Using the International Genealogical Index (IGI)

I consider the International Genealogical Index (IGI) to be a first step that likely points to the best direction for your research. For the best success, you need a person's full name, a reliable location for the person, and a reasonable date for the person's birth, death, or marriage.

The IGI, as its website says, is "a family history database that lists several hundred million names of deceased persons from throughout the world. Names in the IGI came from 1) community contributed information submitted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and 2) community indexed records from the early 1500s to 1885."
  • The "community contributed information" comes from members of the LDS who believe they have found ancestors who are part of their family. The LDS belief system says that these ancestors can be baptized into the LDS posthumously, if a family link is established. Some members are superb genealogists; relatively more may make rash assumptions and produce faulty genealogical study.
  • The "community indexed records" comes from contributors (not only LDS members) who reviewed original sources, extracted names and dates, and submitted the information for compilation into an index. The LDS maintains microfilms of the original sources in its Historical Records system, which is cataloged in the Family History Library's Published Collection.

Note that much extraction focused on only a part of a source. For example, the extracted information from the Wasserliesch parish registers consists of baptisms from 1779 to 1797—only 18 years, though one of the microfilmed Wasserliesch registers covers 1752 to 1797—a total of 45 years. The citation recommended for a search that results in information from the extracted Wasserliesch data suggests the source name "Deutschland, Geburten und Taufen 1558-1898."

Note also that the IGI results depend on very skilled review, name extraction, and compilation into the index. Any errors in transcription may result in missing a name that has been misspelled.

Finally, note that the absence of an expected result means little more than the indexing or record selection of the IGI can never hope to be complete.

I'll continue to add to this post, giving examples of where I found successful results and where the expected results were absent.

Success: Corroborating Kohn Ancestors

One primary area of research has been my patrilineal ancestors. I know my great grandfather emigrated from Wasserliesch, Kreis Trier-Land, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. I also know that the parish registers exist from about 1750 to the present, and that the LDS has microfilmed the registers from 1750 to 1899. The Community Indexed Records include baptisms and marriages over an 18-year span.

First I searched on the family name for a baptism. One name was the result: Joannes Kohn (result page at the right).

The name "Joannes" is the Latin form of Johann. The registers for the Roman Catholic parish of St. Aper are handwritten in Latin throughout.

Johann was baptized (christening is the term LDS uses) on October 28, 1780. The record also identifies the record (in German) as Catholic, in Wasserliesch, Rheinland (the contemporary name of the Bundesland that is today Rheinland-Pfalz), and Prussia (the name of a part of Germany that existed in various forms from 1451 to 1947—this town was not ruled by Prussia until about 1871).

Though a birth date is given, my experience with the parish register leads me to distrust IGI entries for this information. Typically only a good knowledge of Latin—and the original source text—allow you to understand whether the baptism occurred on the birth date.

The names of the father and mother are very important. Though both are linked entries, they return you to the same IGI record. However, the names can become important as you research the original source. There, you can find several other children that haven't been included in the IGI index.

The Batch Number is also important, as it can supply the names of about 300 other baptisms in the same span of 18 years.

The GS Film Number provides a catalog number for the microfilm that was indexed.

© Thomas G. Kohn, 2013.