Ryan Taylor Better searching in the improved IGI
Improved IGI


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By Ryan Taylor

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has announced significant changes to the International Genealogical Index.

The IGI, as it is more familiary known, is a worldwide index of birth and marriage information which contains tens of millions of entries.

The new issue, which replaces the last one made in January 2000, has enhanced search capabilities. Some individuals are linked with families, and the family groupings can be displayed on pedigree charts. The people affected are new entries, so there are relatively few at the moment, but as they add more, there will be more links also.

To provide more information and thus improve the chances of finding the right person among the thousands of possibilities, all events on the original submissions will now be visible in the display and are searchable.

The display for each event includes spaces for the full panoply of genealogical dates (birth, marriage, death, burial) on one screen, so that as links are made to various facts, they are all visible at once.

Best of all, the complex searches using given names and places which made the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ indexes of the 1881 Canadian census, the 1881 British census and other American census’ so profitable to use have been added to the IGI. The LDS website states, "The processes used to find individuals in spite of spelling and other differences in the name have also been improved."

In adding the new names to the IGI, the Family History Library has also said that more information will be added as it is received. This affects the online version. Some places have the IGI on compact disc, but there are no plans to issue a new edition on CD.

The early forms of the IGI contained many individuals’ contributions about their own families. Later, most entries were from official records. People who wanted to contribute their own charts did so to the Ancestry File, which is also available online.

Many of the individuals’ contributions were untrustworthy. However, they might lead to records which could be useful. Many people have pointed out that the IGI contains many dubious entries and errors, but this is hardly surprising considering the millions of pieces of data represented. Many thousands of people have been responsible for the work of extracting the official records and inputting the data to make it available online.

It is better to look at the index in a positive way, as a source to lead us to material which might remain hidden otherwise. For example, someone looking for an ancestor in Lancashire, England born about 1800, but who did not know the exact place, is faced with a daunting task. There are so many parishes in Lancashire and most of the records are unpublished.

The IGI makes it possible to search in many parishes at once, and if a likely candidate is found, to zero in on a single parish’s registers to determine if this is the right answer.

As with any index, the information in the IGI should not be regarded as proof, but as a guide. This is especially important in a truncated computer index such as this. There may be other information in the baptismal or marriage entry which does not appear online.

Aside from everything else, the IGI is a great deal of fun, and having it available online means we can sit down at our home computer and idly search through many records looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. We should all be very grateful to the LDS for making such a resource available at no cost to us.

The IGI, Ancestry File and other Family History Library materials can be found at www.familysearch.org.

Column copyright © 2002 Ryan Taylor

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