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ENGLISH & WELSH ROOTS - Family History Centres of the Church of Latter-day Saints
Article posted: April 15, 1999
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai   Biography & Archived Articles

This issue of English and Welsh roots will highlight perhaps the most important resource for both primary and secondary sources of English records - local Family History Centres of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

The Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) was founded in 1894. This was the forerunner of the Family History Library, (FHL) which is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is operated by the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the world's largest collection of both primary and secondary family history records which are made available to the public through a system of more than 3,000 Family History Centers™ Each Family History Center (FHC) branch has a core collection, and access to microfilm and fiche through a rental program. Each Center is different, varying in size and staff experience.

To locate a FHC in your area: look in the white pages under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If there is no special FHC listing, call the church on Sunday mornings to inquire about the nearest Family History Center. The locations of Family History Centres can also be found on the main web site for the LDS: .

The library has collected millions of microfilms, thousands of microfiche and books, and many other original and published records. Most of the microfilms have been acquired through an extensive microfilming program that began in 1938. Even as I write this, microfilmers are presently filming original documents in churches, courthouses, and archives in countries around the world. The originals of the microfilms are preserved in a vault in the mountains near Salt Lake City. Copies of microfilms are available for use at the Family History Library and at Family History Centers.

EACH YEAR the Family History Department of the LDS Church preserves and catalog about 100 MILLION NEW PAGES of historical documents on 70,000 microfilms, 25,000 microfiche and in 12,000 books. * Most of the records date from 1550 to 1920. * Over 1.9 MILLION ROLLS of microfilmed records (that are equal to more than 6 million written volumes) and about 379,000 microfiche are available. The collection includes records from the government, churches of many denominations, other organizations and individuals.

Remember that the FHL's microfilms and microfiche may be "rented" for a small fee at a FHC near you. But, they must be requested in person at the FHC and must be used there. The microfilm will be shipped back to the FHL in Salt Lake City, but all microfiche can stay at the local Family History Centre where they were ordered from.

When you visit a local Family History Centre, you will find microfiche and microfilm readers as well as computers for public use. After your initial visit you will be encouraged to phone ahead and book time to use the readers and the computers simply because there are so many people who use this important local resource. If you don't make an appointment, there is a good chance you will be disappointed to find all the microfilm readers and computers being used by other people.

On the computers you will find CD-ROMs of many databases. Including FamilySearch© which lists the names of millions of people who have researched their family histories as well as a variety of original records. FamilySearch offers a large collection of both secondary sources (records compiled by others) and original records. The computer file that contains genealogies of families from around the world and is linked into pedigrees to show their ancestors and descendants. The file contains millions of names.

Other databases available at the FHC include:
  • Ancestral File ©
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI) ©
  • Family History Library Catalog ©
  • Scottish Church Records
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index and much more.....
Ancestral File ©
Ancestral File is available on the FamilySearch computer. Ancestral file is filled with the genealogies of families from around the world that has been submitted by fellow genealogists. The information is linked to pedigrees that show the ancestors and descendants. The file contains millions of names.

Basically, Ancestral File is Gedcoms of group and pedigree sheets sent in by members and non-members. The name and address of the submitter is included and hopefully will allow you to contact others working on your line. If the address is out of date sometimes a letter to the Membership department in Salt Lake will get you a correct address if the person was a member of the LDS church. Once again, the material is only as good as the research that went into it and some of it is pretty bad. Check out all information against the original source before you 'adopt' it.

If you find a mistake on Ancestral File, you can send in your corrections, along with your sources of proof, and it will be noted in the next update (hopefully). The first submitter does not have to provide proof, but you do, if you are making a correction. You can add additions to a file, or submit a new file. You do not have to be a member to submit material.

International Genealogical Index (IGI) ©
The IGI is also available on the Family Search computer and on microfiche. The IGI is perhaps one of the best known and most well used indexes in the world for family historians. The IGI lists dates and places of birth, christening, and marriage. Many of the entries in the IGI have been taken from parish registers as part of an organized program of transcribing that has been carried out by the LDS for decades.

Each LDS Family History Center has a copy of the IGI, which is published on microfiche every 4th year. It is also available on CD-ROM for those Centers with a FamilySearch (tm) computer. Please remember, the CD-ROM version of the IGI will always be more up to date than the fiche version! At present is IGI on CD-ROM is the 1993 version (with about 200 million names) with an addendum from 1997 containing another 80 million names. Make sure when you are using the IGI on CD-ROM that you check both the main IGI CDs and the addendum.

Using and Saving your IGI search:
When using the IGI on CD-ROM always remember to work from a plan. You will always find more records than you expect and can be easily distracted - wasting the limited time you have each visit. Know what you want to look for - make a list of which surnames and their area of origin that you want to search. Also make a careful note of spelling variations and similar pitfalls associated with your surname. While "similar surnames" are conveniently grouped on the search results screen, proper names are not always grouped as nicely. For example, although William, Wm., W. and Will would be grouped together, if your ancestor went by the name of Bill, it will not come up with all the Williams.

All searches must start with a locality - a country and a county. The list of records you request on a search will usually show the given name, surname, event type, year, county (or state, or province, etc.) and the name and relationship of one relative - for example, the name of the father for a christening event, the name of the spouse for a marriage event. It is also important to note that death events are not usually included on the IGI. There may be references to the odd wills but you are not likely to find references to actual death records. When viewing your search results on the screen you can highlight an entry that is of interest and when you press enter the full date and place and names connected to the event will be shown. If you want the complete details of the source of this information, press enter again and you will see the description of the source, the batch number and microfilm source number for that entry. With the microfilm number in hand you can then order the microfilm on loan to your local FHC and view the original records on a later visit.

When the records are displayed, you can choose to print an individual entry or add it and other records of interest to a holding file. The holding file allows you to select a number of entries (no more than 200) for printing or saving to a disk at the end of your search session. For those with recent versions of computer genealogy packages, the holding file can be saved in a GEDCOM file format for transfer to your genealogy database.

Coverage of the IGI:
The IGI will be a great help to your research but always remember to check the original sources of information contained in the Index. Also remember, the coverage of the IGI is far from complete. Many parishes in England did not allow the LDS to microfilm or have access to their records. Just because your ancestor is not in the IGI do not give up. There are many records that have been microfilmed by the LDS that are available for loan to local FHCs that have not been extracted and indexed in the IGI.

If you are looking for parish records and cannot find entries for your family in the IGI it could be that your parish is not included. An excellent resource for understanding which parish records are part of the IGI (or have been included in other indexes) as well as detailed maps of parishes by county can be found in The Philmore ATLAS and INDEX of Parish Registers by Cecil Humphery-Smith. Although a very expensive book, it is an essential reference tool and should be a part of any large genealogy reference library. I would also recommend an invaluable guide published by Eve McLaughlin: Making the Most of the IGI. This small, reasonably priced guide is an important addition to your research library because it not only provides the historic background of the IGI but offers many clues about the coverage, the coding and various stages and types of entries that have been included in the IGI. Eve also includes a section on the problems and peculiarities associated with Welsh and Irish entries in the IGI.

The IGI is only an index - a word of caution:
Please remember whenever you are researching that the records you are using were not created for the convenience of family historians - they were created for many other purposes; the IGI is no different. The IGI was created for use by the LDS church and its members. In the early days of the IGI most entries were the personal research of LDS church members. As most of us know, personal information is only as good as the person who submitted it. You will sometimes encounter the same individual entered twice - once through the systematic controlled extraction and indexing of original records (such as parish records); and once as a personal entry submitted by a member of the Church. Given a choice such as this - always request the microfilm of the original records to confirm. On the one hand, the microfilm of the original parish register would confirm the accuracy of the entry and you may even find other family entries in the same register. On the other hand, the personal submission will provide you with a family group sheet submitted by what may turn out to be a distant cousin.

In addition there have been mistakes made when compiling the index or updating the main database. For example, the 1988 version of the IGI suddenly "lost" a great number of marriage entries that had been on earlier versions because they were accidently or incorrectly deleted. At the same time, the 1988 version suddenly added millions of entries from old LDS Temple sources - these are entries submitted before 1970. Many of these entries were given dates based on guess work (such as everyone married around age 25 or so, and similar assumptions). As a very general rule, entries submitted before 1970 are much more suspect than entries after 1970. The reason 1970 is an important breaking point is because it has only been since 1970 that the church has centrally checked the reliability of family group sheets submitted by its members against original records held on microfilm. Use all entries with great caution and always confirm the source of the information.

Much has been written on both the value of the IGI to family historians and the many pitfalls associated with it. Family Tree Magazine in July and August 1998 included critical articles by Pauline Litton on the IGI. The computer section of the February 1999 issue of Family Tree Magazine provides a very detailed article on the CD-ROM IGI and how you can download the information to disk and what conversion, mapping and analysis programs are available to purchase to use with the IGI.

Please remember that the IGI is an index. Someone has physically entered the information into the index from a source record. No one entering information is perfect - typing errors and omissions are made on a regular basis. In earlier versions of the IGI on fiche, entire parishes were mis-labelled! Many parish records included were based solely on the Bishops Transcripts (which are notoriously incomplete) and were not based on the actual parish registers. Remember, the IGI is NOT the definitive source of information. Researchers must ALWAYS check the source record to verify the information. The IGI is a wonderful tool....a guide to where else to look. It is nothing more than an indicator of where you can look. If you are not careful that indicator can point you in the wrong direction wasting a great deal of your time. While I cannot say enough about what a wonderful help the IGI can be - I must equally caution against taking any entry as gospel until such time as you check the original source(s) of the information.

Family History Library Catalog ©
Another exceptional component of Family Search is the Family History Library Catalog. If you ever wanted the library catalog for the most extensive collection of family history books, films, fiche and other research tools - the Family History Library Catalog is it! This catalog is the key to unlocking what records from around the world are available at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Records listed in the Catalog - both microfilm/microfiche of original records and secondary sources can be borrowed from the main library in Salt Lake City to the local FHC. Records in the Catalog are generally filed by locality where the event took place and then the type of record available. For example, Canada--Ontario--Vital Records--births 1869-1901.... Try finding the locality you are interested in and then look for records such as vital or civil registration records (births, marriage and death records) cemetery, census, church, probate (wills) emigration and other records.

Much like any library catalogue there are listings by:
    Author: listing books by author's last name.
    Title: listing books/films/videos/etc by title.
    Subject: listing topics like emigration, immigration, passenger lists...
Plus - the Family History Library Catalog adds two more important listings:
    Surname and Locality.
Why use the Family History Library Catalog?
Researchers can use the FHLC to determine if the library in Salt Lake has the microfilm or microfiche for a particular book or record available to order and view at your local FH Center. There are usually more than 5,000 items added to the collection every month and for this reason the catalog is updated. Most experienced researchers order microfilms on a regular basis, by using the FHLC to find the correct film numbers or fiche numbers, etc.

Many of the books in the main FH Library's surname section have been microfilmed. The 200 most used reference works are already on fiche at your local Family History Center under the Special Collections I & II classification.

How to use the Family History Library Catalog:
The FHLC is available on both microfiche and on CD-ROM. Each entry in the catalog looks much like a regular typed card you might find in your local public library's card catalog. There are call numbers for books indicating their location at the main FHL in Salt Lake. It is important to note that Books are available ONLY at the main FHL, however, if it is an older book and the copyright has expired it will be on microfilm or microfiche. If the catalog entry is for a microfilm, the film area and film number are also listed. This is also true of microfiche.

The surname section of the catalog on microfiche is where you will find all those family histories submitted by other genealogists. In other words, it is important that you verify the documentation before accepting any of the information as the truth. Although the books are filed strictly by surname alphabetically - the catalog cross-lists the top five or ten surnames in each book. This is great if your surname is one of the top 5-10 names in the book because usually it would only be filed under the main surname. Note - the catalog on CD-ROM does not let you query by surname for books unless the locality was included by the indexer at the time it was entered into the main catalog. Any references to books on a specific surname would only pop up if a locality is indexed by the cataloger.

The locality section of the FHL catalog is the largest and most extensive and probably most used section of the catalog. It is available in both microfiche and on CD-ROM as part of Family Search. This is where you look to see what microfilmed original records the main library holds for each of the localities where your ancestors lived. The collection generally focuses on the pre-1900 time period and references:
  • bible records
  • census
  • church records
  • city directories
  • court records
  • Land Records
  • maps
  • military records
  • passenger arrival records
  • naturalization
  • newspapers
  • vital records (government records of birth, marriage & death) and much more!
Using the locality section is the place to really begin researching by ordering the microfilm of particular records for your county/parish of interest. The loan of microfilm is certainly more economical than having to travel to the UK and visit every little county to look in the original records books. When distant cousins have asked how I managed to trace my British roots back so far from Canada I have to tell them the main secret is making extensive use of the microfilm and microfiche available on loan to my local FHC - which I located and ordered by carefully searching the Family History Library Catalog.

A few other points:
Some people have noticed an X on the right side of a catalog entry. This X is very important since it is telling you that the names/dates/events have already been extracted to the IGI. Even if the record has been extracted, it is still recommended that you look at the original record. Original documents might have additional information not included in the extracted, computerized version.

An additional interesting touch on the CD-ROM (computer) version of the Catalog is that you can press the enter key to find which local FH Centers have that particular microfilm on long term loan. If your Center, or a neighbouring one has the film you want, you can potentially cut down your research time by going to the neighbouring Center to view the film.

The ability to search by microfilm number is useful when you read in a journal that a certain LDS microfilm has something of interest or if you have received a reference to an original record from another researchers work. To search by microfilm number lets you check the accuracy of the reference before you order the wrong film ( I have found many references to original records documented by others where there was a typographical error in writing down the microfilm number).

Most parish record filming ends sometime around 1880 but there are a few parishes where the microfilm includes later records.

Regardless of the Database you use, remember that from the computer terminal you can print the information found on the screen or you can copy it directly to a diskette in either ASCII and/or GEDCOM format to use on your personal computer when you get home.

Don't forget to check the FHC reference books. Of special use are the "Research Guides". If, for example, you are researching in Ontario or England, you can read the carefully written Research Guides for these areas produced by the LDS. The guides will tell you about when and what kind of records were kept there, names and addresses of genealogical societies and MORE! Don't overlook these valuable booklets.

The Modern LDS - online and databases for purchase:
In keeping with the modern move to the internet and CD-ROMs for genealogical research, the LDS is moving right along with us. Two very important examples of this new trend can be seen in the CD-ROMs being produced for sale and the new Test Site for the LDS online.

LDS CD-ROMs for sale:
Since 1978, thousands of Latter-day Saint volunteers and others have spent millions of hours carefully reading and examining microfilmed records. The volunteers "extract" from these original records information such as names, dates, places, and family relationships. But not all these extracted records end up in the IGI. So, to make these records available to more family history researchers the LDS in April and September 1998 announced the availability of CD-ROMs at minimal cost from their distribution centre. What is available for sale includes:

Family History SourceGuide™, Price: $10 (US). This CD is the first automated Windows® product of its kind for the Church. The SourceGuide is basically an automated research guide. This CD will help the researchers by listing all the research guides/outlines I mentioned earlier. The CD compiles information from more than 150 research guides developed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

British Vital Records Index (1538-1888), on 5 CDS, Price: $15 (US). This CD is an index to some parish registers, civil registration records and other extracted records collections for parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The CD boasts nearly five million names. Four CDS contain birth and christening records; one CD lists marriages.

1851 British Census, 1 CD, Price: $5 (US). This CD is an index to the census records of Devon, Norfolk, and Warwick counties only. About 1.5 million names were transcribed from original census returns. Includes such information as a person's name, relationship to head of household, sex, age, occupation, birthplace, and residence.

North American Vital Records Index (1620-1888), 7 CDS, Price: $19 (US). This collection includes and index to church and civil records and other extracted records collections in parts of the United States and Canada. Six CDS contain marriage records; one CD lists births and christenings.

Australian Vital Records Index (1788-1905), 4 CDS, Price: $20 (US). This collection is an index to records from New South Wales (1788-1888), Tasmania (1803-1899), Victoria (1837-1888), and Western Australia (1841-1905). The index contains about 4.5 million records of births, christenings, marriages, and deaths.

The LDS Family History Resource File CD-ROM Series are only available directly from the LDS. They cannot be purchased by resale businesses. The can be ordered from the
    Church Distribution Center
    1999 West 1700 South
    Salt Lake City, Utah 84104-4233

    1-800-537-5971 [from the U.S. or Canada]
    1-800-453-3860 extension 2031 for the Canada desk
    1- 801-240-1126 [international]
In the United Kingdom the contact information is as follows:
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
    Distribution Division
    399 Garretts Green Lane
    Birmingham B33 0UH
    Telephone: 0121 784 9555 or 0121 789 7666
In Australia:
    Family Resource Centre
    756 Pennant Hills Road
    Carlingford NSW 2118
    Telephone: (02) 98 415447 or (02) 98 415423
In New Zealand:
    Distribution Centre
    P.O. Box 68-443, Newton
    Telephone: 09-309-0907
The LDS have announced that they will be bringing out the entire 1880 U.S. Census in the future. These same new CD-ROMS are becoming available more and more in most local Family History Centers.

The latest announcement on the LDS CD-ROM front is that the 1881 UK census CDs will be available for shipping in June 1999 (yes - very soon!). They have been assigned item number 50169. Researchers can order the 1881 census in advance of the release to ensure they receive their copies early. It is my understanding the complete set for the UK will consist of 24 CDs and sell for around $33.00 US. The set can be advance ordered for Canadians by calling 1-800-453-3860 Extension 2031 or contacting one of the other centers listed above for other countries. Please note, one person on the email lists reported that when they placed their advance order on Wednesday, April 14th there were 17,000 back orders for the complete set that morning!

To purchase the CDs in the United Kingdom I understand researchers can advance order the 24 CDs for about £29.75 (Item number 50169). The actual price may vary depending on the value of the American dollar at time of ordering. The preferred method of ordering advocated in the UK is by fax at 0121 789 7686 or by post. The fax must include the following information:
    Phone Number
    Credit Card Number
    Credit Card Expiry Date
    Issue Number (if using switch card)
    Shipping Address if different from above
    UK Orders sent to the States will be passed on to the UK distribution centre.
    Cheques must be made payable to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There is also talk of regional CDs of the 1881 census being available. The cost of the individual regions will depend on the number of CDs in each area - however, no firm confirmation of this has been received. First priority will be filling the orders for complete sets. The actual number of CDs associated with each of the individual regions is not known. Please remember, although orders can be sent in advance for the 1881 census CDs - no orders will be filled or shipped until after it has been officially released - at least June.
When the 1881 Census CD set becomes available, the Family History Department will provide notice of its availability at their main Church website - . As an added bonus, when released, the CD sets will be sold ONLINE through the new FamilySearch web site at . Note: it is not available for purchase online until it is officially released!

LDS & Family Search Online:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun a brief public test of a new genealogical service on the Internet. The developmental test is open to anyone with Internet access, and the site can be found at No special password or clearance is required. Present plans are for the test site to be available over the next few weeks. Due to test requirements, the site may be unavailable at times or experience periods of slow response. To view the official announcement visit the following web site: . It is hoped that the full online service will be available sometime this spring or summer.

What is included:
At the moment the test site includes an interface that is primarily geared to IGI baptism and marriage searching in that you had 3 fields for child & parents. But have patience and check the site carefully.
Under the "Browse Categories Section" There are more screens of information including their extensive research guides online and many links to internet sites specializing in specific subject information. The subjects covered are quite extensive, Census and Lists; Court and Legal Records; Guardianship Records, Naturalization and Citizenship Records; Cultural and Religious Groups; Family Histories and Genealogies Key Genealogical Sites; Land and Property; Libraries ; Migration: Emigration and Immigration ; Military ; Places ; Record Keepers, Vital Records, and much more including Research support.

The source bar on the left side of the screen suggests that the site will include the IGI, the Vital Record Index and Ancestral File. I did stumble upon a link to the Family History Library Catalog and found only a screen that stated it was still "under construction". While your family search will turn up some entries from the Family History Library Catalog, at the time of writing this article you could not independently search the catalog online from its own web page.

Like many regulars to the Family History Centre, I applaud the work the LDS is doing to go online and to provide reasonably priced databases on CD. But most of all, I am grateful for the work they have done to microfilm and make available important primary records which I can borrow and view in my local FHC. Without this resource, my English research would be nowhere near as extensive as it has become. I am also grateful to the many people who volunteer to help those of us using the local Family History Centers.

Sources for further information:

Mark Howells has a very good site to help researchers getting started and more detailed explanations and tips for everyone wanting to use and understand the resources of LDS Family History Centers. Visit the website at:

There is also a tutorial to help researchers better understand "the largest collection in the world". Visit the following website:

The UK and Ireland Genealogy website also includes some information about the LDS at:

Terry Morgan provides a website introduction to Family History Centers at:

The main LDS website offers clear explanations of their history and role in family history research:

Published sources:

Your English Ancestry, A Guide for North Americans - Revised Edition by Sherry Irvine. In particular appendix A: The Family History Library Catalog and appendix B: The IGI.

by JeanCole and John Titford Tracing Your Family Tree - by Jean Cole and John Titford. In particular chapter 6 which discusses the I.G.I.

Making the Most of the I.G.I. - by Eve McLaughlin.

I.G.I. on Computer: The International Genealogical Index from CD-ROM - by David Hawgood (1998).

Next issue: Civil Registration - finding Birth, Marriage and Death records. Civil Registration (the Government registration) of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in England and Wales on July 1, 1837, in Scotland on January 1, 1855 and in Ireland in 1864. The next issue will discuss what is available and how to access these important records without traveling to the UK.


Have you ever wondered what the family tree of royalty looks like? The British Monarchy Web site now has a link to their Family Tree online showing the relationships between The Queen and other European Sovereigns. There is also an expanded profile of Henry VIII, as well as a History of the Scottish Crown. Prince Andrew's newest addition to the site is called, "Royal Insight: A monthly guide to the life and work of Britain's Royal Family." All pages are accessible from the official site at:

Rights and Use Information: FamilySearch and International Genealogical Index are registered trademarks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ancestral File, Family History Library Catalog, and Family History Center are trademarks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

About Fawne Stratford-Devai
Fawne Stratford-Devai's work on Land Records and early Ontario records is well known in the genealogy community. A published author of several Canadian and UK research books, she has also contributed articles to the Ontario Genealogical Society's newsletter "Families" as well as writing for the online family history newsletter the "Global Gazette". Biography

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