For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, genealogy isn't just a hobby.
It's part of their religion.
"It is a religious obligation to identify their ancestors and link themselves to those ancestors,"
said Paul Nauta, manager of communications for the Family and Church History Department of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "One of the
church's beliefs is that families are eternal, they do not end at death."
Church members must make special
with their ancestors that will unite them for eternity. The church created the Family History Library in
1894 in Salt Lake City to help members track their family history.
"The search for one's kindred dead is not something that's indigenous to the Latter-day Saints,"
Nauta added. "Regardless of a person's religious background or origins, we all seem to have an interest
in our legacy. People are turning more and more to verifying those roots."
Today the library is open to the general public and much of the records are available online at the
church's genealogy site, FamilySearch.
"We have close to a billion names in searchable databases online," Nauta said. "We have the largest
collection of genealogical information in the world."
"To me, the most valuable thing on our site is the Family History Library catalog," he added. "The catalog
is to the microfilm collection. We've got microfilm records for 118 countries."
One comprehensive search at the site allows visitors to find material from the International Genealogical
Index, the vital records index, the ancestral file, the pedigree resource file and other Web sites.
Find someone who could be a match with your family? FamilySearch offers
for a small fee to help you keep track of your findings.
You can also review microfilm at a local
Family History Center.
These are the 3,400 regional branches of the Family History Library located worldwide.
FamilySearch also allows site visitors to share their genealogy research with a free software program called
Personal Ancestral File.
The program can be downloaded or ordered in CD-ROM format by calling 1 (800) 537-5971.
Even if you already have been diligently watering your family tree by using another genealogy program,
you can easily transfer it to the Latter-day Saints' site in a GEDCOM format. The
Share My Genealogy section
explains how to register and add a GEDCOM file to the site.
"(FamilySearch) will upload (the GEDCOM) for you," said Nauta. "It takes 30 to 60 days for the
information to turn up on the site. Your personal information is password protected."
Registering allows the church some level of assurance that the information you have supplied is
correct. Also, if someone completes a search of this shared information and finds a connection to
your family, they can e-mail you without knowing who you are.
"We'll be a clearinghouse for dialogue," Nauta said.