Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Collect Dead People

Sarah and Ted Pace, Gordon and Marvin Pace, Alice Obray,
Mary Ann Eardley
Ostrich at Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City circa 1913

Back when I started doing genealogical research (sometime in another century), personal computers weren't even a twinkle in Bill Gate's eyes.

I never dreamed I'd live to see the day when I could view census records online in my jammies in the privacy of my own home.

It's nearly impossible to think back to the time BC (before computers) when I was going to the Family History Library everyday to I look up records in a card index file. Then I'd find the roll of microfilm in a large metal drawer, place it on a reader, find the item I needed on the film, take the film to a microfilm copier and make photocopies. I'd follow the same process for each record.

It used to take me hours of searching indexes and reeling through hundreds of pages of film to find the same information which now takes only minutes at the click of a button.

Genealogists, who start researching today, miss out on all the fun! They follow a whole new discipline than when I started.

When I taught beginning genealogy in the 1980s an '90s, I taught entirely different steps, most of which can be by-passed today because of our fast paced world of technology.

Some rules still apply whether you are using a pen or a computer. These research ideas can get your family tree started or launch it to a new level.
  • Start with what you know.
  • Search your home for diaries, photos and other information.
  • Interview your relatives.
  • Organize everything so you can access information easily when you need it.
  • Get ideas and a fresh perspective from other researchers.
  • Get valuable information from your extended family (such as aunts, in-laws and cousins).

Here are a few odds and ends I've picked up along the way. (Disclaimer note: I've haven't proved these facts.)

  • Most genealogists are hobbyists (laptop genealogist)
  • Few hobbyist will ever visit the Family History Library, a state or national archive and will never look up records on microfilm.
  • Because of the Internet, genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies.
  • Approximately 60% of all hits on computers involve family history information.

What got me started?

The fact that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints certainly plays a huge role in my life-long genealogy obsession.

Having the world's largest genealogy library practically at my doorstep is another reason.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is open free to everyone and traces its own roots back to 1894.

It boasts the world's largest collection of family history resources - over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records, 727,000 microfiche, 356,000 books, 4,500 periodicals, 3,725 electronic resources - with records from more than 100 countries, covering everything from 14th century English church records to African oral histories.

An average of 2,400 people, including many visitors from Europe and Asia, visit the library each day. It can actually be easier and cheaper to travel to Salt Lake City and find all of the information in one place than to have to travel from one small town to another to gather records.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in October 2001 declaring October in the U.S. as Family History Month. Led by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and co-sponsored by 84 other U.S. Senators, the resolution stated "within the last month some 14,167,329 people researched their family history and 24 million people have used the Web and email to locate or hunt for family or friends with whom they had lost touch."

Why do members of the LDS Church do family history?

Members are motivated by love for their deceased family members and desire to serve them. As members we believe life does not end at death. When we die, our eternal spirits go to a spirit world, where we continue to learn while awaiting the Resurrection.

Members of the LDS Church believe that the family can also continue beyond the grave, not just until death. Certain sacred promises or covenants are made in the temple on behalf of these deceased ancestors in order to unite them for eternity. The church also believes that free agency we enjoy on earth is also practiced in eternity.

What is the International Genealogical Index--IGI? (FamilySearch.org)

The International Genealogical Index database contains approximately 600 million names of deceased individuals. An addendum to the International Genealogical Index contains an additional 125 million names. These names have been patron submitted or extracted from thousands of original birth, christening and marriage records.

The Family History Library has the following resources:

314 patron computers
408 microfilm readers
36 microfiche readers
28 microfilm and microfiche copiers
4 microfilm scanners
14 book copiers
375 Seating capacity at tables
4 book scanners

With all these things at my disposal, plus a wonderful laptop. How can I not do genealogy?


S. Lincecum said...

LOVE the ostrich photo!

Claudia's thoughts said...

Just found your blog and I do like it. But I have a question, you had mentioned that you are a member of the LDS Church. In one of the IGI indexes I have found information on my greatgrandparents submitted by a member. Is there anyway of contacting that person? I am sure we might have information to share, but they did not leave any email or address?