Tips + Trends

Who Do You Think You Are? Where to Find Your Roots in Salt Lake City

Shake your family tree and find out who you really are at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the genealogical capital of the world. (Photo: Boaz Rottem/Alamy)

Genealogy is big. You’ve seen celebs traveling the globe to trace their roots on TV. You can even buy your own DNA kit to find out exactly what you’re made of, which may make you even more curious about your family tree. One of the best places to start shaking that tree is at the free Family History Library in Salt Lake City, known as the genealogical capital of the world.

How Did SLC Become the Best Place to Find Your Roots?

Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church. Because of church tenets and the importance of family within the faith, they have invested significant resources in genealogical research. That’s why Salt Lake City is home to one of the best collections of family records in the world.

Just off Temple Square, the Family History Library has become a mecca for genealogical researchers. With 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records and thousands of other records in digital and print formats, the library has birth, marriage and death records, most of which date prior to 1930.

No matter what country your ancestors came from, there’s a good chance the library has information on them that can help you trace your personal history.

family history library salt lake city
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City (Photo: Jim West/Alamy)

Start Your Search Through Time

With so much information, just starting the search can be overwhelming. Before you visit the library, organize the information you do have, such as the names and birthdates of your ancestors.

If you’ve got any documents, bring copies of them with you to the library. Start by deciding who to search for, rather than thinking in terms of an entire family tree. By taking it one step at a time with relatives close to you on the family tree, you can easily work your way back through time.

Once you’re at the library, there’s a 10-minute orientation video to get you started. There are also free tours and daily classes on genealogical research. Don’t go it alone! The Family Research Library staff loves to help, so don’t be shy about asking for help answering your questions.

When Ancestor Hunting Makes You Hungry

Tracing your roots can be an all-day affair. Many return for multiple visits. All that research can take a lot out of you, and you’re bound to get hungry. If you really want to eat like a local, dine at Church Office Cafeteria, two blocks from the library.

Ask a librarian for a cafeteria pass (lunch hours are 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.). There are plenty of other places to fuel up near the library as well, including The Lion House Pantry, a cafeteria-style restaurant serving American classics such as pot pies and pork chops in the former home of Mormon founder Brigham Young.