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Discussion -The IGI and The Ancestral File


Active member
As stated in the article, the IGI is the most extensive resource available, certainly for records in the UK. For many years, there were no death records included but, these are now slowly being added. In the early days, they gathered only information on baptisms and marriages.

As I understand it, the IGI is updated every two years - at least it used to be. :wink:

It will take many years before it could be considered anywhere near "complete". The task is colossal and, as all things done by man, is prone to human error. In the UK, most central reference libraries will have the latest edition for the whole of the country. This will, most likely, represent England, Scotland and Wales.

Anyone familiar with using the microfiche version will have noticed there are quite a few columns containing just strings of numers. These are reference numbers bringing together related links to other relevant information within the main computer system, which is maintained at their central depository in Salt Lake City, Utah. For a nominal fee, you can write to Salt Lake City, giving all the information contained in the microfiche for any given entry and, in return, they will send you a full printout of all the information they have on the original records from which the entry was taken.

It is also important to stress that this information should be used only as a guide and you should then track the entries in the original registers down for yourself to confirm everything.

Why is the microfiche of the IGI "full of holes"? The reasons for this are many, but can be condensed to the following main points:
1) The people doing the work of gathering the information are volunteers, often carrying out the work in their spare time. They achieve a huge amount in the time they have available but, like all of us, they are fallible.

2) With the best will in the world, there is still the problem that some entries in the registers are virtually unreadable. This occurs for a number of reasons, most commonly down to illegible handwriting, or deterioration of the register itself. Also, some registers have been destroyed through such things as fire, flood and enemy action. There is a particular problem for records in Northern Ireland due to the activities of the freedom fighters - many registers were destroyed way back in the 1920s.

3) Particularly in the very early days of Parish Registers, record keeping was prone to the dilligence of the incumbent (or lack of it in some cases).
a) A lazy incumbent may not keep his registers up to date properly so, it is quite feasible that some entries are missing from the registers themselves but may turn up in the Bishops Transcripts.
b) The books for use as Parish Registers were very expensive and many parishes could not afford separate books for baptisms, marriages and deaths. So, some used to enter pabtisms in the front, turn the book upside down and enter deaths starting from the back. And then they would go to the middle and start entering marriages from there. As the register became full, this meant that entries started running into each other, making a confusing concoction which was not easy to decipher.
c) Some parishes relied on loose sheets of paper instead of a book. There are quite a few situations where many of these loose sheets are no longer in existence. The incumbents wife would find an alternative use for them, such as wrapping round the handles of hot pans when she was cooking, or putting on the table etc., to stand hot pans on. When they became too tatty to use any further, she would screw them up and throw them away.
d) Then, there was always the problem of rats, mice and other vermin deciding that they would make perfect nesting material and, as a result, chewing them up.

So, the gathering of information from parish registers is very much prone to the same situation we are in when trying to find the records for ourselves - they simply no longer exist. But, the Bishops Transcripts should help to fill in many of the gaps.

The LDS website Family Search is now my first port of call when doing any online research.

Now, how about some of you posting your thoughts and experiences about using the IGI?


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