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An Overview of the International Genealogical Index

If you have ever found an ancestors name on the International Genealogical Index (IGI), quoted it as a souce on your family tree, or puzzled over multiple entries or conflicting information, you may find this article enlightening.


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Have you found an ancestor's name and information on the International Genealogical Index (IGI)? Have you ever quoted the IGI as a source for data on your family tree? Have you ever found conflicting information for the same person on the IGI but don't know why it conflicts? Have you ever wondered why there are multiple entries for some people on the IGI, while others have only one entry? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may find this article enlightening.

One of the most important things you need to know about the IGI is that it is a "secondary" source, not a primary source, of information. The IGI is an index to records. Basically, the LDS Church took genealogical information that they had been gathering since 1832 and placed the basic information onto index cards. The data on these cards formed the original basis of the index. It was started in 1969 by members of the Mormon church (Latter Day Saints).

As a secondary source, all information in the index needs to verified by primary sources. That doesn't mean you can't list the IGI as your "source" for birth information, for example; but don't count on that data being 100 percent accurate.

The database itself was designed for what can be termed "temple work" which covers some ordinances of the Mormon church about sealing married couples and sealing children to parents. I am not a Mormon and I do not want to misrepresent its purpose; but it is my understanding that "sealing" means to tie people together in both this life and the afterlife. The IGI was designed to help in this endeavor.

In the past, there were people doing temple work who did not know that the ordinances for certain ancestors had already done. With multiple people tracing family lines that often interconnected, this resulted in multiple entries for the same person. Some people knew more than others, so if you find your ancestor with more than one entry, you'll want to check all of them.

Also, not all of the information recorded in the IGI is correct. Some genealogy researchers were more careful in obtaining primary source documentation than others. Information that was originally guesstimated may have been corrected later, but the original information was not changed.

From 1942 to 1969, family group sheets were submitted to the temple. The person submitting those names was called a patron. If you see the term patron on the IGI, that will tell you the there are family group sheets available through Salt Lake City or your local Family History Center (FHC). The sheets are filed alphabetically by the head of the family.

If you find a "P" or a "C" in the upper left-hand corner of a temple card, it tells you whether this person is listed as a parent or a child on a particular family group sheet. If your ancestor's parentage has been your brick wall, and he or she is listed as a child on the index, you are going to want a copy of the family group sheet that Salt Lake City has on file. You will also see a microfilm number listed in the index. That microfilm will tell you the entire group of names submitted by a particular patron. That can be of enormous help if you are tracing the same family tree.

In the 1960s, the Mormons began extracting information regarding births, christenings and marriages from countries around the world and entering the data onto computers. At about the same time, or somewhat earlier, information submitted by individual members was done on an entry form, not a family group sheet. Both the extracted information and information submitted by members were given batch numbers. The last two digits of the batch number are the year of submission. Batch numbers that begin with a letter of the alphabet are usually extracted records. That means what you see is basically all there is to see. Items submitted by a member or patron may have more information so the batch number is the clue as to whether or not you want to pursue the microfilm copies themselves.

For every rule, however, there are exceptions and the IGI is no exception. All New England extraction projects have all-number batch numbers. All batch numbers that start with "F" or with the numbers "50" or "60" are the result of patron-submitted family group sheets. If the batch number in question starts with an "A," there may be records in the "Family Group Records Archive" at Salt Lake City.

Around 1990, church members began using GEDCOM files on diskette to submit family information. All this data was integrated into what the church terms the Ancestral File, and is now going into something called the Pedigree Resource File. Anyone, Mormon or not, can submit pedigree information for the Pedigree Resource file. Like the World Family Tree on Rootsweb and, these family trees are a boon to researchers.

By the way, don't bother looking in the IGI for people who are alive. The research was and is only done for people who have died, and in most cases, people who have been dead for more than 100 years.

The IGI can be accessed online at:
FamilySearch International

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

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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