Tip 2: Compiled Sources

by Raymond S. Wright III, Ph.D., AG
After you have gathered as much information from relatives as you can, look for information other researchers may have compiled about your family. One of the most popular places to start is in the nearest LDS Family History Center. The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah is the largest genealogical library in the world. Its nearly 2500 branches are called Family History Centers. You can find out if your community has a family history center by looking in the telephone book under "Churches". The listing for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will provide an address and a telephone number for the local family history center.

FamilySearch provides access to information about more than 300 million persons in three of its databases: Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index, and Social Security Death Index. You can also rent any of the Family History Library's nearly two million rolls of microfilm containing records from most of the countries of the world. About 100 public libraries in the United States also have copies of FamilySearch.

Ancestral File is a computer database containing information about some 30 million persons. Each person is linked to a family and through their family back in time as many generations as family researchers have provided. Mostly amateur genealogists and family history researchers submitted these genealogies to the Family History Library over about two decades (1978-1996). Some of these genealogies extend back into the Middle Ages and others end by the beginning of this century. Many persons find ancestors in this file because so many of us are related to each other. Remember that the pool of ancestors we all came from shrinks as we go back in time. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, most of the people on your block are descended from someone in your ancestral pedigree. Your neighbors are your cousins. The entries in the Ancestral File normally list the birth/christening, marriage, and death dates and places for each person in the file. Under the "Sources Option" (F-9 key), users may also obtain the names and addresses of the persons who submitted families to the file. There is also a research interest directory under this option that contains names and addresses and areas of research interest for thousands of amateur genealogists and family historians.

The database titled the International Genealogical Index (IGI) was created in 1969 to record the ancestors of Latter-Day Saints for whom Church sacraments had been performed vicariously. It became such a key research tool that many non-Latter-Day Saints began submitting ancestors to receive Church sacraments to ensure that their ancestors names and data would appear in the IGI. It also contains data extracted from many of the original records (births, marriages, deaths, etc.) microfilmed by the Family History Library since its cameras began copying records in 1938. Today there are about 240 million entries in the IGI, arranged by world region. For each person in the IGI, a birth or christening date and place is normally given and for marriage entries, the names of the spouses, the dates and places of marriage. The search engine for this database permits researchers to assemble families by searching for children born to a specific set of parents.

About the Author
Raymond S. Wright III is a professor at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), where he has taught courses in family history and genealogy since 1990. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah. An Accredited Genealogist of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wright was manager of library operations there from 1979-1990. During his employment, Wright did numerous research assignments in archives and libraries in the United States and many foreign countries. He is a specialist on genealogical records in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Wright has served twice as chairman of the American Library Association's Genealogy Committee. He is also author of The Genealogist's Handbook: Modern Methods for Researching Family History.

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