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The Genealogical Society of Utah

A genealogical or family history researcher learns some lessons the hard way when they embark on the ancestor quest. One of the greatest lessons is to never accept as fact what others say . . .


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A genealogical or family history researcher learns some lessons the hard way when they embark on the ancestor quest. One of the greatest lessons is to never accept what others say, even family, but look it up for yourself. Verification is probably one of the most neglected avenues of genealogical research, especially among the beginners. In our world today we are too quick to accept as fact what others tell us, without verifying their information for ourselves. As a Family History Center director for over 20 years I have heard considerable mis-information perpetuated about the LDS Church and its practices, which it would be good to clarify.

One of the most unique doctrines practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that of family history and genealogical research. No other religion on earth has such a doctrine. It is one of the three-fold missions of the LDS faith. Because the members are encouraged to gather, verify, and preserve the linage and history of their families and much effort has gone into the support of that mission, the genealogical community overall has benefited in a mutually reciprocal exchange of information among members and non-members alike.

Despite information to the contrary LDS temples are not built to perform secret sacrifices or rites to be keep hidden from the world. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasizes the importance of family relationships. Its doctrine holds that these relationships are not limited nor terminated by death. It holds that rites can and are performed which unite the husband and wife and their children, not only for time, but also eternity. In order to give these same blessings to deceased ancestors, members seek information about those ancestors and perform, by proxy, the same ceremonies for them. This is the purpose of LDS temples. It is believed that these ceremonies and rites are so "sacred" they are performed only in LDS temples. A unique aspect of this believ is that the ancestors are not obligated to accept these rites, but can chose to reject them. The progenitor's only repsonsibility is to provide the opportunity and do for them the things they cannot do for themselves.

As a result of this doctrine, one of the most unique genealogical societies in the world was established. The Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). Most genealogical societies are established for specific areas of research and are funded by membership. Incorporated in 1894, The Genealogical Society of Utah is a non-profit educational institution without membership and is entirely funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's dedication to the promotion, preservation and sharing of genealogical information throughout the world, has caused it to gather, preserve, and share family history information. Unlike most societies that deal with specific locations or families, the GSU is not just concerned with Utah or its Church membership, but is worldwide in scope. It also provides technical expertise through training seminars, technical publications and its participation in international standards associations.

The Society's mission since its inception has been to preserve historical records, which are used to identify deceased individuals and link them into families. It gathers these records from all over the world as permitted by the law and contractual obligations, and makes them available as a resource for those searching for their ancestry. Although it provides research materials, it does not do research for individuals.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is the main repository for the Society's massive collection. Family History Centers set up in meeting houses throughout the world are branches of the Library and make the collection more accessible to those who do not live in or near the Salt Lake area. Unlike many societies this collection is open to all researchers -- you do not have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor a member of the Genealogical Society of Utah. In fact, most of the patrons who use the collection are non-members.

Another aspect that sets this society apart is its concentration on people instead of locality. Most of the collection concentrates on deceased persons who lived before 1930. And despite what some believe, the records were all obtained legally with the approval and cooperation of government and local authorities that have jurisdiction over the records. Individuals, families and societies, donated some of the records to the collection while others were purchased by the GSU.

The Granite Mountain Records Vault outside Salt Lake City was built to store and maintain the collection that has been microfilmed, and with the development of new technology the collection is now being digitized. Currently, the Society is filming in over 40 countries and last year added an additional 28,000 films.

Correct information will help us avoid the pitfalls and deadends that cost time, effort and money in genealogical research. Verify your information and don't take everything your told as the truth -- check it out, rely on yourself and your own research not someone else.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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