How often are public records updated

Obtain information from public records

More than just your own strength

Once you have compiled and recorded the family history information that was freely available at home and in the family, you may need to search for additional information in public records. As the research becomes more difficult, remember the words of President Henry B. Eyrings of the First Presidency:

“When you have the first few generations together, things get more difficult. ... You may be tempted to leave the more difficult research to others who are more experienced in it, or you may want to postpone the work until later. Yet in your heart you will feel the urge to keep going even when it gets difficult.

When making your decision, remember that the names that are so hard to find are real people to whom you owe your existence in this world and whom you will meet again in the spirit world. ... you are connected to them in love. The hope of your ancestors is in your hand. If you decide to keep working and find these people, you will have more than your own strength. "(Liahona, May 2005, page 79f.)

Public records to research

There are many different types of public records to research. Authorities and churches often keep records of certain events. Such records can tell of events that occurred hundreds of years ago. In many cases, the records have been very carefully maintained. These include:

  • Civil status documents. Civil status records often include birth, marriage, and death dates and locations that are relevant to temple ordinances. Civil status records are usually kept in city and church archives near the places where your ancestors lived. In some countries such documents are also known as Reporting documents.

  • Census records. There is a lot of information about individuals and families in census records. Names, ages, family relationships, places of birth and professions are often listed. Thousands of census records have been filmed and are readily available on the Internet and in genealogy research centers around the world.

  • Immigration records. Immigration records were created when an individual or family entered a new country. These records can be used to find out the name and place of birth of relatives and when they entered the new country. Many collections of immigration records can be found on the Internet and in genealogy research centers around the world.

  • Newspapers. You may find articles in newspapers about your ancestors, as well as obituaries announcing the death of a local citizen. These obituaries contain valuable information about a person, such as information about the place and date of birth, about family members, their religion and about the burial.

  • Church records. Church records may contain information that cannot be found in other records. Churches often kept reports of birth, marriage, and death when authorities did not. These records can be an important part of your search for family information.

  • Cemetery records. Cemetery records - such as records of gravestones or grave diggers - often include the dates of birth and death, the age of the deceased, the names of the spouse and children, and (if applicable) the maiden name. Occasionally the place of birth is also mentioned. On tombstones you can find symbols or insignia that indicate a completed military service, social class, denomination or religious affiliation.

Obtain information from public records

When researching public records, do the following:

  1. Pray for guidance. There are many decisions to make, such as which ancestors to focus on, what information and records to search for, and where to find such records. Ask the Lord to guide you and help you make the right decisions.

  2. Select an ancestor. You will get most accomplished if you focus on gathering information about a single ancestor or family. It can also be useful to find out information about a specific event - such as birth, death, or marriage.

  3. Use the overview "Find documents". Once you know what information to look for, you can use the “Finding Documents” overview in Appendix C to determine which records to look for. If necessary, seek help from your family history specialist.

  4. Find the records. Visit or report to the location where the records are kept. You can appear there in person or inquire about the recordings in writing, by e-mail, by telephone or via the Internet. Useful records can be found in genealogy research centers, libraries, archives, churches, courthouses, and on websites. Some of these facilities are detailed below:

    Genealogy research centers. The Church has microfilmed public records from around the world. Digital images of many of these records can be viewed on the Internet at However, some of these recordings are only available on microfilm. For a small fee, you can order copies of these microfilms at the genealogy research centers and review them for several weeks. Ordering films at a genealogy research center and reviewing these document collections is easier and cheaper than going on a long trip.

    Internet sites. Your genealogy professional may recommend websites to search for. Authorities at the national, state or local level all over the world publish their records on the Internet. You can search for civil status records, newspapers, local history reports, and church records on such websites. On some of these pages, users can view the document collections free of charge. Many genealogy websites can be used free of charge at the local genealogy research center.

    Archives and Libraries. State and municipal archives keep records created by state institutions. Public libraries also store many valuable documents, such as newspapers and obituaries. If you can't find records of your ancestors on the Internet, you can visit archives or libraries in the areas where your ancestors lived. Ask your family history specialist to help you plan if you plan to visit these facilities.

taking notes

In a research log you record the locations where you did your genealogical research and what you found there. For a sample research protocol, see Appendix A. These research protocols help organize your work so that you and others don't duplicate the work. Enter the following information in your research protocol:

  • Who. Write down the name of the person you are researching and the contact details of people who can help you with your search.

  • What. Write down what the goal of your research is, what sources you use, and what you discover, even if your research fails.

  • Where. Write down the address and phone number of all sources and places where something important happened in the life of your ancestors.

  • When. Write down the date you used a particular resource and record the dates of important events in the life of your ancestors.


  • Use the overview to name "Find certificates" Appendix C records that may contain additional information about an ancestor.

  • Contact the facility where the records are being held. You can appear there in person or inquire about the recordings in writing, by e-mail, by telephone or via the Internet. Find out what is in the records.

  • Write down the results in your research protocol (see Appendix A). Record any new information in FamilySearch or on traditional forms.

  • When you take the Temple Work and Family History course, Prepare for the next class by reading Chapter 7.

Additional sources

  • Henry B. Eyring, "United in Love", Liahona, May 2005, page 77ff.

  • Alan E. Mann and Marvin R. Zautcke, "Family History via the Internet", Ensign, July 2000, page 50ff.

  • Sally Johnson Odekirk, "Putting the Puzzle Together", New Era, November 2006, page 18ff.

  • A guide to research (30971 150)