MyCinnamonToastTM Genealogy

The Magic of Ancestral Data In LDS Family History Centers

by Edna Katherine French

Home is the place where, when you
have to go there,
They have to take you in.

—Robert Frost (1874-1963)

"Hi Sue! Haven't seen you in ages." Edna looked up from the person she was working with at the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and gave her friend a big grin.

"Hi, yourself, " Sue said. "I didn't expect to see you working as a librarian here. The last time we talked you were going to explore a Family History Center and learn how to do some of your own personal history."

"Well, Sue, I found out how much fun this is and ... one thing led to another. You know how that can be. So here I am now and having a grand time. Excuse me while I finish helping Joe with Ancestral File. He is just beginning to learn how to use it."

"Sure, I'm going to go through some films today. Talk with you when you get some free time."


Edna turned back to help Joe. "Thanks for waiting. Sue is the person who helped me get started with my genealogy work. Let's take a look at Ancestral file using the CD-ROM version that we have in the library. There is also an on-line version you can access from one of the computers here and from your computer at home if you have one. Perhaps we can talk about that later.

"Ancestral File is a huge database of Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records containing millions of names. The names come from people who have submitted Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records to the Family History Department since 1978. The information has not been verified against any official records. Since the information in Ancestral File is contributed, it is the responsibility of those who use the file to verify its accuracy. New names are added each year. As you do your own research, you can correct any errors that you find in this file."

"OK, I understand. Edna, how do I search this database?"

"You'll need the name of one of your ancestors to search. The computer has help messages at every step. And, of course, any of the librarians can assist you when you get stuck.

"Using Ancestral File, you can see your ancestor's pedigree, his family (with him both as a child and as a parent)and his descendants. You can also see the names and addresses of the people who submitted the data. That information can be useful in case you want to contact anyone. You might even locate an unknown cousin that way! Together you could extend your genealogical data in a most magical way.

"Since you will want to save the information that you work so hard to get, you can do it several ways. Of course you can hand copy it. But Ancestral File allows you to print it or copy it onto a diskette to use with your home computer."


Meanwhile another person turned to Sue. "Umm, Did I overhear the librarian say that you helped her get started with her own family history work?"

"That's right. My name is Sue. Do you need help with anything? I used to work here as a librarian also."

"Yes, my name is Alice and I seem to be stuck trying to understand the IGI. I thought it would show me the family tree or something."

"Well, Alice, the IGI, or International Genealogical Index, isn't designed to show families linked together as does Ancestral File. It does identify the parents or spouse of a person. It also gives the sex, birth and marriage information, and dates of ordinances performed in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. "

"Sue, where do the names come from?"

"That's a good question. Many of them come from original birth and marriage records that have been extracted (hand-copied, verified, and copied into a computer) by Latter-Day Saint volunteers. Others have been submitted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for temple ordinances. Thirdly, some of the names are deceased members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Alice, just enter an ancestor's last name and follow the help prompts. Ask for more help if you need it."

"Thanks, Sue. I appreciate your time."

"Sure, any time."


Sue picked her books up and moved over to the table where Edna was having a break. "Well, Edna, things have been hopping here today. I'm glad to have a chance to talk with you. What do you think about doing genealogy research on the new FamilySearch Web Site?"

"My, it is certainly easy. You can search Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index plus two new search areas called Pedigree Resource File and Web Sites all from a single search form on the Search Page. But, I find that many people are confused about the Pedigree Resource File. They don't understand the way the web version and the compact disk version interrelate."

"You're right, Edna. That can be confusing. When you search the Pedigree Resource File on the Web, you retrieve a list of individuals and their date and place of birth/christening. You can personalize your list of individuals for use with your compact disks at home later by selecting any number of these individuals to print or download. Or you can click on an individual's name (which is a link), and you will get his or her individual record which shows marriage, submitter, PIN (personal identification number), and a Submission Search number. Additionally, it shows which compact disk you can go to for further information.

"The research is quite exciting and the dead-ends terribly frustrating. For example, the other day I found an Elizabeth Machin, born about 1568 in Stoke-on Trent, England. Machin is my maternal grandfather's line and I know that it has been followed back as far as Stoke-on-Trent. So, naturally I thought that perhaps I had located a daughter or cousin who had married out of the direct line of descent.

"Following the Elizabeth Machin link on the Pedigree Resource web site, I learned that I should use compact disk number 6. When I did, I found the Family Group sheet for Elizabeth Machin. It showed that she had married a John Adams. The notes said, ‘Landed Gentry. 570414-093099161632. c/o Medieval Families Unit, 50 E North Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, Date 30 Sep 1999.’

"Imagine how I felt! One or the other might be landed gentry and Elizabeth might be my relative. Quickly I switched to the ascendant view. Yes! Elizabeth's parents and grandfather were also landed gentry. But Elizabeth was an only child, so that line of Machins ended with her. I still have more research before I can determine if we are related."

"Sue, that is some story. Did Elizabeth and John have children?"

"Yes. I looked at the descendent chart to answer my curiosity there. They had three children, nine grand-children, and many generations after that.

"The compact disk version of the Pedigree Resource File is truly a remarkable research tool. Each disk contains about 1.1 million names and a master index comes with every five disks. The index allows you to work with the program even when you are not connected to the Internet. Family information is organized in Family Group sheets and Pedigree Charts. The Family Group sheets include submitted notes and sources when available. There are several different view and search functions to facilitate your work. You can switch back and forth between views easily. If you are in the pedigree view and want to see more information about any individual, you can just double-click on that person's name. Many charts and reports can be printed from this data. You can even export selected portions of the data from a disk to a GEDCOM version 5.5 format. Discs may be purchased individually or as sets. "

"Right. And I like the fact that you can run Personal Ancestral File (PAF) without exiting or minimizing Pedigree Resource File. Plus I've started building my own web page, so it was exciting to learn that I can save the screen image as a BMP file, which I can use with other programs for pasting into a document or simply printing in color. There is one word of caution, however. Like the data in Ancestral File, that in the Pedigree Resource File is submitted by individuals, so persons using it should take the time to validate it."

"Edna, what do you think of the Search Family History Web Sites portion of the FamilySearch site?"

"I'm glad you asked me that. I've been working as a Website Evaluator for the FamilySearch Web Site since before the FamilySearch site was inaugurated, and it has certainly been exciting work. Thousands of volunteers have and continue to evaluate web sites for their usefulness in genealogy work. First, they are screened to ensure that the page is available, appropriate, and useful for genealogy research. Then the volunteer identifies the three main surnames on the page, (some pages have thousands!) and the three main locations. Next comes what can be the hard part--selecting the category. This can sometimes be easy, if the page is a census or cemetery record. But if it is a family organization, the volunteer has to decide whether to list it under Family Association and Organization, Research Coordination, Surname Sites and Family Histories, or Surname Organizations. Finally the volunteer selects the other features. Another volunteer validates the first person's decisions and any questions are resolved at that point."

"Wow! I didn't know all that background. I just put my family name in once and when nothing showed up, I gave up. Now that I understand more about the categories, I can see how creative I will have to be in using this search feature. This means that if you are looking for someone in our family, but not using Bible or other specific category records, we would make the most progress checking each of the four categories you named and leaving all of the Other Features to Include in My Search unchecked. The instructions given on the site also make more sense to me now."

"Yes, Sue. It has been fun to see our labors actually get up on the web and become available to others for their use. The intent is to connect a community of family across the Internet who may not otherwise have met and to provide unique and wonderful information to family members."

"Edna, when I sit in front of my computer and think about the magical amount of family data available now that wasn't even dreamed about twenty-five or fifty years ago, I feel like I've truly come home. My ancestors may not know me, but I'm beginning to feel like I know them, and as Robert Frost said, "I'm going there, so they have to take me in."

This is the home page for the FamilySearch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While Sue and I discussed the Search page in this article, there is much more to talk about in future articles...unless you beat us to it and learn on your own first, that is!

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