I've been doing a lot of English research lately which, of course, means a lot of time spent sorting out families in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) online at FamilySearch. To take full advantage of this database of transcribed parish records, however, it really helps to understand and make use of batch numbers. Using a batch number in conjunction with the Custom Search page allows you to limit your name search to a particular locality or parish, something not available in the standard search options. It also allows you to search by surname only, which is only available at the countrywide level using the standard search feature. In other words, the batch number allows you to easily search the IGI for all occurences of your family surname within a specific parish.
So, what is a batch number? Entries in the IGI come from two major sources of information: 1) individual submissions submitted by members of the LDS church and 2) information extracted by volunteers from parish records and other vital records of birth, marriage and death from around the world. Each group of records submitted is assigned a specific batch number. Records from a specific parish will generally be grouped into anywhere from one to several batches. If a batch number begins with an M (marriage) or C (christening), then it usually means the information was extracted from original parish records.
It is important to understand that a "batch" doesn't always include all records from the original source or even the LDS microfilm copy of the source - it may only cover a specific range of years. Not all parish records have even been microfilmed, and not all of the microfilmed records have been extracted. Even parish records that are available, may not have been fully included as part of the official LDS extraction program. Batched records for Sapcote parish in Leicestershire, for example, include christenings from 1807-1852 and marriages from 1754-1842, while the original source microfilm references Sapcote parish registers from 1564-1875.
The source information at the bottom of an individual record page, such as this page for the marriage of John Rowling and Hannah Sell, generally includes the batch number (including the dates which the batch covers), as well as the source number for the original LDS microfilm(s) from which the batch was extracted. Click on the batch number to then limit your search results to that particular batch. With the batch number entered you aren't required to complete any other field. You can enter only a surname to bring up all records for that name. Or you can enter a first name only if you aren't sure of a surname spelling. You don't even have to enter a surname, which offers a great way to view all extracted records from the batch as a single file. Once you have discovered a christening for a specific individual, you can enter the surname and the given names for the father and/or mother to find other children in the family.
An easy shortcut to finding batch numbers for a specific parish is offered at Hugh Wallis' Web site, IGI Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America (United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Channel Islands). He includes a link directly from each batch number to the search engine at FamilySearch...which can also save a bit of clicking and typing. If you want to use the advanced search features offered by FamilySearch, then copy the batch number and paste it directly into the IGI search page.
Guides to batch numbers for many other countries have also been created and put online by genealogists. Some such IGI Batch Number Web sites include:
- Batch Numbers de los paises latinoamericanos - IGI batch numbers for the countries of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Mexico.
- Numéros de BATCHS pour le Pays Basque et la Navarre - Batch numbers for the Basque Country (Spain) and Navarre.
- IGI batchnummers van Nederland en België - IGI batch numbers for the Netherlands and Belgium
- IGI og VRI Batch-numre for Danmark, Norge og Sverige - Batch numbers for Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
- Les numéros de batch de l'IGI - Search the index or browse by département to find Batch Numbers for France.
- IGI Index: Deutsches Batchnummern Verzeichnis - Browse for your German town of interest to find batch numbers specific to Germany.
- Batch Numbers de Italia - IGI batch numbers for Italy.
- Mexico IGI batch numbers - More than 3579 batch numbers for 32 Mexican states have been added so far.
- Batch numbers de las parroquias españolas microfilmadas - IGI batch numbers for parishes in Spain.
I shouldn't have to tell you, but it always bears reminding. The IGI, as helpful as it is, is a collection of "extracted" records, which means that there will be some mistakes and overlooked records. It is best to follow up on events found in the IGI by viewing the original parish records, or microfilm copies of those records. Everything in the IGI is available via microfilm loan at your local Family History Center.