, the computers offer not only the library catalog and access to Ancestral File, but many other databases, both online and on CD-ROM. Ancestral File is the compilation of facts submitted by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members. These millions of facts include the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and thousands of family group sheets.

The library subscribes to the big census indexes on Ancestry.com. This means researchers can look up the entries, then access the originals on microfilm, if they wish. They can also take the index information and use it to find other data in the books and microfilm that are available there.

The reference desks at FHL are staffed by librarians who work there permanently, and also a great many volunteers. These LDS church members are notable for their good humor and wish to help. It means no one needs to flounder alone, no matter how busy the library is. There is always someone to offer assistance.

The library is still open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday (8 to 6 on Mondays). The restaurant next door (JB's in the Best Western Plaza Hotel) still stays open an hour later than the library, to enable researchers who couldn't stop looking at microfilm to find something to eat.

The busy schedule at our Academy meant that there wasn't much time for shopping, although there is a handsome mall across the street. Some students did make it to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal (Thursdays) and broadcast (Sunday mornings at 9.30 - get there early).

Did I find anything new?

I answered two or three longstanding questions by scouring some English church records. In one set, I located two baptisms which I had overlooked before, confirming that the boys concerned were indeed family members.

Before I left home, I had used the 1851 English census index to find three likely candidates for an old aunt born in 1779. Going back to find the marriages for each of the three couples involved, I determined which was in fact the aunt in question, and then went on to discover her children, a second marriage and other details.

Best of all, I was finally able to locate a rare book, the churchwardens' accounts of Hartland parish in Devon, 1597-1706.

I found that Mary Hooper had paid a fine in 1603. She had been taken to court by the church for not observing the seating arrangements for Sunday services.

In those days, people paid rent for their pews. That way, they were assured the seat they wanted, and they knew they wouldn't have to sit with anyone unpleasant. The poor were allotted benches around the outer walls at the back.

Mary must have been a rebel, because she defiantly sat in someone else's seat. It seems small enough to us now, but must have caused a sensation at the time. In one short sentence in an account book, my ancestor went from being a name in a list to having a personality.

Good for you, Mary. Do it again!

Posted December 1, 2004
Column copyright © 2004 Ryan Taylor

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