Interpreting Titles in the Church History Catalog

By Tyson Thorpe, reference coordinator
5 May 2020

In this post by Tyson Thorpe, learn how titles are created for materials found in the Church History Catalog.

In the Church History Catalog, materials are identified with titles and call numbers. (Read more about our call numbers in a previous post.) Titles are the names assigned to items and groups of items to provide some basic subject information. Sometimes titles are specific; other times they can be vague. This post will help you better understand our material titles to give you more success in your research.

Formal titles are the titles that appear prominently on an item or were consciously assigned by the creator, such as Representative Women of Deseret, by Augusta Joyce Crocheron, or “A Brief History of Patriarch Isaac Morley and Family,” by Cordelia M. Cox.

Most archival and manuscript items (such as journals, letters, and so forth), do not have formal titles, so it is up to our archivists to create them. Known as devised titles, these typically include the name of the creator followed by the nature of the material, such as the Abbie H. Wells family photographs or the Ebenezer C. Richardson journal.

When there are three or more material types (for example, journals, letters, and photographs all in one group), then the terms papers, records, or collection are generally used in the title (for example, the Clara M. Cannon papers or the Meliton G. Trejo collection).

  • Papers is used when the materials are related to an individual or family.
  • Records is used when the materials are related to an institution or organization.
  • Collection is used when a topical or artificial group of materials is compiled in the context of that topic. These have a compiler, not a creator, because most of the material comes from various creators and sources.

Occasionally, a title may include additional clarification about the function, activity, or transaction relating to the creation of the materials. Some examples are the Lloyd R. Hicken mission president papers, which were compiled during Hicken’s service as president of the Brazilian Mission, and the Honey Creek Branch financial record.

For archival items, a date in the title indicates the time period when the material was created, not necessarily the time period that the material talks about. Dates in our record titles will be covered in more detail in a future blog post.

Understanding how to read titles in the Church History Catalog, especially for archival materials, will provide insight while you search the Church History Library’s holdings.