The Desert Shamrock
Arizona’s Original Irish Newspaper
Volume 9, Number 6, November/December 1998, page 24

The Mormon Libraries and Databases

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Professional Genealogist & Historian

        My last article explained about vital records, a major source in providing complete names, parents, occupation, dates and places of births, marriages and deaths, and much more. Now I will discuss a special source which not only will lead you to vital records, but also to a wealth of other records and information.

        Metropolitan Phoenix has several of 2000 Family History Centers around the world; part of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City founded 1894. Keeping with religious doctrine, the library and its satellite centers are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). The general public is welcome to use the library and centers which are staffed with friendly and helpful volunteers. Missionaries in many countries microfilm everything from parish registers to tax lists. The library’s collection of records from around the world numbers over two million rolls. Films are added at the rate of 4000 rolls per month. The library also has over 200,000 books, with about 400 volumes added monthly. The satellite centers vary in size of their collection, but have assorted genealogy resource materials, general guides and how-to books.

        However, here I would like to emphasize one of the most significant sources that all centers have: their computer system of multiple databases. With the advent of personal computers the church immediately began to create programs and databases to help make information more readily available. This has culminated in the FamilySearch system, several databases with millions of names and family data – a great way to get a head start on your research.

        Most significant of FamilySearch is the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which lists over 700 million names of deceased persons from throughout the world. These names primarily come from vital records of the early 1500s to 1895. Additional names and data have been submitted by members of the LDS Church from various other public sources.

        The IGI is divided by countries or regions, such as North America or British Isles, from which you then conduct searches by individual, marriage, or parent. Once you search for an individual, you can then search for his marriage record and/or his parents, and from there begin the cycle again. Very quickly you can go back several generations and obtain a wealth of family data. Sources are identified, directing you to original records and localities for further research.

        Family History Library Catalog (FHLC), another database, is a catalog of the library in Salt Lake City, identifying the available records and resources from around the world. You can order microfilm and view them at the branch centers. Search by specific location and then record type, or by family surname for already published family histories.

        Ancestral File consists of genealogies as submitted by researchers who compiled their information in a genealogy program and sent it, on diskette, for inclusion into this database updated regularly. Search by specific name, and information is displayed by individual, family groups, pedigree charts, or descendants charts, and includes contributors’ names and addresses.

        U.S. Social Security Death Index alphabetically lists 38 million people who had social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. The index mainly covers deaths since 1962, but does include 1.5 million individuals from 1937 through 1962. It provides birth and death dates, last place of residence, place where death benefit was sent, state of residence when obtaining social security number, and the number itself.

        Military Index alphabetically lists all persons who died in Korea and Vietnam from 1950 to 1975. It provides birth and death dates, residence at time of enlistment, country died in, rank, service number and branch of service, race, tour of duty, religion, and marital status.

        Scottish Parish Register is a database of births, marriages and some deaths from the old parish registers of Scotland from the 1500s to 1854. It is a great source leading to original Scottish records.

        Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a genealogy program originally created by the LDS church and is available for sale through the centers for around $40. At the centers you can use the PAF on FamilySearch, at no cost, to enter your family data and save it on disk and add information as you progress in your research.

        FamilySearch is not accessible on the Internet, so you must visit local centers. Once you find information in FamilySearch, it is highly recommended that you search for the original source when possible so as to verify the information submitted; human error is still a possibility.

        The Family History Center in Mesa, 41 South Hobson, behind the Arby’s on the corner of Hobson and Main, is the largest center in the Phoenix area, and in fact the largest center outside of Utah. It has a collection of 22,000 books, 60,000 microfilm rolls and 50,000 microfiche of records from around the world. A great place to research, make sure to bring what you already know. If the visit is your first, a volunteer will give you a personal tour, look over your information and help you begin your research. Classes on FamilySearch are offered, as well as on specialized research. Hours are Saturday and Monday 9 AM to 5 PM, and Tuesday through Friday 9 AM to 9 PM. You can call the Mesa Center at 964-1200 for information, and for locations of other centers in the Phoenix Metro area.

        This is the ninth of the series of articles on the basics of searching for your family history, discussing the use of family records, public records, and networking nationally and internationally, and other tools of genealogical research. These previous articles are on my web site at Click on Professional Services then Genealogical Writings.

DISCLAIMER: This is an important reminder that the above article is provided here exactly as originally written and published several years ago. Therefore, while most of the primary context of the article may still be relevant, please be aware that possibly certain of the information and references may now be outdated, such as individuals and organizations, links, contacts, facilities, etc. Please follow-up accordingly for more updated information.

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©2013, Robert M. Wilbanks IV, Scottsdale, Arizona
created Nov 15, 2013; last updated Nov 15, 2013