Church History Catalog FAQ

General Library and Catalog

What can I find in the Church History Catalog?

The catalog contains bibliographical information for items housed in Church History facilities, such as the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and several other record storage facilities around the world. Using its search features, you can find records specific to your research needs, view digital collections, and watch and listen to audiovisual material.

What is the difference between a library and an archive?

Both libraries and archives maintain collections of materials. A library generally contains books and other printed materials. An archive contains both published and unpublished documents in multiple formats, such as manuscripts, photographs, letters, diaries, and audiovisual material. Archives frequently contain unique collections and rare items. Both libraries and archives may or may not make their collections accessible to the public.

How is the Church History Library different from the Family History Library?

The Church History Library collects materials specifically focused on the history of the Church and the significant religious experiences of its members, such as official Church records, original documents, and rare texts. The Family History Library collects and maintains biographical records focused on identifying individuals and discovering vital statistics, including family histories.

What features are available when I am logged in to the Church History Catalog?

Logging in to the catalog using your free Church account lets you access copyrighted items and utilize the website’s features, like viewing your circulation history. When you are at a Church History Department facility, such as the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, logging in with your Church account will allow you to request materials to view in the library’s reading room. You can create a free Church account; you do not need to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to create an account.

What are featured collections?

Church History Library staff selects significant collections to feature on the catalog homepage. These digitized collections represent the scope of material available at the library.

How do I search in the Church History Catalog?

Enter your search term(s) (name of a person, place, ward, etc.) into the search box under the Church History Catalog title. If you end up with a large number of results, you may want to narrow your search using the filters on the left-hand side of the screen (see the entry below for how to use the filters). If your search gives you no results or unrelated results, try alternate spellings or broader search terms. For example, if you are looking for an ancestor who lived in Tooele, Utah, and served in the Australian Mission but find no results when searching for his name, then you could search for records from Tooele or the Australian Mission and, in turn, look for references to your ancestor in those materials.

Bear in mind that search results are based on the descriptive information entered by our professional catalogers when the library acquires the item and not the actual text of the materials. You may also want to check out the “Getting Started in the Church History Catalog” link on the home page of the catalog.

How do I narrow my search results?

You can narrow your search results using the filters on the left side of the page under “Narrow Your Search.” Each heading will allow you to narrow by different types of information. For example, clicking an option under “Genre,” like photographs, journals, or correspondence, will allow you to limit your search results by item type. Using these filters will narrow your search results to only those items that are within that category, which can help you find materials that are relevant to your research.


What is a collection?

A collection is a compilation of multiple items which were assembled by one or more creators and may contain many different formats. When looking at a list of search results in the catalog, please click on a title or thumbnail to see more details about a collection.

What is the difference between an item and a collection?

Items are individual objects, such as a DVD, book, or letter. A collection is a group of these materials that is organized and assembled in a way that identifies the connections between the items. For example, the Church History Library has a collection of materials from Wilford Woodruff (MS 1325). The collection contains journals, correspondence, and other papers created by Woodruff and those close to him. Each of those journals, letters, and other materials, is an item within the collection. The items are connected by Woodruff and his involvement in creating or receiving them. Some collections may contain only a single item and not all items are part of a collection, such as books and pamphlets.

What is the difference between the "Browse Collection" and "About the Collection" tabs in a catalog record?

The “Browse Collection” tab displays an arranged view of the contents of the collection. If a collection has been digitized, this is where you will find thumbnails of the digitized items. The “About the Collection” tab displays general information about the collection and its contents. As available, we will display information about the author, date span, subjects, and summary of the collection on both pages.

What is “Collection Contents”?

“Collection Contents” is located on the left-hand side of the screen when viewing the “Browse Collection” tab. It is a tool for navigating the contents of a collection that uses an expandable list to display groupings of materials in a collection. Selecting one of the options in the list will narrow the list of results displayed on the right. Not all collections are grouped the same way. Some are organized alphabetically, some chronologically, and others topically or by material type.

Access and Publication

Why do some collections or items require approval to access?

Some materials are unavailable to view due to copyright, privacy, and other concerns. Please see our Access Policy for more information. It is possible to request digital access for some collections with limited availability (see below).

How do I request online access to materials that aren’t yet digitized or that are currently closed to research?

If an item is labeled “Limited Digital Access,” it can be requested for online viewing through the “Request Digital Access” link on the item’s catalog record. A request page will open in a new tab where you can verify the item’s information, as well as what information you hope to find and how it will be helpful in your research. Your request will be reviewed, and you will be contacted for further details or when a decision has been made. Please be aware that it may take a several weeks for us to review your request. If no “Request Digital Access” link appears, this means that the item is closed to public research and will require more evaluation to determine whether access can be granted. If this is the case, please use the Ask Us link at the top of the page to inquire about access.

Do I need to visit a Church History facility to view non-digital materials?

Yes. If materials are not available to view online, you may be able to view them in the library reading room. Items labeled “Closed to Research” require additional permission to view and will not be immediately available. If the material is held by another Church History Department facility, such as the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre in New Zealand, you will need to visit that location to view the material. Use the “Request” button in an item’s catalog record to determine location, format, and availability.  Additionally, Church history consultants are available through our Ask Us online service to help you identify other, more easily accessible records that might be useful to your research.

Why aren’t more materials available online?

To date, we have digitized more than 20 million images from our vast collection, and we add more than a million new digital images to our online catalog every year. For more information about what we’ve digitized recently, check out our “Recently Digitized Materials” blog series.

We are unable to make some digital images available online due to copyright, privacy, and other restrictions. Our Access Policy provides more details on these restrictions. You may contact us via our online Ask Us service to explore options for individual temporary access to collections with these types of restrictions.

How can I seek permission to share or publish an item?

To determine if permission is needed to publish or share an item, see the “Rights” field in the “About the Collection” tab. Clicking on the link there will display a small screen—“Publication Use”—with more information about the item’s copyright status. For more information on publication, see the “Preparing to Publish” page.

View and Download

What is the difference between “Digital” and “Non-digital?”

When something is labeled as “Digital” in the Church History Catalog, it means that the item is available for viewing online. Not all items labeled as “electronic record” are available to view online. Some items are labeled as limited digital access and are not available to view without special permission.

A “Non-Digital” item is not available for viewing online; it may be available at the location where the item is stored. If your desired item is unavailable online, you can use the Ask Us link in the catalog to contact one of our professional research consultants. Describe your research topic or question and we will be happy to help you with find useful materials. Our consultants can also guide you through the digitization and access request process.

How can I download an item or set of items?

If an item is available for download, click on the downward pointing arrow icon when viewing the item’s digital image. You will be given the option to download the individual image you are viewing on the screen or the current set of images. A list of available file formats will also appear, allowing you to select your preferred file format.

What is the difference between "Arrangement View" and "Gallery View"?

Some complex collections are grouped into different series and subseries for easier use. "Arrangement View" allows you to navigate this organized structure. When these more complex collections have been digitized, "Gallery View" appears as a viewing option.

Gallery View displays thumbnails of all the digitized images in a single, scrollable view.

How do I view digital images from a collection?

If a collection is listed as “Digital,” hovering over an image’s thumbnail reveals an enlarged view of the image. To view a full-sized version of the image with tools like zoom, rotate, inverse, and others, click the thumbnail or the “Open in viewer” button.