Getting Started with Family History
February 1997

“Getting Started with Family History,” Ensign, Feb. 1997, 66–67

Getting Started with Family History

Whether you are a convert to the Church or descend from Latter-day Saint pioneer families, fulfilling your desire to do temple work for your own ancestors begins by taking the same steps. Following are the results of an actual search made by a Latter-day Saint whom we will call Brother Jones. A descendant of an early LDS pioneer family, Brother Jones felt sure that the temple ordinances had already been performed for most of his ancestors, but he wanted to be sure.

First, he prayed for the Lord to guide him. Then he reviewed his own family history records. As he read a history of the Grants, he came across the fact that the eldest son, Joseph, had never joined the Church. Joseph moved to Michigan, where he died in 1858. Brother Jones wanted to learn more about this “Uncle Joseph” and wondered if his temple work was complete.

Brother Jones then contacted relatives to see if they knew anything about Joseph’s family. No one did, so he visited the FamilySearch® center nearest him, which was in his stake center. He had read about FamilySearch in A Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work (item no. 34697) and in the Ensign (see, for example, “Everyone’s Blessing,” Dec. 1994, 19–20). He knew that FamilySearch was a set of computer programs and files created by the Church to help members and others with their family history. He also knew that his ward family history consultant or a volunteer at the family history center could help him use it.

Once at the family history center, Brother Jones discovered that Ancestral File™—a part of FamilySearch—was the best place to begin his search. Ancestral File contains nearly 30 million names of persons linked into families and pedigrees. Their names and dates and places of birth, marriage, and death information have been submitted by their descendants and other relatives. The name and address of each submitter is also listed. Often LDS ordinance dates are listed, but the official index of LDS ordinance dates is found in the International Genealogical Index® (IGI).

All Brother Jones had to do to access this information was press a key on the computer keyboard, and when the inquiry screen came up, he typed in the name of Joseph Grant. He also added Joseph’s birth year, 1805, to help narrow the search. In just a few seconds, Ancestral File displayed the record of Joseph with his parents, brothers and sisters, and other Grant ancestors. Brother Jones was thrilled. This record showed that Joseph Grant’s temple work had been completed for his baptism, endowment, and sealing to parents in 1899 and 1901. But there was no listing of Joseph’s wife and children, so Brother Jones knew that he would have to look further.

Brother Jones had achieved his goal by following these important steps:

  1. He prayed for guidance.

  2. He reviewed his own family records.

  3. He consulted with known relatives.

  4. He searched Ancestral File, a part of FamilySearch.

As a result, Brother Jones felt closer to his ancestors and found the truth expressed by Elder Boyd K. Packer in The Holy Temple: “When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names. … Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers” ([1980], 240).

Brother Jones was now ready to move on to the next step—searching the IGI.—Elizabeth L. Nichols, Salt Lake City, Utah

Illustrated by Scott Greer

Photography by John Luke, Michael Schoenfeld, and Welden Andersen