Thursday, November 8, 2012

The International Genealogical Index (IGI)

The Family History Library's International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a valuable tool that many beginning researchers don't even know about.

The IGI is in two parts and you need to understand the difference. The first part is the Community Indexed IGI (vital and church records from the early 1500s to 1885). Volunteers indexed actual documents from microfilm for this index. Here is an example:

I found this entry:
John C. Entrekin married Mary F. Bethhauser on 15 Jul 1874 in Ross County, Ohio. Click on the link to see the entry.

When you look at the page, you can see that this marriage record was taken taken from FHL microfilm #0281641 V. I-K. If you go to the FanilySearch Card Catalog and plug in the film number 0281641 (leave off the V. I-K) you will see the details of the microfilm. Make sure you change the drop down box to Film Numbers. You will now see that the series is Marriage Records, 1798-1951, Ohio Probate Court. Scroll down a bit and you will see the correct microfilm which is v. I-K, 1865-1875. Normally if you find a record like this in the Community Indexed IGI, you then need to order the microfilm and look at the actual marriage license/certificate yourself and then use that as your source. However, in this case you are quite lucky. There is a link that says, "Ohio County Marriages are available online, click here." Now search for this record again. Surprise! The actual image is available HERE (last entry on the page). You have to be signed into FamilySearch to see this record.

When you see the record you should realize that this is an abstract book that Ross county put together well after the events occurred. If you are a good researcher, you would now contact Ross County and try and get the original marriage license/certificate. If they say the original records are lost/destroyed then you can use the abstract book as your source. It was put together by the county clerk of Ross County and was taken from the original records. I browsed the book to see if they had written the date the records were abstracted but there wasn't anything. Only a small portion of the these records are online. Usually you will have to order the microfilm (click on the microfilm number and you will see the process). More and more records are coming online every day through the efforts of all of the volunteer FamilySearch Indexers.

The 2nd part is the Community Contributed IGI (personal family information submitted to the LDS church). This portion of the IGI is very different. It is a collection of Patron Ordinance Submission Sheets submitted between 1969 and 1991. If you get a hit here, you will need to go through the same process and order the microfilm. None of these records are online. The difference is that these are not official documents but rather fill-in-the blank forms containing family information. Sometimes (certainly not always) the submitter would put WHERE he/she got his information (source) and that is why you need to actually see the sheet.

Here is the marriage of Calvin Lewis and Emily Miles, 11 Nov 1847 in Wilkes County, GA. This couple is actually in my personal file. So where did this information come from? The only way to know is to get the patron submission sheet. I received the sheet today thanks to Rootsonomy. In this case it wasn't that helpful.

The patron submitted the sheet in 1986. She stated the source of her information was "Marriage Records of Wilks [sic] CO, GA." I am sure you know by now this isn't a proper citation and it makes it difficult for me to find the record. I have searched the Wilkes County marriage books and I haven't been able to find this marriage. What is interesting is Calvin was from Columbia County as was Emily. It is a bit odd for them to have gone to Wilkes to get married but not impossible since Wilkes is the next county north. I checked the Columbia County marriage books (digital images of microfilm) and that was negative too. I tried to track down the submitter but I had no luck there. If she is still living, she doesn't live at the address listed on the sheet. So now I have an exact date for a marriage but no good source to go with it.

I have had successes with Patron Ordinance Submission sheets though. Here is the entry for the marriage of Carlos Evan Lee and Eliza Lee in Perry County, MS on 31 May 1948. I requested this marriage record from Perry County and they denied having one. That didn't surprise me though because they have had a lot of records losses through the years. The records are stored in a basement that gets flooded from time to time (don't get me started about that). So where did this marriage date come from? I requested a copy of the Patron Ordinance Submission Sheet and this time I got a nice surprise.

The patron submitted this information in 1981. Her source was "Leonard Slade." I have spoken with Leonard Slade many times over the years before his death in 2007 at age 83. That man knew EVERYTHING and he had it all committed to memory. You could ask him about anyone and he could give you their entire life story including any dates you wanted. The only problem with Leonard is that he didn’t think it was overly necessary to document this stuff on paper in any orderly fashion. He probably had boxes of notes in his attic. He started researching in his early 20s. I was very lucky to meet with him in person in 2000. He has written several books and he was the president of the Lamar County Historical Society. Leonard interviewed everyone he could. Carlos died in 1948 and Leonard could have easily spoken with him. Carlos also had 11 children that lived in the area and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Leonard had spoken with every one of them. Knowing Leonard as well as I do, and knowing his research practices over his lifetime, I can say with confidence that this date of marriage and place of marriage is most likely correct. When I source this, my source would be the Patron Ordinance Submission Sheet but I would add a comment to the source that Leonard Slade was the Patron's source of information and why I think it is reliable. I would also document that the Perry County marriage books had been searched with nothing found and an explanation of the multiple records losses. This Patron Ordinance Submission Sheet is the best known source for this marriage. Maybe one day someone will unearth a family Bible which will corroborate this date.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I love using the IGI and have found many baptism records of my great aunts and uncles from Ireland in there.

    Regards, Jim
    Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

  2. Yes,they have tons of British Isles records in there!