The Genesis of Genealogy “Why do they do what they do?” A historical narrative about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ interest in Family History
The what informs, the why transforms.
In the beginning . . . • And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone… - Genesis 2:18 • The begats - Genesis 5, Genesis 11
To turn the hearts • Closing of the Old Testament with Malachi’s promise of Elijah’s coming to turn the hearts. One of several prophets that spoke about a “book of remembrance” which kept records of the generations of Adam and Eve’s children.
New Testament • Genealogy of Mary and Joseph - Matthew 1, Luke 3
Middle ages • Generally, the records were kept to determine who got power, authority, and property. If you can tie a line into a royal line of any country, you will have many generations already done for you.
So where do the Latter-day Saints come into the picture? • And why are they so closely associated with this work?
To turn the hearts • One of the first messages given to Joseph Smith was the reiteration of Malachi’s promise concerning the coming of Elijahto turn the hearts – Sept. 21, 1893
Fulfillment of prophecy • We believe Elijah returned to earth to deliver sacred authority on April 3, 1836, in a temple in Kirtland, Ohio. • Only three years later, microfilm was invented.
Families are eternal • In the early and mid-1830s, Joseph received several revelations regarding the eternal nature of the family. At a funeral sermon for Seymour Brunson on 15 August 1840, the doctrine of baptism for the dead was first preached publicly.
Temple work • The scriptures teach that baptism is an essential ordinance. • We believe that the doctrine of proxy work in behalf of those who are deceased was revealed so that all could have an opportunity to progress.
Free agency • However, we also believe that this work performed in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is done only as a gift offered to our ancestors. They are still free to accept or reject these ordinances.
The what & how • In order to provide these ordinances, our ancestors have to be identified individually. The Church began collecting copies of records. • The Genealogical Society of Utah was established in 1894.
Collect & preserve • The Family History Library was an outgrowth of the Society’s efforts to collect and preserve genealogically significant documents.
Collect & preserve • The first Family History Library was located in the office of the Church Historian at 58 East South Temple in Salt Lake City until 1917.
Collect & preserve • For a time, the records were housed in the lower floors of the Salt Lake Temple.
Collect & preserve • They were later moved to the old ZCMI building in downtown Salt Lake.
Collect & preserve • They moved them to the Church Office Building at 50 East North Temple after its construction in 1971. The Library occupied part of three floors in this building, but soon outgrew it as well.
make available • Current Family History Library at 35 East North Temple opened its doors on October 23, 1985. It has five floors (142,000 square feet) devoted completely to the preservation of family history documents and making them freely available to the public.
Collect & preserve • Microfilming of genealogical records began in 1938. The collection now includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records.
Collect & preserve • The Granite Mountain Records Vault completed in 1963 as a secure, long-term repository for the records.
Collect & preserve • In 1965, the Church asked its members to research and prepare documentation for four generations of their ancestors. Data collected from this program provided a large portion of the foundation of the Ancestral File.
Collect & preserve • Records of temple ordinances performed were initially recorded in the Temple Records Index Bureau which covered the years1846 to1969. In 1969, the International Genealogical Index (IGI) was commenced and recorded temple work done for deceased persons and initially made available to researchers on microfiche.
Make available • Branch libraries, known as Family History Centers, began to open and now total 46,000 in more than 18 countries throughout the world. The FHC in Charlottesville opened in 1970.
Make available • Personal Ancestral File (PAF), a computerized genealogy program, was launched in 1984, thanks to the work of several computer programmers who donated their work to the Church.
Make available • Digital imaging of records commenced in 1998. • In May 1999 the newly created Internet website www.familysearch.org went online. It almost immediately crashed due to an overload of eager viewers. This site made available many of the earlier databases such as Ancestral File and the IGI.
Make available • Development of a new database was begun in 2001. This new resource, new.familysearch.org, attempted to form individual entries into a family tree format. • Learning their lesson, the Church has been rolling out this site out gradually to its members in order to address the problems. Will eventually roll to general public.
Make available • Worldwide Extraction/Indexing Project - a project that aims to create searchable digital indexes for scanned images of historical documents. • Available to be done online in one’s home. • Millions of volunteers.
Summary • The promotion of genealogy and family history is a vital part of the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of dollars along with millions of hours of volunteer time have been expended in its support. The Church’s goal is to make all records more easily available in order to promote an increasingly greater knowledge of the history of the human family.
Summary • The Church’s goal is to make all records more easily available in order to promote an increasingly greater knowledge of the history of the human family.