One organization stands out in the field of genealogical research: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or LDS). Popularly known as the Mormon church, they have a special reason for needing genealogical information, what they call an ancestor's proxy baptism. Done since 1840 for people who have already passed away, a living person acts as a proxy who is baptized on behalf of the deceased. The practices is limited to this religious sect.
But to do ancestor proxy baptisms, Mormon genealogy efforts have been intense. This has resulted in the LDS having a huge database, the International Genealogical Index, or IGI, open to the general public through their FamilySearch website. The church also maintains a Central Library and Family History Centers in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Anyone can use these resources. LDS members contribute the biggest part Mormon genealogy records in the IGI. Starting with an easy-to-use data input form, database searches are based on a deceased individual's name, their parents' and spouse's names, date of birth, and location (worldwide) to search available records for relevant information. You can search with as little as the person's name and region. The IGI is basically a huge index of surnames recorded in the Mormon Family History Centers and website.
As you might guess, their FamilySearch.com website is biased in favor of church-member needs, but it contains many resources where you may find your own non-Mormon family members. Searches through the Mormon genealogy database can be cumbersome, though, because of the size and amount of detail the it contains.
Visiting a Family History Center
It's hard to name a genealogist who wouldn't want to visit the Mormon's famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. But since travel to Salt Lake City was not always possible, the church opened more than 3400 Family History Centers in 64 countries. They provide over 100,000 rolls of microfilmed Mormon genealogy that circulate the Centers every month. Microfilm records contain vital, census, land, immigration, probate, and church records as well as other important genealogical information. In the United States, you can find Centers in both large cities and smaller communities.
Because they're funded largely through local congregations, they are usually located in church buildings. These satellite libraries that contain Mormon genealogy resources to help people in their genealogical research. Visitors can use the Family History Centers without charge. Volunteers are eager to help by answering questions and offering advice. Records may not be available at a specific Center because they're circulated through the system, but you can request a loan of specific records through a Center volunteer, paying from $3 to $5 per film.
It can take two to five weeks for the requested Mormon genealogy information to arrive a the local Center, and they'll be held there for about three weeks for the requester to pick them up. After three weeks, the Center will return the information to circulation.
Here are some tips on how specific record requests are handled:
- Requesters can renew the loan if they need more time.
- It is possible to have specific records permanently located at a specific Family Health Center by renewing the microfilm rolls twice or paying within three rental periods.
- To arrange a permanent loan, requesters should inform the Center of their intentions and pay the three rental periods in advance for the Mormon genealogy research information.
- While books can't be borrowed from the Centers, you can ask one of the Center's volunteers that they be microfilmed.
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