Friday, January 7, 2011

How is the IGI?

With the release of the new website, many are asking where the International Genealogical Index (IGI) went. To understand where it went, you first need to understand what it is and where it came from. This week I’ve addressed the what, when, whence, why, and how of the IGI. and the Internet IGI were introduced in 1999How is the IGI?

As we’ve seen, the IGI contains two types of entries:

  1. Extracted records. These are useful to genealogists as indexes to evidentiary information.
  2. Member submissions. These are useful to genealogists when treated as conclusions that must be verified.

While the IGI was useful for these purposes, as we’ve also seen, it wasn’t designed for them and didn’t serve either one perfectly well.

Because it was not designed as a genealogist’s tool, the IGI did not use a conclusion tree to store and present genealogical conclusions.

If designed for genealogists, extracted records would not be thrown away if a conclusion about the person existed.

Specifying Locations

Because it was not designed as a tool for genealogists, locations were indexed only to the U.S. state or U.K. county. Genealogists really needed to search at the city or parish level.

Ugly as it is, I’m glad someone came up with the batch number workaround to allow city and parish searches. Instead of entering city, state, and country (or parish, county, and country) into the computer, you enter IGI Region and Batch Number. But first you had to figure out what batch number matched your desired location and time frame. For example, yesterday I wanted to search in Shustoke, Warwick, England. I looked up the batch numbers for Shustoke and found C022862 covered the desired time frame. I then went back to the IGI, entered the region and batch number and performed the search.

There are several ways to figure out a location’s batch number(s).

  • You can search for websites that list batch numbers for your location. All proficient English researchers know about Hugh Wallis’s website.
  • If you know enough about one person in the desired location to search and find him without a batch number, you can comb through the results hoping one is an extracted record.
  • If you have access to the IGI on fiche, you can look up the location on the PVRL fiche. Back when the PVRL was current, you would even learn if extraction records existed for your location.
  • If a Parish Printout was created for the batch, a Family History Library Catalog search will yield the batch number.

I told you it was ugly.

Mish Mash

Because it was not designed as a tool for genealogists, the IGI osterized conclusions and evidence together in one big mess. I cringe to think of how many cases we have all witnessed of people using the IGI as if every entry was trustworthy. (I doubly cringe to think of the number of times in the 70s that I did it myself. But I digress…)

Once again, the ugly batch number provided a workaround. Check an entry’s batch number and use the first letter to distinguish an extracted entry from a member submission.

Source Citations

If designed for genealogists, the source citations included in member submissions would have been keyed into the computer with the rest of the submission. Without the source citations the information is far less valuable.

The batch number is again the ugly workaround. Use the batch number to determine if a copy of the member submission is available on microfilm. If it is, pay $5.50 to have a copy sent to your family history center and hope the submitter specified a source. Wait for the film to arrive. Examine the member submission to see if the member gave a source and what the source was. Repeat for each applicable member submission.

We’re way past ugly now. No doubt genealogists will start using “Batch Ugly” to describe the truly hideous. (Think Humperdinck after Westley disfigures him “to the pain.”)

Now we’re ready to answer the big question: Where did the IGI go? Sorry I didn’t get it done for today! Stay tuned…


  1. The IGI still exists somewhere. Hugh Wallis's site still gives the usual results, except for some of the "E" batches.

  2. There is a much better option than the Hugh Wallis site.

    This includes thousands of batches not included on the Hugh Wallis site.


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