Ten great LDS family history databases

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Syllabus for class taught by Devin Ashby, presented at BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference 2010.

Ten Great LDS Family History Databases You’ve Got to Try

Databases are some of the best places to store genealogical content. Electronic information is widely distributed and easy to search. There are literally millions of databases on the Internet but few that relate to LDS family history. This session will discuss 10 LDS family history databases and how to find relevant family history information.

Searching a database:

A database is just a bunch of information that has been collected, like a phone book. The following principle will help: in most cases, an electronic document or Web page is already indexed. Try Ctrl+F to locate keywords, such as a surname. If you have several fields to fill, start broad, and then refine with first names and dates. Remember to try alternate spellings.

Database #1: FamilySearch.org

Description: FamilySearch.org is the largest collection of free family history, family tree, and genealogy records in the world. Record Search is the publishing site for FamilySearch indexing, the largest volunteer extraction program of its kind.

Why use it? The best thing is--it’s free! Collections include U.S. and state censuses, U.S. state deaths, Ellis Island Arrival Lists, the US Social Security Death Index, the International Genealogical Index (IGI), family history sites, Pedigree Resource File, Ancestral File, international projects, and much, much more.

How do I start? Go to the Web site, and start searching. Sign up to index at [www.familysearchindexing.org FamilySearch Indexing]. For more information, check out FamilySearch Labs.

There is also a new site on the FamilySearch Research Wiki that is extremely helpful: Tracing_LDS_Ancestors

Database #2: Family History Library

Description: In addition to a great online library catalog, this particular library has many books and collections of interest to those doing LDS research. This building houses the largest family history library in the world.

Why use it? These are collections unique to this library so you can’t really find them anywhere else.

Offline Resources:

  • Ward Membership Records: (Book) Register of Genealogical Society, by Laureen R. Jaussi & Gloria D. Chaston, Section 5; LDS Church Records of Membership; US/Can 979.2258 A3j v2
  • Early Church Information File (ECIF): The Early Church Information File begins with film #1,750,655 (Aabbost, Ellen – Allen, Joseph W) and goes to film #1,750,729 (Young, Brigham – Zysling, Kornelisk)
  • Church Censuses 1914-1960: (Book) Register of Genealogical Society, by Laureen R. Jaussi & Gloria D. Chaston; Section 2, Church Census, US/Can 979.2258 A3j v2, FHL Family History Library Catalog
  • Early Endowment House Records: Special Collections

How do I start? Go to FamilySearch.org, click on Library, then Library Catalog for the online catalog or head to Salt Lake City, 25 North West Temple Street.

Database #3: Google.com

Description: Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Why use it? It’s free and easy to use. Use “” and + and – to refine your search results. Use Alerts to have periodic Google searches e-mailed to you. Use Google Maps to visit places with the Street View feature, and create reference points using My Maps. Network with friends and family using Blogger and G-mail.

How do I start? Go to the Web site, learn about the products, and start searching.

Database #4: LDS Church Archives

Description: This Web site is home to the LDS Church History Library and Archives. (Note: Portions of this database are not online.)

Why use it? It is worth searching the library catalog, the archives catalog, and the journal history. Some of the other collections include:

Online Resources:

  • LDS Church Periodical Index (1976-present): An index to periodicals published by the church.
  • Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel (1847-1868): Database of pioneers who traveled overland to Utah and their companies.

Library Resources:

  • Mission Calls and Recommendations (1877-1918): Recommendation letters from local church leaders and replies from members.
  • Brigham Young Papers (1840s-1877): Approximately 15,000 letters from church members to Brigham Young.
  • Patriarchal Blessing Index: You can only request blessings for yourself or a direct line descendant. click here for information

How do I start? Start by searching online. Then take a trip to downtown Salt Lake City (15 East North Temple Street) to view the other collections and the library.

Database #5: BYU Databases

Description: Brigham Young University has a great collection of LDS family history resources. These are just three sites that are worth visiting.

Why use it? What’s great about the BYU sites is that they are unique and they are also free.

  • [www.lib.byu.edu/Ancestry/ Mormons and their Neighbors (1820-1981)]: Over 100,000 biographical sketches in 185 published volumes. The sketches include individuals living in northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and southwestern Canada.
  • [www.lib.byu.edu/dlib/mmd/ Mormon Missionary Diaries]: 376 missionary volumes with over 63,000 pages.
  • BYU Family History Archives: Digitizing and processing of family histories.
  • Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah.

How do I start? Go to a Web site, and start searching.

Database #6: Daughters of Utah Pioneers

Description: There is information here if your ancestor came to the Utah Territory or State of Deseret; died crossing the plains; or was born in the Utah Territory or the State of Deseret before May 10, 1869, which was the coming of the railroad.

Why use it? There are about 100,000 pioneer histories on file, and copies of these histories are available. It is easy to search the history card index and the photograph index online.

How do I start? Start by searching online. Then take a trip to downtown Salt Lake City, Utah (300 North Main) to request copies. For more information, feel free to visit the Sons of Utah Pioneers: http://www.sonsofutahpioneers.org/about_sup.htm

Database #7: Footnote.com Databases

(Note: Portions of this Web site may require a fee.)

Description: This collection (1870-1896) contains over 2,500 case files, the majority of which deal with cohabitation, usually polygamy. A case file is most often a complaint stating a plaintiff’s cause of action, an answer by the defendant, and summons. The pension files include pension application files arranged alphabetically by name of the veteran. Files contain survivor pension documents, affidavits by the claimant and witnesses, correspondence, medical reports, and related documents supporting each claim.

Why use it? If you have an ancestor that fits this description, you might find something.

How do I start? Go to the Web site, and start searching.

Database #8: Ancestry.com Databases

Description: Ancestry.com has several databases specific to LDS genealogy.

Why use it? Did you know that Utah Pioneers and Prominent Men has been digitized and is online? This is a classic work published in 1913 with biographies, genealogies, and photographs of early Utah residents. There are also member name indexes, an LDS biographical and historical encyclopedia, military records, and more.

How do I start? Go to the home page, scroll to the bottom, and click See all databases. Then scroll down and enter lds under Database Title. (Note: Portions of this Web site may require a fee.)

Database #9: World Vital Records.com Databases

Description: World Vital Records also has several LDS family history collections.

Why use it? Some of the collections include Nauvoo marriages, members of the Mormon battalion, property transactions, Seventy Quorum membership, tombstone inscriptions, etc.

How do I start? Go to the home page, and click the View all databases tab. Then scroll down to Browse by Collection, and select LDS Collection. (Note: Portions of this Web site may require a fee.)

Database #10: Build Your Own

Description: There are many sites that will allow you to publish genealogical information.

Why use it? Remember, the best Web sites are the ones that are relevant to your family. So, why not create a Web site to preserve your genealogy online? All of these sites are free. Most of the best family history information is not online because people haven’t put it there. Here are a few sites that will allow you to do this.

How do I start? Choose a Web site, and start building and posting.

  • Wetpaint.com allows people to create free wiki Web sites that are available to anyone. A wiki is a social Web site that anyone can edit and contribute to. It’s easy to add text, photos, videos, polls, and more.
  • MyFamily.com - If you don’t want everyone out there to see and edit your content, build a private Web site. If you build a Web site here, you will need to log in with a user name and password. It’s easy to send out invitations to those people you want to see the site. Again, loading photos, files, and videos is really easy.
  • Blogspot.com - Chances are you already know someone with a blog or have one yourself. Blogger is powered by Google, and if you already have a Google account, it’s really easy to build one. Blogs are very addicting, so plan on spending some online time if you create one. It’s easy to post photos, text, videos, RSS feeds, slideshows, links, newsreels, logos, etc. An example of another blog is Dick Eastman’s newsletter.
  • Google Sites allows you to create a Web site or a wiki of the Google server. Anyone can add file attachments, information from other Google applications, and free-form content. There are a few videos on YouTube that will take you through how to set up a Web site here. It’s easy and it’s all online.