FamilySearch is a genealogy organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was previously known as the Genealogical Society of Utah (or "GSU") and is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history. FamilySearch gathers, preserves, and shares genealogical records worldwide. It offers free access to its resources and service online at FamilySearch.org, one of the most heavily used genealogy sites on the Internet. In addition, FamilySearch offers personal assistance at more than 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Type of site
|Available in||English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Owner||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
|Alexa rank||2,894 (October 2016[update])|
|Launched||May 24, 1999|
In the search section of familysearch.org anyone can search for records of an ancestor. Use of the Family Tree section requires a (free) registered account. The Family Tree section allows users to collaborate on a single, shared, worldwide family tree (currently with about a billion names in it).
The resource is maintained to support the process of obtaining names and other genealogical information so that Latter-day Saints can perform temple ordinances for their kindred dead.
Founded in 1894, the GSU began microfilming records of genealogical importance in 1938. In 1963, the microfilm collection was moved to the newly completed Granite Mountain Records Vault for long-term preservation. In 1998 the GSU began digital imaging of records and in about August 1998 the decision was made by LDS Church leaders to build a genealogical website. In May 1999 the website first opened to the public. It almost immediately went off-line, overloaded because of extreme popularity. In October 1999, it surpassed 1.5 billion hits. Then, in November 1999 240 million names were added, bringing the total number of entries to 640 million.
In 2001 work began on a second website backed by a consolidated database, giving LDS users the ability to edit data. In November 2005 the new.FamilySearch.org entered its first Beta test. However, due to the time necessary to resolve all the bugs found and to assess and incorporate the results of extensive user feedback and suggestions, it took longer than expected to release the second beta. In February 2007 the new.FamilySearch.org entered Beta 2 testing. In June 2007 the new.FamilySearch.org was made available for church members in some areas (by LDS temple district), increasing through the next several years. This restricted roll out was necessary to enable FamilySearch support staff to support the user community. In 2008, the Vatican issued a statement calling the practice known as baptism for the dead recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:29, "erroneous" and directing its dioceses to keep parish records from Mormons performing genealogical research. In early 2009 the new.FamilySearch was available to church membership around the world, with the exception of Utah/Idaho and the five Asian temples. By mid-2009 the new.FamilySearch gradually became available to church membership in Utah and Idaho. Finally, in November 2009, the new.FamilySearch was made available to church membership worldwide, except for members in the five Asian temple districts.
In March 2013 Family Tree was added to the familysearch.org site. It is available to any registered user. As a user views a family in their tree, they may see hints of historical document related to that family. Family Tree has replaced new.familysearch.org.
In February 2014, FamilySearch announced partnerships with Ancestry.com, findmypast and MyHeritage, which includes sharing massive amounts of their databases with those companies. They also have a standing relationship with BillionGraves, in which the photographed and indexed images of graves are both searchable on FamilySearch and are to link to individuals in the family tree.
The FamilySearch.org website offers free access to digital images of genealogical records. These images can be searched along with a number of databases. FamilySearch.org also contains the catalog of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The library holds genealogical records for over 110 countries, territories, and possessions, including over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 742,000 microfiche; 310,000 books, serials, and other formats; and 4,500 periodicals. FamilySearch also offers research help through the Family History Research Wiki, Forums, digitized books, and online free family history courses through the Learning Centre.
In keeping with an agreement with Jewish groups and to prevent abuse, searching Holocaust victims or celebrities results in account suspension until the researcher proves a legitimate family connection to the subject of their search. FamilySearch plans to allow users to input same-sex marriages or other unions in the future.
Support for mobile usageEdit
The FamilySearch.org website has recently added support for mobile platforms with two new apps: FamilySearch Tree App and the FamilySearch Memories App. Currently both of these apps provide support for iOS and Android and are available in 10 different languages. Both of these apps are available to download for free. These technologies allow the user to look up their own family history and archive stories and photos onto their servers for free.
Digitization and indexing projectsEdit
FamilySearch is in the process of digitizing its entire microfilm collection and making those images available online. The searchable indexes are created by volunteers using FamilySearch Indexing software developed by the LDS Church or on the FamilySearch.org website. To ensure greater accuracy, each batch of records is indexed by two separate indexers and any discrepancies are sent to an expert arbitrator. FamilySearch Indexing volunteers need not be members of the LDS Church. FamilySearch is currently working with genealogical societies all around the world to index local projects.
At the end of 2010, 548 million vital records had been transcribed and made publicly available through the FamilySearch website. In April 2013, FamilySearch Indexing completed their goal to offer 1 billion indexed records online.
Classes and trainingEdit
FamilySearch offers free lessons on FamilySearch.org to help people learn how to find their ancestors. The topics range from basic research to training on specific record types and are designed for both beginners and experienced researchers. Most of the classes come from research consultants in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but FamilySearch is also collaborating with partners such as the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Missouri, to record and post classes.
Wiki and forumsEdit
In 2007, it was decided to start a Family History Research Wiki to help FamilySearch users and others researching genealogy and family history to find and share information on data sources and research tips. The first version of the wiki was built on the Plone wiki software product, but it was soon discovered that MediaWiki software was much more suitable, so in January 2008 it was moved to the MediaWiki platform. In the intervening years it was rolled out in other languages, and as of July 2014 it was available in 11 languages. The other language wikis are found via links at the bottom of the wiki homepage. The wiki in English had over 79,500 articles and over 150,000 registered users as of July 2014.
In 2009 a forums site, which grew to include a variety of subject and topic categories, was started. Some of the extra features included social groups where people could discuss a particular surname or other topic related to genealogy. Help topics were also featured with discussions related to New FamilySearch (new.familysearch.org), FamilySearch Indexing, and some other products and site features. The forums were never linked from the homepage, but were accessible at forums.familysearch.org. Effective 31 December 2012 the forums were closed, although they remain available in read-only form.
New FamilySearch and FamilySearch Family TreeEdit
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released to the public a web application that enables users to interact with very large, unified databases of connected genealogical information. It is in the current FamilySearch.org site and is called the Family Tree. Many of the FamilySearch databases are being combined into one database and all the records for each individual are being combined into folders. These folders are then being linked to pedigrees.
Some prominent features of the new website:
- Support for multiple assertions on facts, allowing people to "agree to disagree."
- Source citations, including links to source images. Documents scanned from the Church's 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed vital records from around the world will eventually be linked to individuals in the system. These films are currently being scanned and indexed.
- Several features specific to the membership of the LDS Church, facilitating temple ordinance work.
- A one-world pedigree of linked families that will operate wiki style, with anyone able to add comments and information.
- A mapping utility that maps locations where an individual has resided -a mashup of the new FamilySearch website and Google Maps showing pushpins for events in a person's life.
Initially, a system called 'New FamilySearch' was released for members of the LDS Church. According to an emailed newsletter sent to LDS Family History Consultants on 11 September 2012, this was expected to be retired in early 2013. By then it was to have been replaced by a newer system called FamilySearch Family Tree.
On November 1, 2012, a more active rollout of Family Tree began with a note placed on the New FamilySearch landing page, suggesting 'Try Family Tree.' This note was within a button that would take the user to the sign-in page. An early report sent to a mailing list within a couple hours of this change's happening also indicated that some functions in new FamilySearch, particularly that which allowed users to combine matching entries of ancestors ('duplicates'), had been turned off. This event signaled that a wider user base would begin using Family Tree.
On 5 March 2013, FamilySearch announced that Family Tree was now available to everyone, whether or not they were members of the LDS Church. This was announced via a blog post on the FamilySearch website; the 'Family Tree' tab shows whether or not the user is logged in. Clicking on the tab takes user to the login/create account screen; once logged in, the user can create a tree and find ancestors already on the tree. New FamilySearch is still available to members of the LDS Church, although those members have been strongly urged to begin using Family Tree in its place and features have been progressively disabled at the (older) New FamilySearch as the evolving system ceases to be compatible with it.
On 16 April 2013 FamilySearch completely revamped the site design generally, including new features on Family Tree. Some of the new features include an interactive fan chart and some printing capabilities. An improved color scheme for both the Family Tree and the rest of the site was also adopted, as some had complained that the colors of the previous site appeared 'washed out.'
At the end of 2015 FamilyTree had 1.1 billion persons added by 2.47 million of contributors.
Integration with BYU Family History ArchiveEdit
Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, is digitizing copyright-free family histories and placing them online; they are available via FamilySearch. As of late 2009, this archive had nearly 50,000 digitized books, with approximately 5,000 new titles being posted online every two months on average.
In early September 2012, it was reported that about 1,200 to 1,500 books per month were being scanned, scanning having slowed slightly. The digitized books were moved from the BYU website they had been on and are now found under a 'Books' tab in the main FamilySearch search page. A blogger at FamilySearch is now posting a listing of the latest digitizations starting with the June 2012 report.
According to a User Group presentation by FamilySearch personnel, a similar effort is digitizing book-form family histories originally collected at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City itself, and (Google-Book-style) even includes one-user-at-a-time access per single-volume scanned (and physically warehoused) that is copyrighted.
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