Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Do You Know The Names of Your Ancestors?

If you answered "no", please keep reading.  I will show you how you can research your family from your laptop at home. If you answered "yes", I encourage you to keep reading to find out how you can help others find their ancestors too.


I am a Family History Consultant for my church. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe it is very important to know their family history. A quote from the Family Search website states:

"Learning about our ancestors helps us better understand who we are—creating a family bond, linking the present to the past, and building a bridge to the future."

I believe that. Knowing my family history has always been important to me - my entire life. I feel quite attached to my great-grandmothers and great- great-grandmothers (especially Elizabeth).  Knowing who they are, where they lived and a bit about their lives, helps me on my own journey to self reliance and frugality.  

To help people find their ancestors, my church has been involved with a project to make all genealogical records (worldwide) available for everyone to access for free. These records include civil registration records, church records, probate records, census, land, tax and military records as well.  The church describes the project as follows:

"Family Search, historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, is dedicated to the discovery and preservation of a record of the family of mankind, introducing individuals to their ancestors through the widespread access of records, and collaborating with others who share this vision."

Family Search has thousands of volunteers access images of original documents and key the information into a database. This work is done in all languages across the world.

With that in mind, I would like to tell you what I spent most of my day yesterday doing. Family Search wanted to break a record by documenting more than five million records in one day.  They asked all church members to spend time documenting records (called 'indexing') on July 2nd.  I am pleased to say that over 10 million records were indexed in that 24 hour period!  I personally did 520!

You do not have to be a member of the LDS Church to look up your ancestors using Family Search.  The records are free and available to anyone with a computer and Internet access.  Go to Family Search, key in the name of your ancestor, and click Search (or hit the Enter key). You can even search by a life event such as birth, marriage or death. You can search using the name of the spouse or parents if that's where you'd like to begin.  Not sure how to find someone if you don't know their name?  Start with someone you do know and go backward from there.  For those who would like additional guidance, there's a Help link on the Family Search website. Click it to find videos and articles that will help you use the site and start researching your ancestors.

You do not have to be a member of the LDS Church to help index records either. If you would like to try your hand at indexing, click on Indexing from the Family Search main menu at the top of the page. It provides additional information on how to get started.  It is easy and fun!  You can do it anytime and anywhere! I have been indexing for about 9 1/2 months now and I have completed 9,767 records. If you can speak and read a second language, you can help make records available to people in countries beyond the United States.

Researching your ancestors is a fun and rewarding experience. Currently, I can trace most of my family back to about 1700.   And everytime I index a record, I know that I am helping someone else find their ancestors too!

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