Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Whence 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 whole week I address the what, when, whence, why, and where of the IGI.

Title screen from IGI 4.02 on Compact DiscWhence the IGI?

Information in the International Genealogical Index comes from two major sources:

  • Extracted records. Many of the names have been extracted (hand-copied and entered into a computer by [Church of Jesus Christ of] Latter-day Saint volunteers) from civil and church christening, birth, and marriage records. … (Death and burial records are usually not extracted.)
  • Records submitted by Latter-day Saint members.1

Understanding where an entry came from is the key to using the IGI, said Elizabeth L. Nichols, retired FamilySearch employee and IGI expert. “This key is found in the batch number and/or film number.”

For extracted entries, the Parish and Vital Records List (PVRL) identified the locality, time period, and record type of each batch number. The PVRL also provided the means of determining the scope and coverage of extracted records in the IGI.2 (This information is key to using the Historical Record Collections on the new Unfortunately, the information is not included. But I digress…)

Characteristics of member submissions differ according to when the submission occurred. And the quality of submissions varies considerably.

Before 1970

Members submitted the information to the Church’s temples between the 1840s and 1970. Some information was recording by event participants at the time of the event. Other information was provided by second- or third-hand sources many years after the event. The veracity of each entry must be judged individually by examining the circumstances and sources associated with the entry.3 


Most entries submitted from 1970-1990 were on Individual Entry or Marriage Entry forms. Many submissions during this period are almost as trustworthy as extracted records. George H. Fudge was Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Genealogical Society of Utah (the predecessor of FamilySearch) at the time. He explained that the new forms utilized “the concept of submitting an individual entry exactly as it appeared in the original record from which it was taken.” The source was ideally a parish/church record or a vital record. The submission was to include a citation. Unfortunately, exceptions were allowed. Tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, family Bibles, and reliably sourced family histories were acceptable if they contained a full name and the date and place of birth. Conclusions drawn from multiple sources were allowed in submissions about a member’s direct-line ancestors.4

According to Nichols, not every form listed “original sources.” To determine the quality of one of these submissions, consult the microfilm copy of the entry form.3

Starting with the IGI 1992 edition, entries submitted after 1978 were included that did not meet the strict identification requirements used in previous editions. These entries may specify “about”, “of”, or use brackets like “<England>”. Previously, entries required a definite name, date (at least a year), and location (specified to two levels).3

After 1990

Entries submitted after 1990 (until NFS, the New FamilySearch Tree, replaced the IGI) are the infamous, sourceless entries. “These names have no additional information available,” said Nichols. “There was no copy of the record kept. Name and address of the submitter are not available.” This makes it impossible to assess the trustworthiness of the information.3

Next time: “Why Was the IGI?”


     1. Resource Guide: Finding an IGI Source, 4 p. booklet (Salt Lake City : Family History Library, 1995), 1; digital images, FamilySearch Help Center ( : accessed 23 December 2010).

     2. Elizabeth L. Nichols, “International Genealogical Index (IGI), 1993 Edition—Part II,” Federation of Genealogical Societies Forum, Spring 1994, 4.

     3. Elizabeth L. Nichols, “The International Genealogical Index 1992 Edition : Part 1: The Main Changes,” Genealogists’ Magazine 24 (September 1993): 294-7.

     4. George H. Fudge and Frank Smith, LDS Genealogist’s Handbook : Modern Procedures and Systems (Salt Lake City : Bookcraft, 1972), 33-48.


  1. I notice that you linked to the pdf version of "Finding an IGI Source," and not the Wiki version. What does that say? See how much nicer the pdf version is?

  2. "Utilize" vs. "use":

  3. "troll"
    someone who comes by a website and makes a comment completely unrelated to the subject at hand.

  4. If I have a surname and a film number (of the parish records of a church in Germany) is there still a way to search or browse just the entries from that film?


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