In the pre-Internet days of family history, transcripts of baptism, marriage and burial entries in early parish registers were invaluable. For many people, short of trawling through registers of church after church, there was no easily available source of pre-1837 vital records other than transcripts of registers from individual churches, published by family history societies, and the IGI (International Genealogical Index) on microfiche.
Since the 1930s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), often known as Mormons, have been microfilming parish registers. These have then been indexed, and listed by county, with variant surnames being grouped together. The lists were published as the IGI on vast quantities of sheets of microfiche at intervals between 1973 and 1992.
Most of the records from the IGI were incorporated into the Family Search website (launched in 1999). Although you may think this makes the microfiche redundant, there are entries on the fiche that have not been included on Family Search. The microfiche can also be much easier to browse that the website.
As the microfiche is arranged by county and then lists entries alphabetically by surname, it’s also a really easy way to see in which parishes within a county a particular surnames may be concentrated. This can be particularly useful to identify places to target your parish register research.
The IGI on microfiche is definitely worth a look, just be aware that it doesn’t include many burials and is not comprehensive. Many parishes aren’t covered at all – a good list of coverage is at http://www.archersoftware.co.uk/igi/
Some of the entries on the IGI are also sourced from the research of individual church members, so may not be reliable. Watch out particularly for “abt” (i.e. about) in the date field, or the @ symbol, followed by details of a relative. Any entries you find on the IGI should always be double-checked with the original registers if you can.
The 1992 version of the IGI on microfiche for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is still held at Solihull Central Library and is freely available to use. You’re welcome to drop in and have a look at it any time during library opening hours (no appointment needed).
Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to use a microfiche reader – staff will be happy to show you how to use the machines. They’re not computers – just glorified magnifying glasses – so can be a bit strange if you’ve not used one before. Please don’t hesitate to ask us if you get stuck.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian