Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fables and endless genealogies: the Family Group Records Collection

When I first started to seriously compile my genealogy, because of my research background, I automatically began what is commonly called the survey stage. I went to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and began looking for what had already been done by members of my family. I discovered the rows and rows of binders containing seemingly endless copies of Family Group Records submitted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from about 1942 through the 1980s. I cannot tell you how many hours and hours of time I spent finding the connections with my family and photocopying the Family Group Records. I ended up with about a two foot stack of copies.

Unless you experienced it like I did, you cannot believe all the false starts and endless linked genealogies I examined and rejected. This is the original online family tree before such a concept was even dreamed about.

Over the next few years, I researched and tried to verify this huge mountain of information. This process took me years. Now, ironically, most of that huge collection is online but available only to members of the Church. The record collection is called Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section (FamilySearch Historical Records) and contains 5,337,178 images.

For the last few years I have been telling people about the inclusion of these records in the form of the Ancestral File in and now in FamilySearch Family Tree. For an extensive discussion of these records see the FamilySearch Research Wiki article Family Group Records Collection.

Here is a description of most of the records from the Research Wiki:
Three million family group records were submitted to the Patrons Section between 1926-1979. The purpose was to share genealogical information and identify others working on the same lines. Each collection has some names that cannot be found in other filmings. The family group records often included a brief list of the sources used to compile the record. Sometimes the sources specify old film numbers or book numbers used by the Family History Library. Some records also included biographical histories for the family members listed on the form. In many instances several records have been submitted for the same family unit. Comparison of these records will sometimes reveal discrepancies. The collection binders have been removed from circulation so these records are available only on microfilm.
 Where I was able to verify the records or trusted the sources and/or the person submitting the records, I used this information as the basis for my family file. Ultimately, I ingested all of the records I found into my current database, hence the title to this post.

I often say that the time I spent at the Family History Library could now be accomplished online in the matter of a few weeks instead of years. But from my perspective today, the real question is whether I would do it all over again? The answer to that question is very complex and is yes and no. Yes, I would still feel compelled to examine everything that had been done before in my family, but now I would not be so eager to copy the records. Even when you have extensive family files handed to you by your ancestors, given the amount of information available today, the is a greater need to verify and provide sources than was ever done in the past.

I don't know if I am happy or not for another online infusion of fables.

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