Sunday, June 5, 2016
The Earliest LDS Church Records
Many of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have ancestors who came through Utah after joining the Church elsewhere. Although the Church population as a whole has shifted from the United States to countries outside of the United States, (See Facts and Statistics from the LDS.org Newsroom). Additionally, by the way, again according to the Newsroom, there are 4,918 Family History Centers Worldwide.
From time to time, I am asked questions that must be resolved from early Church records. Many of these records are available on microfilm, a few are published in books and some are available only in restricted collections at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The main repository for early Church records is the The Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2015, I wrote a brief post on Researching Early LDS Records, but I thought it a good idea to update and expand on that post. I have found that several of my own ancestors are mentioned in the historical records of the Church.
Although, in the past, many of the earliest records of the Church were inaccessible, there has been a concerted effort for many years now to make them more available. Many of the Church's documents, journals, administrative records, revelations and translations, histories, legal, business and financial records are now online and freely available on The Joseph Smith Papers website. Many other digitized documents are available on The Church History Library website.
The place to start your research is the Church History Catalog.
For example, a search on my surname, "Tanner," showed 2,075 results. Subsequent searches on specific ancestors showed books, manuscripts and collections of papers.
Other places to search include the FamilySearch.org Catalog and the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki. Some of the notable records include the Early Church Information File, LDS Membership Records, and LDS Patriarchal Blessings.