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Ancestral File Number

This is a combination of numbers and letters (but no vowels) used by the Mormons to identify genealogical records in their archives. There is suppose to be only one such number per person in the records, but this is not always the case in fact. That a number has been assigned to a person is not to be taken as evidence that the person was a Mormon. Records have been submitted by very many people, some of whom have cast a wide net. The numbers are entered here when they are known. The records vary in quality and reliability, sometimes containing valuable hints, but should not be taken at face value without confirmation.

AFN vs. Family Search

Family Search .org is an index and archive of a large number of historical documents online which is operated by the Mormons. Do not confuse this with the Ancestral Files. FamilySearch includes images of actual source documents such as enumeration sheets from censuses. Some of these are at pay sites, but many are free, and the information about records at pay sites is often good enough that you can find the image elsewhere for free.

In short: AFN links may or may not give you a clue, are of not-well-documented submissions from the faithful. You have to independently verify everything in these records. Family Search documents are transcriptions, images, or both of official documents and can be relied up (for the truth of what is on the document, not necessarily that the documents were entirely truthful and accurate to begin with.

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