One reason for understanding and using early Church records is that they can give additional information missing from current records. I am sure that there are also many other reasons I have not thought about. In any event, since I am serving here in the Brigham Young University Family History Library and had a little bit of time to look around at the book collections, I went ahead and wrote this post.
My initial interest in this topic came about when I found a reference to Susan Easton Black's 50 volume set of books on the early Church members. This is the citation for the set:
Black, Susan Easton. Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1830-1848. Provo, Utah: Religious Study Center, Dept. of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1989.
Susan Easton Black and associates researched LDS historical resources and compiled a 50-volume set of information on early members of the church. It is a good beginning point to identify available information and sources for an early LDS ancestor. It is available in hard copy in the Family History Library and Brigham Young University collections and available on microfiche - FHL US/CAN Fiche 6031596. The publication is also available at World Vital Records, a subscription-based website. To access the online format:I found the set of books on the shelf and took a photo.
I also came to the realization that the World Vital Records copies of these records were being searched by MyHeritage.com for those who have entered a family tree in that program. The Record Match and Record Detective programs from MyHeritage.com have been automatically searching the Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830 - 1848 and I guess that I did not realize that this was the set of books authored by Susan Easton Black. These books are extensively sourced. But you need to look at the individual entries in the book to see all the original sources. I also realized that I had copied entries for various of my ancestors from these books when I went to the Land and Records Office at Nauvoo, Illinois. Here are some screenshots of some of the records I got from the Land and Records Office as an example of what is in the books:
Here are the links to pages I found useful in the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki:
- Early Church Membership Records by Susan Easton Black
- Early Church Information File (ECIF)
- Guide to Mormon diaries and autobiographies
- Nauvoo Temple endowment register : 10 December 1845 to 8 February 1846
- Journal History of the LDS Church See also LDS Journal History Guide
That is enough of a sample. You can find out a lot from the resources linked in the Research Wiki. You can also find out a lot by poking around in the BYU Library. You can find out even more by helping patrons at the Library.