An often overlooked part of the FamilySearch.org website is the Search Genealogies section. This section is found under the Search Tab on the website's startup page. Here is a screenshot of the dropdown menu:
These resources have been separated from the Historical Record Collections because they are "compiled or contributed" records. If you have been using the FamilySearch.org Family Tree for a while, you may have seen a source added by FamilySearch that references the IGI. For many years, the IGI was considered to be one of the most valuable resources and finding aids for doing research in England. To understand its present value and use, it is imperative to also understand its origin.
My summary here of the history of the International Genealogical Index is based on the following book:
Allen, James B, Jessie L Embry, and Kahlile B Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.
The IGI has its origins in the attempts made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to record the ordinances performed in their temples. See Gospel Topics: Temples. One of the difficulties encountered in the process of recording these ordinances was the persistent issue of duplication. As early as 1894, the Church recognized the need to keep adequate records and also recognized that there was a problem with ordinances being duplicated in different temples, mostly because of the difficulties involved in communication during these early years. Members living in different geographic areas were doing the same research and submitting the same names to the temples due to this inability to communicate easily or at all.
In 1927 the Church began a centralized index of the temple ordinances performed in the temples, which was ultimately called the Temple Index Bureau or TIB. This index was kept on 3" x 5" cards in file drawers like an old library catalog. There is no real need to review the details of the evolution of the various programs and records created to record the temple ordinances and to avoid duplication. Suffice it to say, that over the years, the problem of detecting and resolving duplicate submissions remained as one of the most perplexing challenges in the record keeping process.
With the advent of computers, the Church began to look at ways to computerize the vast amount of information that had been accumulated. In 1961, the First Presidency of the Church approved using electronic records processing for the first time and by 1962 the move to computerize the records was underway. The task of computerizing the TIB was too overwhelming to consider at that time but at the same time, the Church began the process of extracting names from original, microfilmed records. The original program was called the Records Tabulation program (R-Tab). Although records from other locations were included, most of the records were extracted from British parish registers.
In 1969, the Chuch introduced a comprehensive computer system called GIANT. The program included the records in the Record Tabulation program as well as names manually submitted by the members. Eventually, the master file from the GIANT system was output to microfiche. This huge microfiche-based list was at first called the Computer File Index or CFI. Later compilations from the GIANT system on microfiche, the fourth edition, were called the International Genealogical Index or IGI.
The IGI continued to grow. In 1975 the IGI contained 34 million names. In 1981 the IGI had grown to 81 million names. By 1984 it had 147 million names and in 1992 the total had increased to 187 million names. Because of its focus on British records, it became the most valuable index of British records in existence. In 1988, some of the records were put on CDs and sold to the public. By 1993, the IGI was possibly the largest name indexed record in existence in the entire world.
Quoting from the book Hearts Turned to the Fathers cited previously on pages 318 - 319, by 1992 the IGI contained the following classes of records:
The 1992 edition of the IGI on microfiche was totally new product including 187 million names, not only from the Mass File in GIANT (162.5 million) but also from other ordinance files: pre-1970 temple records created by the Family Record Extraction Program (17.5 million), records from the Family Entry System (4.5 million) and Completed Ordinance File records created by the Ordinance Recording System (2.5 million).When new.FamilySearch.org was created prior to its staged introduction across the Church, the developers included the IGI as part of the records included in the program. This same huge database was then carried over to the currently used FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. Some users of the Family Tree will see source references to the IGI in their source listings for ancestors in the Family Tree.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this post.