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September 19, 2004

How to research your genealogy using the Mormon resources - part a.

I am very often asked how I research my family tree: there are a number of ways, the first - of course - is asking the elder people in your own family about all the information they might remember. Your next job is then to double check that information with official proof for names, dates and places.

One of the most official ways of getting proof is to track down original certificates of birth, marriage and death. Other ways might be to check officially published genealogies, etc. but basically it always comes down to these original documents.

If you leave far from the towns of your ancestors it might be difficult for you to track these documents: sometimes a visit there in the summer will help (I'll post shortly about a VERY successful visit to a very small village's Mairie in Lorraine, France); you might also try the phone or snail mail, but civil servants are not paid to do your original research, hence you might not get very lucky. Finally, a visit to national archives can be very helpful as posted earlier with my trip to the French CAOM archives.

There is of course another way, that can yield very high results: you might try to search the Mormon (the short name for the US religious group called the Church of Jesus-Christ of the Latter-Day-Saints) resources. You can learn more about them here, and the reasons behind their interest in genealogy here. In my experience, you needn't really care about their religion if all you are interested about is genealogy.

The Mormons run a very useful portal and search engine called www.familysearch.org. I will discuss in the future how to use it effectively, but in the meantime you can check their online help system.

That said, let's get started.

I have been stuck for a very long while on my father's family, since my grandparents died a long time ago, and my living abroad hasn't helped much the research on that part. Most of the information I know about that branch comes from discussions I had about 20 (read TWENTY) years ago with a brother of my grandfather's (still alive) and some aunts. I have recently started researching that branch again, after spending lots of time with my wife's branches (for my son to have a complete tree ;), and my mother's side (goes back quickly to Prussia and Denmark).

So, the information I had was that my great-grandfather Guillermo SEPULVEDA CASTILLO [x] married Maria Praxedes JARA FUICA [x], and both lived in the small town of Los Sauces, near Angol, Chile. They had 14 children, of which only 10 survived, and I had names, pictures and some dates for those 10 surviving children only (my grandfather was #6). I don't even have official documents on my grand-father. I recently got the death certificate of Don Guillermo through a great contact in Santiago (thanks Bernardita - by the way you can't get official documents in Chile unless you provide the clerk with the person's official ID, the RUN. How do you get that for dead people you are just researching ???); unfortunately that death certificate did not provide any family information.

So, I decided to see whether the Mormons could help me in this. For your information, the Mormons have been micro-filming most public and religious archives for the past 30-40 years around the world. They do that by signing a contract with the different governments and giving national archives a number of copies of their documents. They also keep a copy. This is very useful as very fragile documents now have a backup copy and can be read around the world. Please note that you do not have to go to a Mormon temple to read these microfilms, local national archives usually have a copy as well, and it might be even quicker to research them like that.

So, did the Mormons ever go to this small village of Los Sauces in the middle of nowhere in Chile? Let's check, by going to www.familysearch.org.


You then have to go into Library, and click again on 'Family History Library Catalog'.


Then click on 'Place Search', en enter the location you are looking for.


If you do get an answer, then it means there are some archives on microfilm. You might get several answers, just make sure you are selecting the right location.


Click on the location, and you should get a list of sources that were put on microfilm. Usually you get here the list of churches in the location, of city-hall documents, of military records, etc. In this particular case, we only get civil registry records and no church records.


If you click on one of the sources, you will get the proper years that are references in the source.


Finally, by clicking on 'Film Notes', you will get the reference codes for the microfilms in the Mormon film library (called the Vault). These are the film references you will need to order at a Mormon temple near your home town. I'll post about my experience with the Paris Temple shortly.

Familysearch07 Familysearch08

PS: you might get errors when clicking on names on this post. This is due to the fact that accessing most of the tree will require a password, and that I reserve them for family members. Should you believe you are entitled to one, please drop me an email. I have added an [x] next to some of the names, so that visitors get access to some public information. If you see Xs in the tree, it means you need a password to get that information.

Family names researched in this post: CASTILLO, FUICA, JARA, REBOLLEDO, SEPULVEDA

September 19, 2004 at 04:03 PM in Chile | Permalink


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