The Ancestral File was originally envisioned to be a large
database of ancestral information that links together individuals
with families. It is a single version of all the information
submitted to it from all submitters. It contains information
that has been voluntarily donated to the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints. Even members of the Church may not find
their information in this repository if someone hasn't
voluntarily donated it.
The Ancestral File is free to the public and can be accessed at
FamilySearch.org. However, due to right to privacy laws in
the USA and other countries, personal event dates are not shown
until the person either dies or is 95 years old. Those younger
than this show as either or as a name without the
event dates added. This is not normally a problem as most
people know who their parents and grandparents were.
You may have been told the Ancestral File is a gold mine, but
is that really true?
I had an instructor once that continually phrased his questions
so that the only correct answer was "it depends". This is also
true of the Ancestral File. Just as you don't find smelted gold
made into fine jewelry in a mine, you might have to sift through
some less than clean information in the Ancestral File.
Remember, the information is only as good as the researcher
that donated it. Some researchers have done a very thorough
job, others... not so thorough. In addition to the possible
lack of documentation, there also arise honest differences of
opinion. For example, my ancestry goes back several generations
without issue until reaching a person in dispute. My Aunt
believes the Father is one person and a distant relative believes
the Father is someone else. Since I don't have any documentation
from either, I tend to be skeptical of both at this point.
Depending on what point of time you would have downloaded
information from the Ancestral File on the same family, you
would have gotten two totally different pictures of the
Does this mean that the Ancestral File is not any good?
Certainly not, but again, the information it contains is only
as good as the researchers that submitted it. For this reason,
the LDS Church has offered a separate repository, the Pedigree
Resource File. This repository allows researchers to submit
a copy of their own personal research. It will not be
combined with data from other researchers, it will remain
intact, as submitted by the researcher in question. At this
time familysearch.org accepts GEDCOM files over the internet
for inclusion into the Pedigree Resource File and possible
inclusion into the Ancestral File. However, the Family Search
program at LDS Family History locations can specify changes
to information on the Ancestral File directly.
Depending on the amount of effort and accuracy others have
dedicated to finding their ancestry, the Ancestral File can
be a real treasure chest. In working with a couple interested
in genealogy, I was able to extract up to 7,000 names for
each mother and father line... for both the husband and the
wife! Unfortunately, due to the fact that so much had already
been done on their lines, they didn't feel the need to get
very involved afterward.
Another example is of a woman I was helping who was able to
find the name of a Mother in her ancestry. Being curious, she
looked up the Mother's name in the Ancestral File and found
not only the Mother, but 460% 2B names more that had been submitted
by someone else on a lateral line. All of the research she had
done up to this point had been original research, some of it
stretching back to the original American pilgrims. It was the
first time she knew of where someone else had already done
To sum up, yes the Ancestral File is a gold mine...
if you are careful to sift through the dirt to find the gold...
Copyright Â© 2002, Dale Lee
About the Author:
Dale Lee is a computer consultant who has been
involved in Genealogy for over 12 years. For
information on how to publish your own Family
History or book manuscript, visit