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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has only a few scattered membership records before 1847. Most membership records began in 1877. Membership records usually include information about births, marriages, deaths, and Church ordinances.
Types of Membership Records
Over the years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used several types of membership records. While most clerks used the following six standard formats for membership records, some wards, stakes, and missions created their own forms. Some membership records include an index. The indexes are usually alphabetized only by the first letter of the surname and include only individuals who have their own entry. Parents and other individuals mentioned within the entry were not indexed.
1830-1877 Journal Type
The earliest membership records were bound books of plain paper, often provided by the clerk himself. Membership clerks often recorded baptisms, confirmations, blessings of babies, marriages, deaths, priesthood ordinations, tithes and offerings, and emigrants. These records sometimes include early civil court minutes. Most of these records are not indexed, and must be searched page by page.
1877-1900 Long Book Form
In 1877 many members of the LDS church were rebaptized to renew their covenants. The long book format was created to record these rebaptisms and reconfirmations. When open, these books were about four feet wide (long). These records start with an index and include the following information: name; birth date and place; parents’ names; date of baptism, confirmation, rebaptism, reconfirmation, priesthood ordinations; date the person was received into and removed from the ward; death date; and remarks.
1900-1920 Three-Part Form
This format starts with an index that has three columns. The columns are for:
- Part I. Baptized members. This gives each member’s name, birth date and place, parents’ names, date of baptism and confirmation, and by whom performed, membership record numbers, and remarks, which often include arrival, removal, and death.
- Part II. Priesthood ordinations which include the name, date of ordination, to what office, by whom, and reference to the membership number where this person can be found in part I, and remarks.
- Part III. Children not yet baptized, nine years and younger. It lists the name of the child, date and place of birth, parents’ names, date of blessing and by whom blessed, and remarks.
In 1920 the LDS Church introduced the box-type form. Four to six boxes were printed on each page. The index in the front shows the number assigned to the box rather than being a page number. Each box has a space for the member’s name, sex, date and place of birth, parents’ names, dates of blessing, baptism, and confirmation and by who performed, dates of priesthood ordinations and office, and by whom performed, date of death, arrivals and removals, spouse’s name, marriage date and place, and whether it was a civil or temple ceremony.
1941-present Card Type
Starting in 1941 each member’s record was kept on an individual card. When a member left the ward, the card was returned to Church headquarters and then, upon request, sent to the member’s new Church unit. These records are not available for research. If the member died, however, the card was placed in the Deceased Members File. See LDS Vital Records for more information about this file.
1907-1983 Annual Genealogical Report-Form E and Form 42FP
The Church began using these forms in 1907 and kept them concurrently with the membership records. These forms do not list each member in the ward or branch. They only include entries about people who were blessed, baptized, ordained to priesthood offices, sent or returned from missions, married, divorced, or died during the year. Form E was used by stakes. Form 42FP was used in the mission field. Form 42FP included yearly sections for members who emigrated to Zion and full-time missionaries who worked in the area during the year from 1911 to 1962. You must search the Annual Genealogical Reports year by year because they are not indexed.
Finding Membership Records
The Family History Library and Family History Centers have access to membership records to about 1940 and the Annual Genealogical Reports up to 1948. To find film numbers for ward, branch, conference, stake or mission records do a Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog for the town where the congregation was located.
For records from 1949 to 1983, you must go to the Church History Library in Salt Lake City.
Many, but not all, film numbers for membership records are listed in
- Laureen R. Jaussi’s and Gloria D. Chaston’s Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers, Volume 2, Provo, Utah:The Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; microfice 6031507.) This register is arranged alphabetically by the name of the local unit on pages 5–57 to 5–203. These pages list the unit name; years covered; whether membership records, or Form E; and Family History Library film number. Pages 5–12 to 5–56 have a reference list showing units arranged alphabetically by nation, state or province, county, and town. Membership clerks often kept more than one set of records simultaneously. Membership records covering the same period may be found in a different section on the same film or on a separate film. If you cannot find membership records for the time or place you need in the catalog, consider that the Church unit may have been part of another ward or branch at that time. Many Church units changed their names or ceased to exist. See the Historical Geography section to find out where these membership records might be found.
Other Membership Records
The Church shares its early history with the Community of Christ, a church formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). Regardless of their later religious affiliation, many early Saints are included in the early membership records of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Family History Library has many of these records on microfilm. You can look in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog for the place where an ancestor lived:
[STATE or PROVINCE], [COUNTY], [TOWN]— CHURCH RECORDS or under:
MISSOURI, JACKSON, INDEPENDENCE— CHURCH RECORDS
You could also look in the Author/Title Search under: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [Branch]. A few membership records are also found in the Subject Search of the catalog under:
REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS
For an inventory of the RLDS collection of membership records see: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Library- Archives.
- Indexes to Archival Holdings, 1830–1994. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1994. (On 8 Family History Library films beginning with film 1984484). This card index is alphabetical by locality. It lists the locality, dates covered, type of record, and series number.
Membership Records in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) Some listings in the Ordinance Index come from Church membership records.
- Early records will have one of the following batch numbers: 694----. If the batch number begins with the numbers 694, it refers to membership records from various areas outside the mountain states and several international areas. If more than one source film is listed, only look at the films for areas where your ancestor lived. Some women appear in the membership records under their married names, so look for women under their maiden and married names in the Ordinance Index, and on the membership records. Your ancestor may be on the film more than once, and each entry may contain different information.
- H------. If the batch number begins with H, it came from the Deceased Members File. This file includes all the information that appeared on his or her membership record when the person died. This includes the name of their last ward or branch, and may include the name of other wards or branches where the person also attended. For more information on the Deceased Members File see LDS Vital Records.
- Membership information is currently going onto the IGI when a member of the Church dies. It will say it is "LDS membership of a deceased person." but there will be no source information available for the record.
Indexes to Membership Records of a Specific Place The following indexes are for membership records of Utah, Wales, England, Italy, Samoa, or Scandinavia.
- Early Church Information File Early Church Information File. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1991. (Family History Library films 1750655–729) indexes Welsh membership records. Also included are a number of membership records from Utah and other places in the United States. It lists the member’s name, event date, event type (blessing, baptism, marriage, death, move-in, or move-out), branch, ward, stake, or mission name, and membership record microfilm number. For a list of the Utah wards indexed see the Early Church Information Resource Guide (34544).
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church Historian’s Office. Historians’ Office Record of Members: Known as the "Minnie Margett’s File." Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1963. (Family History Library films 415443–57). This file is also called The Membership Card Index and Minnie Margett’s Card Index. This is a large index of mostly English branch membership records (1839–1913). For a list of the English branch records see Family History Library film number 415443. Also see volume 2 of Jaussi and Chaston's Register... mentioned above under 'Finding Membership Records.'
This index is alphabetical by the name of the member. Search for women under their maiden and their married surnames. Each card provides a place for the member’s name, date and place of birth, parents’ names, date and place of baptism, by whom baptized, priesthood ordinations and by who ordained, name of ward or branch, conference, mission, remarks, and source reference (usually Book [H.O.]No., Page, and Line). Copy all the information on the index card.
Also search the original membership record for data not included on the card. You can locate the microfilm number of the original membership record in two ways: 1) Look up the name of the branch or ward in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog, or 2) Find the name of the British branch or conference in: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical Department. Maps Showing LDS Branches in the British Isles. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Department, 1965. (Family History Library book 289.3 Ea85; film 897403 item 6). This is arranged alphabetically by county and branch name. It shows maps, the branch or conference name, the dates covered, type of membership record, and the old film number and part number. The old film number is five digits, the part number is one or two digits. The FamilySearch Family History Library Catalog (compact disc edition) can convert the old number to a new film number. Go to the Film/Fiche Number Search and tap the letter C. Now type in the old film and part number. The search will then show you the current Familly History Library film number for the membership record. Once you are viewing the film of the original membership record, use the Book No. from the index card to find the H.O. or Liber or Libr. number on the film. Check the title pages in each section of the film to find the section with your H.O. or Liber number. Within this section of the film, turn to the page listed on the card and find the name of the Church member. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Samoan Mission. Membership Card File, Early to 1955. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. (Family History Library films 1088695–701). This is an alphabetical card index of bound volumes of Samoan membership records. The cards give birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. Film copies of the bound volumes are found the Locality Search of the Family History Library catalog under:
WESTERN SAMOA— CHURCH RECORDS AMERICAN SAMOA— CHURCH RECORDS
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Samoan Mission. Individual Membership Certificates, ca. 1955–1969. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. (Family History Library film 1088701 item 3, and 1088702). These copies of the actual card type membership records are arranged in several alphabetical sequences. They show name, parents, birth date, ordinance dates, and date and branch moved to.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Department. LDS Reference Unit. Scandinavian LDS Mission Index. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992. (Family History Library fiche 6060482 [set of 344]). A master index of members’ names in all membership records for Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland from early years to 1948. Also indexes emigration lists from Copenhagen. This may show a person's name, birth date, baptism date, death date, branch attended, and Family History Library film number.
Other Sources That May Identify a Member’s Church Unit
You need the name of the Church unit where an ancestor lived in order to find membership records. The following sources list the branch, ward, or stake where a member, individual, or family lived:
Patriarchal Blessing Index (1830’s–1963). This card index on microfilm gives the date, place, and the stake where the patriarchal blessing was given. See LDS Patriarchal Blessings for more information.
Missionary Record Index (1830–1971). This index gives the home ward and stake of each missionary. See LDS Missionaries for more information
- Church Census Records (1914–1960). These records name the ward or branch attended. From 1930 to 1960, the censuses may also give the previous ward that the family attended. See LDS Census for more information.
Deceased Members File (1941–present). The membership card gives the ward the person lived in at the time of death. It includes a space to list earlier wards where the person attended. For more information on the Deceased Members File see LDS Vital Records.
Membership Department. If the Church has proof of a member’s death in 1976 or later, the Membership Department will give out information shown on their deceased membership record. This includes data about birth, marriage, death, priesthood, baptism, endowment, and sealing information. Telephone 801-240-3500 for more information.
- Jubilee History of the Latter-day Saint Sunday Schools: 1849–1899. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1900. (Family History Library book 267.1893 J874; film 940031 item 2). This is a history of individual ward and branch Sunday Schools. More than 11,000 leaders are listed in this work. It shows their name, position, and ward.For a personal name index see: Index to the Jubilee History of the Latter-day Saints Sunday Schools. N.p., 1975. (Family History Library book 267.1893 J874 index; 908793 item 9.)
Substitutes for Membership Records
If membership records are incomplete or not available, you may want to use Sunday School records. Some areas had a Sunday School before a branch or ward was established. For Sunday School records, contact the Historical Department—Archive Search Room.
Finding a Current Church Member
The Church does not give out addresses of current members, nor does it forward sealed letters. However, if you need to contact a Church member, you can fill out a Member Contact form (33492). Fill in your name and address and the reason for the request. Give as much information as possible about the member’s name, birth date, birthplace, spouse, last known address, and other information. As you fill out the form you can request that the form be sent to the person’s next of kin if the person cannot be found. The Church will try to forward the form to the member. It is up to the member to decide whether or not to contact you. If the Church cannot find a current address, you will be notified. Do not use this form to notify persons of reunions.
Determining What Membership Records to Use
Make a time line of your ancestor’s life with emphasis on the time when he or she was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Using a family group record showing your ancestor as a child and as a parent, list birth dates and places for your ancestor, siblings and children. Include the dates and places of all other events that you know, or find them by using the sources mentioned in FamilySearch Wiki articles. Check for membership records in each place listed on your time line. As you use the membership records, add to the time line any additional dates and places you find.
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