How to Use and Cite Ancestral File and The International Genealogical Index

How to Use and Cite Ancestral File and The International Genealogical Index thumbnail
Use and Cite Ancestral File and The International Genealogical Index

"Ancestral File" and "The International Genealogical Index" are, probably, the most widely used genealogical reference sources. Unfortunately, they are also two of the most common sources of erroneous information. Both are products of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are widely used by church members and non-members alike. So many researchers use these sources that any errors (and there are a great many) get propagated far and wide. Other resources, like Ancestry World Tree, family history books, family web sites, and individual researchers' files often include incorrect data from AF and IGI without citing them as the source. So, how can we make use of these databases while minimizing the chance of spreading the errors? We can be choosy about the data we use from them and, we can warn our readers of the imprecise nature of these sources.

Things You'll Need

  • A computer with Internet access
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Instructions

    • 1

      "Ancestral File" is the less reliable of the two databases. All the information in AF has been donated by individuals and consolidated into a single database. While the names and address of the submitters is included, and there is no good way to determine the original source that those submitters used. Any information you find in Ancestral File should be considered as only a possibility that must be verified by other, more reliable, sources. If used that way, AF is a valuable source of leads for further research.

    • 2

      If you do cite Ancestral File, be sure to qualify the source by adding a caution to the citation. I word mine like this example:

      Jonathan HOLCOMB (AFN: 45L1-DJ) ; Ancestral File, v4.19 , The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 1999-2003), http://www.familysearch.com, accessed 11 December 2003. CAUTION - Information in Ancestral File should be considered a clue only. Whenever possible, information should be verified with other sources.

    • 3

      "The International Genealogical Index" can be a more reliable source depending on where the information came from. The big advantage we have with this database is that the original source of data is, usually, given. Unfortunately, most of them will reference lists like sealings for the dead, baptisms for the dead, etc. These are records provided by individuals and are no more reliable than the records in Ancestral File. To find the quality data, look for sources that reference actual birth, marriage or death records from the states, counties or towns named. Then, if possible, consult the original records to verify the data was transcribed correctly. Most of these records can be found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or through your local Family History Center. If you can't not view the original source for yourself, at least record it in your citation.

    • 4

      If no definite source is given, you should qualify any citation to IGI just like in the Ancestral File example above. If you are lucky enough to find a source that looks reliable, the citation should include a reference to it like this:

      Mace R. Clough entry; FHL Film Number M503786; International Genealogical Index (IGI), v5.0 , The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 1999-2003), http://www.familysearch.com, accessed 20 March, 2006, original source of data: Item 1 Records of marriages and marriage intentions, 1814-1910; index to marriages, 1748-1912 Portland (Maine). City Clerk Item 2 Records of intentions of marriage, 1837-1891; index of intentions of marriage, 1733-1886 Portland (Maine). City Clerk.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't let the reliability issues with Ancestral File and The International Genealogical Index keep you from consulting them. Just remember that what you find there is not proof. Look at the as collections of clues to guide you to the names, places and records that deserve further research. The LDS church has provided us with valuable tools. It is up to us to use them correctly.

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