Life After the IGI
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a computer file published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It contains several hundred million entries, each recording one event, such as a birth, baptism (christening), marriage, or death.
Elizabeth L. Nichols (retired FamilySearch employee and IGI expert) wrote that an entry 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 [The 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.”
Nichols said that the International Genealogical Index was
“Created and published primarily to assist members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to identify their ancestors and other relatives for the purposes of verifying whether temple ordinances have already been completed.”
The IGI is an index of temple ordinances rather than an index of genealogical records. The Church used the file to avoid duplicating temple ordinances. Ideally, ordinances were performed once for each person who has ever lived and once for each marriage.
Over time the value of the file to the general public was recognized, and the fourth edition, published in 1981, was the first to be called the International Genealogical Index. It contained 81 million names. In 1984, the IGI was offered for sale to the public.
Make It Do or Do Without
While the IGI is useful as a genealogical tool, it wasn’t designed as such and contains some rather severe shortcomings.
Because it was designed as a tool to prevent duplication, “extracted records…that were duplicates of patron-submitted entries [were] not added to the IGI,” wrote Nichols. “If an entry was already in the file through another source, the duplicate entry from the extraction program was not added.”
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.
Someone realized that the batch number could be used as a substitute for 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, to search in Shustoke, Warwick, England, look up the batch numbers. One is C022862. Return to the IGI, enter the region and batch number, and perform the search.
If you can’t identify the batch number, you can’t search the location.
Extracted records are useful to genealogists as indexes to evidentiary information.
Member submissions are useful to genealogists when treated as conclusions that must be verified.
Because it was not designed as a genealogist’s tool, the IGI did not use a conclusion tree to store and present genealogical conclusions.
Because it was not designed as a tool for genealogists, the IGI mixed conclusions and evidence together. I cringe to think of the number of people that use the IGI as if every entry was trustworthy.
Once again, the batch number provided a workaround. Check the first letter of the batch number to distinguish an extracted entry from a member submission.
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 workaround. Use the batch number to determine if more information is available on microfilm. Submission entry forms from 1970-1990 required a source. No information was retained from submissions after 1990. Submissions before 1970 don’t specify sources but might include first-hand information.
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.
Designed for Genealogists
Now, almost 40 years later, FamilySearch is replacing the IGI with tools designed for genealogists.
Member submissions—which are conclusionary information—have been moved to the place where genealogical conclusions should be kept: the new FamilySearch conclusion tree. Some of you don’t have access to the tree. Be patient. It is coming. Until then, ask family history center staff to perform searches for you.
In instances where submitters are still active genealogists, they have “claimed” their submissions and made their current contact information available. Otherwise, you must still resort to utilizing batch numbers. Regardless, a tree is a much better place to store genealogical conclusions.
Data extracted from parish and vital records has been published as historical record collections on FamilySearch.org. There is no need to check the batch number to distinguish extracted data from member submissions. There is no need to use the batch number as a substitute for a citation. Locations can be specified by name rather than by batch number.
Historical Records Search
Use these tips to search IGI data in historical record collections. These instructions reflect the FamilySearch website at the time this syllabus was submitted. Search for this syllabus in the FamilySearch Wiki for the most current instructions.
- To make searching the new website act like searching the old website, use Exact Search. Click Advanced Search, and then mark the checkbox Match all terms exactly. It may be necessary to recheck the box each time you begin a new search.
- Instead of looking up a batch number, search using the name of the parish, town, or city.
- Click the FamilySearch logo to begin a new search.
- Filter the results to desired record types.
- Use a question mark (?) to match any character. For example, Po?ter will match both Porter and Potter.
- Use an asterisk (*) to match any number of characters. For example, Qu*t will match Quint, Quillert, and several other names. The question mark and asterisk are called “wildcards.”
- Set Event to Birth for births and christenings and Death for deaths and burials.
- It is hard to see, but a count of the number of results is shown above the results.
- Use Browse by Location to select a collection for an individual state or country.
These instructions reflect the FamilySearch website at the time this syllabus was submitted. Search for this syllabus in the FamilySearch Wiki for the most current instructions.
The IGI, a great resource with several limitations, has been replaced with genealogically sound tools. Member submissions can be searched in the new Family Tree (temporarily found at http://new.familysearch.org). Extracted information can be searched in the historical record collections of http://www.familysearch.org.