Monday, January 27, 2014
Comments on Researching Your Mormon Ancestors
In a recent blog post, Amy Thiriot, my very talented and competent daughter, posted a concise and useful summary about "Researching Your Mormon Ancestors." I have a number of comments on the post to add a little of my own perspective to the process of researching Mormon records.
Amy initially divides the process into two main methods: purely genealogical research and going on a grand adventure. I would think a little bit more perspective might also help. How you approach the process of investigating your family history changes dramatically depending on the time when your ancestors joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you have ancestors going back to the 1800s, it is very likely that you have inherited a substantial amount of "genealogy" whether you are aware of it or not. It is also equally as possible that no recent research has been done on many of your family lines. It is also equally as possible that some of your ancestors appear in the historical record of the migration of your family from Europe or from the Eastern part of the United States. Many of the places where you can find this historical information about your family are listed by Amy in her blog post reference above.
The very first step you should take in examining your Mormon family roots is to register and sign on to FamilySearch.org and examine what is available in the Family Tree program. An almost uniform reaction by current members of the Church to what is there is that their "genealogy is all done." This is absolutely and categorically wrong in every single case. I have said this many time before, both while teaching classes and in print, if you give me 15 minutes with your family as recorded in Family Tree, I can show you how many places where there is information lacking and research needs to be done. In fact, when I started saying this I did this by examining the tree and looking for inconsistencies which I always found. Now, we all have marvelous tools that allow us to examine our Family Tree and graphically see the missing ancestors.
Above is a screenshot of the FamilySearch certified program Puzzilla.org. This tools gives us a graphic representation of the descendants of any one of our ancestors recorded in the Family Tree program and shows by the lack of descendants, exactly where our ancestral family members are missing from the data in the program. Once we have an idea of where we can go with our research, we can use the resources suggested by Amy to continue our research. Be sure and watch the Puzzilla.com videos to see how this tool will overcome your impression that "all the work has been done."