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The Mormon Connection

The LDS Church and Genealogy

by Jan McClintock

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains the largest genealogical data collection in the world, at the main Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The library collects information from members and other submitters through the Genealogical Society of Utah, the corporate business end of the Family History Department of the church.

The reason that the LDS church is so interested in genealogy is explained in church doctrine: family love and life can continue forever, even after death. To help make this happen, members want to be able to perform the temple ordinances, namely baptisms, endowments, and sealings to spouses and to parents, and also confirmations and ordinations. Endowments are like promises to the Lord to obey the covenants that are set by Him for life on Earth. Sealings are a binding together of families; husband and wife, and children to parents, in order to spend eternity together.

The church believes that these ordinances should be performed on behalf of ancestors who did not have the opportunity themselves. Ancestors are not forced to take the ordinances; they must accept the opportunity to do so.

But before members can help their ancestors, they must identify them, and that's why genealogical research is so important. Thankfully, the church allows non-members to use their collection, and it is a wonderful resource.

Family History Centers (FHC) are branches of the main library, and are located all over the U.S. and the world, usually alongside local LDS churches.

Many Family History Centers have a computer and the FamilySearch software for searching the databases listed here.

The Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) records, on microfiche and CD-ROM, all the books, documents, microfilms and other materials in the library. It is the equivalent of a super "card catalog," searchable by locality, author/title, surname, subject, and foreign-language locality.

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is an alphabetical index on microfiche and CD-ROM of millions of names of deceased persons, taken from genealogies submitted to the church or from original vital records. Reference numbers in the IGI show the source of the record, which allows a researcher to find and study the original entry form, which might contain more information.

And more: Ancestral File is a database of pedigrees and family groups submitted by any genealogist who wants to share information on family research; the U.S. Social Security Death Index (SSDI) of people whose deaths, mostly between 1935 and 1993, were reported to the Social Security Administration; and the Military Index of servicemen and women who died during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Call the nearest LDS church listed in the phone book and ask about a FHC, or get a list of FHC's in your area by writing to: Salt Lake Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84104-4233; or by calling 1-800-537-5950 (801-240-1174 outside the U.S. and Canada). A list of U.S. FHC's is available at FamilySearch, a site maintained by the LDS church.

Acknowledgments: Cecilia Rush of the Family History Center, York, Pennsylvania; Johni Cerney and Wendy Elliot, The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Inc., 1988); Byron D. Holdiman, "Family History Library and Family History Centers."

*The name "Mormon" comes from a prophet named Mormon who abridged the records that were translated into the Book of Mormon.