“Genealogy’s New Ancestral File,” Ensign, Apr. 1981, 76–77
The following questions and answers were presented at a seminar for Genealogical Department employees 19 November 1980. Answers were given by Elder Royden G. Derrick, of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Genealogical Department, and George H. Fudge, Managing Director of Operations.
1. What is the ancestral file?
Answer: It is a genealogical file which will be accessible to members of the Church and which is designed to help Church members avoid duplication of research effort. It will include submissions beginning 1 July 1979 of the four-generation records (which now include pedigree charts as well as family group records) and any pedigree charts and group sheets resulting from research done beyond the four generations.
Since each family is responsible for their own genealogical research, there has been much duplication of research effort. As the Church grows throughout the world, duplication could increase even more. By using the ancestral file, an individual may find a starting point in his research. The file would give him information on his ancestral lines. He would then extend his pedigree instead of duplicating work that has already been done. We’ll probably never eliminate duplication, but we can reduce it.
2. If people submitted their four-generation records before, why should they submit them again?
Answer: We need to improve the accuracy of the records that were previously submitted, minimize duplication of submissions to the file, and obtain pedigree charts, which were not previously required.
3. Will the ancestral file ever be closed to receiving new material?
Answer: No. We set a target date of 1 July 1981 for members to submit their four-generation records. That was not intended as a cutoff date after which no one else would be able to submit data. Obviously, as people come into the Church they will want to participate in the program. After 1 July 1981 we will be calling for family group records and pedigree charts beyond four generations.
4. How is the four-generation program related to the ancestral file?
Answer: The four-generation program is the first phase of the ancestral file. It is easier for people to work first on their four most recent generations. As those sheets are corrected and reviewed by the family for accuracy, they should be submitted, together with a pedigree chart, to the ancestral file. As indicated, the target date for this phase is 1 July 1981.
The second phase is to go beyond the four generations. The four-generation records span the period of approximately one hundred years that is covered by the laws of privacy. Thus we get a continual record from the present back four generations, and then beyond that with extended research.
5. If I can take my lines back only three generations, should I hold my records until I can complete four generations, or should I send in what I have by 1 July 1981?
Answer: If you are not able to extend a line by July 1981, submit what you have. If at some future date you are successful in extending the line, you could then submit the additional information.
6. Will this material that I send in later be put with the material I previously sent in?
Answer: Yes. You will be able to submit any additional research that you do, whether it is on your four generations or beyond.
7. What are the standards for accuracy in the ancestral file? Do we have to get certificates for every date? How much should we document our records?
Answer: If the ancestral file is to be a useful tool, we would like it to be as accurate as feasible. However, we have to be careful that we’re not imposing a burden on the members of the Church. We’re not asking them to redo all of the research that has previously been done by others.
But sometimes as families meet together to determine whether or not their genealogy is accurate, they will not agree on some points of genealogical data. When that occurs, then obviously it is necessary to try to prove which is correct. Many times this might mean going back to the original source or obtaining a certificate or some other record to determine what is correct.
It is expensive to document every item on a pedigree chart or family group sheet. For example, in England today it would cost $19.00 just to get one birth certificate. Obviously families have to use good judgment as they look over their pedigrees and try to make them accurate. Document the information, but do it within reason. Just feel good about what you submit. That’s all we ask.
8. We’ve found that some of the dates the family agrees upon are incorrect. In fact, almost every sheet that is submitted has some incorrect information on it. So a certain amount of verification is necessary even if all of the records agree with each other. Right?
Answer: Yes, if the record is readily available. But if the original documents from which that information was obtained are somewhere in Sweden or Germany and the family lives in the United States, it isn’t necessary to hire someone to verify each item. Keep in mind that the ancestral file is designed to be an aid for people doing their research in the future. If the ancestral file can show what has been done, and if it’s as accurate as the individual or family who submitted could make it, the file will be very useful. If I were tying into a pedigree myself, I would still want to verify details with which I didn’t agree.
9. What provision will be made at Church headquarters to make sure that the records are accurate?
Answer: The Genealogical Department will not do any checking. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the data. That is the members’ and the families’ responsibility. If a family feels good about the accuracy of their records and there is no controversy among themselves as to data, they should submit it. When families send in their records, we assume that they have come to the conclusion that they are reasonably accurate.
10. Will provisions be made to make corrections after we’ve submitted the records?
11. Will temple ordinances be performed from the records submitted to the ancestral file?
Answer: No. To have temple ordinances performed, you submit names on the proper entry forms.
12. How many group record forms are included in the four-generation project?
Answer: The four-generation records consist of seven family group sheets plus the pedigree chart—a total of eight sheets.
13. There is some confusion in my family about who should submit the four-generation records. Should I do it because I’m young, married, and have young children? Or should my parents because most of their children are grown and married and have young families?
Answer: Your family can determine which group of adult family members should do the submitting. If your parents were to submit the records, their brothers and sisters—your aunts and uncles—would not need to do so. If you submit them, your brothers and sisters would not need to do so. You do the selecting.
Since only one set of your records is needed for the ancestral file, select one family member to submit a copy of the eight four-generation sheets on behalf of your family. Each family member can then inform his priesthood leader that his records have been submitted.
It’s not intended that children and grandchildren of the adults who submit the records submit their four generations. They should have a copy in their own books of remembrance. We would certainly advocate that. But if I were to submit my four-generation sheets with myself as number one on the pedigree chart, I would not encourage my children or my grandchildren to do this too. That would be needless repetition. Their data is on their own individual membership record, which is also a genealogical record.
14. Are we supposed to submit the four-generation records through ward and stake priesthood leaders?
Answer: No. Submit them directly to the Genealogical Department, Ancestral File, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
15. Can nonmembers submit records to the ancestral file?
Answer: Yes. We’d be delighted to have them. However, we encourage them to use the same forms that we use.