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Indexing The World: A Call To Service
By James W. Petty, AG, CG

Dedicated to Sister Kaitlin Christensen and her inspiring Sacrament Meeting Youth Talk

Michael Quinn was elusive. He may or may not have known it, but to this genealogy researcher he was indeed hard to trace. Most of his adult life Michael was a resident of New York City, an easy place to get lost in for a common Irish name. He had been listed in all of the city directories of his day; had married there in 1887; had a flock of children; and had died in Manhattan in 1914; but prior to his arrival in the “Big Apple”, Michael Quinn seemed impossible to find.

According to the US census records, and two vital records that had been found, Michael was born about 1857 in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Michael Quinn Sr., and. well, we are not sure about the mother. The marriage record indicated his mother as Mary Kinney, while the death certificate named her as Catherine Kempsey. We know both records pertain to the same man because his occupation was a “marble polisher” and his wife was identified in both records as Mary Ortz. Have you ever experienced this struggle of research where answers seemed just right out of reach?

Many of the records that were found about Michael during his life in New York City were conflicting. When conflicting information is found in genealogy, as it often happens, we have to look for confirming or correcting data about that person. Everybody has conflicting information about them in their histories and records; it relates to the foibles of men, to not record events accurately. That is why it is so important to search for confirming or correcting sources to determine the likely truth about an individual.

However, some people in moving to the big city do so to hide or start over; but even when a person is attempting to disguise themselves or their past, the habit is to provide information that is false combined with facts that are true, thereby throwing investigators off their trail. In a big city like New York, it would seem easy to blend in with the crowd, and get lost; but with enough resources or evidences about that person, the truthful facts come out, and can be verified, and the problem can then be solved. Such was the case of Michael Quinn, and can be for your elusive ancestor.

We could trace Michael Quinn back to 1880, in Boston, shortly after arriving in America. The two consistent facts were his birthplace (New Brunswick, Canada) and the name of his father (Michael Quinn Sr.). Beyond this, the family reached a roadblock in this search many years ago.. Canadian records in the past have not been popularized like they have been in the United States.

The early census records there had not been indexed in time for those earlier searches nor digitized for the Internet, and in most of the provinces, vital records, or civil registration as it is known, did not begin until the late 1800’s, too late to identify Michael. Existing census records were often difficult to read in the original, and almost impossible to decipher on microfilm, and it has been like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Many records are not yet available in any form to the public outside of New Brunswick. Consequently, searches have continued for many years to discover the origins of Michael with only bits and pieces of clues coming to light. Unless someone could index these records, Michael Quinn and his family might never be found.

On June 10, 2009, the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in conjunction with, and the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the publication of the Canadian Censuses and Indexes of the 19th Century. This was a joint effort bringing together digitized images, and indexes compiled and imputed by volunteers of the Family History Library and its patrons across the country. On June 25, 2009 Michael Quinn’s family was discovered in the newly indexed 1871 Census of Woodstock, Carleton County, New Brunswick. Michael Quinn Sr. was 57 years old, a tailor, born in Ireland. His wife Catherine was also 57, and born in Ireland. A daughter Catherine was 22, born in England; and their son Michael Jr. was 15, born in New Brunswick. A family was found, and clues discovered to begin tracing their ancestors back across the ocean.

The important message of this article is not the discovery of the Quinn Family, they are simply a product of a marvelous work that is filling the earth. It is the story of a invaluable program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and associated organizations, to make the records of the world available to the public, so families and relationships can be discovered, and family lines can be extended beyond previous knowledge. The program is called FamilySearchIndexing.Org, and everyone is invited to participate.

180 years ago, in February, 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation from God, announcing the beginning of the Mission of the Lord in the latter days:

Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Remember, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.

For behold, the field is white, already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; and faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

Remember faith, virtue, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.

Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen. (Doctrine and Covenants 4)
Members of the LDS Church often relate these verses from the Doctrine and Covenants exclusively to missionary work, but the “marvelous work” referred to here is the entire gospel plan of the Lord. It includes missionary labor, but also pertains to temple ordinances, family life, growth and use of media, education, welfare support, our work, our play, our very way of life; and it also refers to genealogy service.

Many people ask how they might serve the Lord, not knowing what their capabilities are; or if they might be able to afford to go on missions; or if they are even able to do what is needed to help the Church to grow and fill the earth. FamilySearchIndexing.Org is a program of the Church that invites all people (members and friends of another faith alike) to participate in a service project of “lifetimes”.collecting and indexing information from records about the ancestors of the peoples of the world, that will be made available to everyone, for free, so people everywhere can find their forgotten forbears.

The Family History Library has a goal to digitize the records of its vast collection of microfilm and other resources over the next ten to fifteen years; and not only digitize, but also index these records. Their goal is to make the records of the World accessible and useable for all people through the efforts of world wide volunteers.

Participation in this service is free, and does not even require leaving home. You can do it in your pajamas when you awake in the morning or before going to bed; or anytime during the day. To participate, go onto the Internet on your home computer, and enter the address Here you can register, and receive instructions and training, regarding one of the many record collections being worked on by the volunteers. Brother David Cates, a supervisor in a Utah stake Family Search Indexing Program stated, “Our volunteers are involved with indexing a variety of records including censuses and vital records throughout the United States and even in the Spanish Language.” The FamilySearchIndexing.Org website shows recent indexing projects from other locals, that have included the 1920 U.S. Census, Louisiana Death Records 1850-1954, and Idaho Death Records 1911-1937, as well as records in every habitable continent.

Over six million new records from many countries and languages of the world were added to the Record Search of on June 15th, 2009 through the efforts of these wonderful volunteers. This amazing feat of genealogy research and record keeping is part of that “marvelous work” spoken of.

Michael Quinn and his family are no longer lost; they were found this week because of the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals giving their time and efforts to this indexing service. Who will be found next? Maybe your elusive ancestor; or maybe you will help your neighbors and families find their lost loved ones.

“Remember, if ye have desires to serve God, Ye are called to the work.”

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