If you have been doing online genealogy research for any length of time, you are surely stumbled across the various resources belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (known more simply as the Mormons). Ever wonder why?
Believe it or not, it is actually an official part of the LDS belief system to do research and record your personal genealogy and family tree information. Since I am not personally a member of the church, I will admit that my information has come from a variety of sources so please excuse me if I make any religious errors. I’m a genealogist, not a theologian. For more on the religious background, you can check out the official LDS homepage.
There are two different reasons behind the genealogy habits of the Mormons. The first is that even people who have died can be baptized and that they should be baptized in order to get into heaven. They consider it their responsibility to find unbaptized ancestors and have the “ordinances” performed for a posthumous baptism.
Furthermore, there are additional ordinances (church rituals) that are performed to “seal” people together so that they will be bound even in the afterlife. This is done with family members, as well as spouses. A sealing ceremony is part of an LDS wedding. So to keep family members together, church members dig deeply into the pasts so that as many ancestors as possible can be sealed together.
The genealogy information that each member collects has been kept in a single database storehouse owned by the church, and it is available to non-church members as well. Most of the people in the collection are American since the church is a highly American organization, but farther generations will go back to many parts of Europe and overseas. Their information is online and there are Family History Center locations around the USA.
If you want to take further advantage of LDS resources, here is a place to start:
Family Search – The official LDS genealogy website. There is a search engine and a large number of informational articles as well.
LDS Living – An online shop of LDS-related genealogy products, such as books, DVDs and software programs.
Mormon Genealogy – The Latter-Day Saints Guide at About.com has a series of pages on the subject of genealogy and the Mormons.
Cyndi’s List of LDS Resources – Cyndi has a huge list of LDS genealogy websites, with many links to Family History Centers across the country.
Personally, I find the whole idea of genealogy as a religious responsibility a little strange. At least now I know why they do and I have gotten a few good leads from their research. I should spend a bit more time in their databases and see what I can find.