Monday, 2 November 2009

New Family Search

A big thanks to Audrey Wyper at the GROS in Edinburgh for the following information which I am sure will be of immense interest to readers. Audrey has kindly passed on some information concerning the FamilySearch website, which she has obtained from a friend in Ireland, and for which I am indeed very grateful.

Most of us will know of the IGI as being hosted on the FamilySearch website at From a Scottish POV, it hosts an index to records for most Church of Scotland birth and marriage OPRs up to 1854, and statutory birth and marriage records from 1855-1875. There is also the new lab site at which hosts the Irish statutory BMD indexes up to 1958 for the Republic and 1922 for Northern Ireland, as well as some digitised English records and indexes.

With the main FamilySearch site, an often quoted grumble is that the Mormons do not validate research before uploading it. Experienced researchers know not to trust anything from any index without considering the original record (and sometimes not even then!), but often people will take the index information at face value and construct trees which are actually wrong, simply because they don't know what is not available on the site, won't consult the original, and are happy that a right name at the right time must be the right candidate.

The LDS is now apparently addressing this. LDS members research family history for religious reasons, in order to posthumously baptise ancestors in what are known as vicarious baptisms, and to perform an ordinance known as a 'sealing', and in their enthusiasm, some members have submitted innaccurate trees. As such, a new website has now been constructed by the Mormons, entitled New Family Search, at The purpose is for future admissions to the online records to be verified more stringently prior to an upload. Before any LDS member can submit information to the site, they will have to have discussed their research with the person in charge of their area's family history centre to verify its accuracy. They then must get a membership record number for the new site and a confirmation date from a designated LDS Temple clerk. When done so, only then can material be uploaded to the new database (they need the details in order to do so). No more anonymous uploads, and no more duplicate submissions. There is also a new section on the site called 'See Me and My Ancestors' where they can view what is happening in relation to their family, and to check progress on their own trees for the religious puproses for which the index was originally intended.

Whilst this new site is not available to the general public - at least, not yet - this is a wonderful development. I did often wonder why such horrendous errors were simply admitted to the IGI and other sites, and it is great to see that the body is taking the concerns very seriously, albeit for its own purposes. The main imperative is of course for their own religious ends, and I wish them the best of luck on that. The Mormon church, whether people agree with its theology or not, is an organisation that the world owes an incredible gratitude to for its efforts in sharing its resources with us all for free. Despite the criticisms with the current FamilySearch, they pale into insignificance when compared to the true research potential that the site offers. If this new site is to be shared with us in future, it will be as gratefully received as the IGI and its other databases have been in the past. We certainly don't have a right to access it - something the grumblers should take note of!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

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