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Familysearch.org Gets A Face Lift

Article Date: 
31 December, 2010 - 06:00

Those who are regular readers will know that I work for FamilySearch.  In my role there I have responsibility for Patron Services.  My team provides help for individuals around the world to find their ancestors and use FamilySearch software.  It is a wonderful job and I love it.  My job also gives me some insight into the happenings at FamilySearch and from time to time I like to pass on what is new.
FamilySearch.org is a non profit organization sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The LDS Church as a part of its doctrine of providing saving ordinances for those who died without being able to complete them, began gathering together records from around the world more than a hundred years ago.  The original organization formed was called the Genealogical Society of Utah.  It had society members and began operating out of the Church Historians Office with just a few books.
About eighty years ago the Church began microfilming records around the world so that the records could be brought to the researcher instead of the researcher needing to go to the records.  The Church now has the most extensive genealogical record collection in the world.  The Church then established a network of Family History Centers to provide local access to these records.  The Morgan Family History Center is one of these facilities.  Then about twenty years ago the Church launched FamilySearch.org.
The FamilySearch.org website has had many changes since that time, but for the past eight years has had relatively little change.  Much work has been going on behind the scenes, however.  A new family tree online program was developed called new FamilySearch.  It was launched initially to members of the Church to use and work out any problems before a general public release.  This general public release is expected to begin soon.
A new record digitization program was begun and beta test sites set up to prepare for the release of the records.  Over the past few years many hundreds of millions of records and images have been published and have been available for free at pilot.FamilySearch.org.
A new online indexing program was released to replace the aging Universal Data Entry software.  This new software made organizing the transcription of records much easier and allowed the indexer to complete smaller pieces of work.  It engaged more individuals and has dramatically increased the number of records that are indexed and searchable.
The week before last a new milestone was reached.  FamilySearch.org released a new version of the primary website.  This new website brought together many of these pieces that had been being tested over the past several years.  The new website features a new search experience.  When you visit you will be able to search both for records that have been digitized and/or indexed simultaneously search the FamilySearch Family History Library Catalog for records not yet digitized.  Soon you will also be able to search help resources from the same place.
There is a new place for learning.  The FamilySearch wiki, many new online classes from FamilySearch as well as other leading genealogists, and research guides can be found here.  Many more classes and resources will be added this year.  The FamilySearch wiki now has nearly 50,000 pages of content to help with research problems.
There is a new search experience for Family History Centers that will allow you to find them more easily, see them on a map, and get directions to them.  Indexing can now be accessed from the FamilySearch.org site as well.  There is also a FamilySearch Blog on the site.  Through the blog you will be able to get access to updated news about what is happening at FamilySearch.  There are also articles from Research Consultants at the Family History Library giving tips and advice about research.
The most exciting part for me, is that this is only the beginning.  This site brings together many efforts that have been happening over many years, but even more importantly, it establishes a new foundation for FamilySearch services that will allow more rapid additions and changes to the site.
Over the coming year you will see many more digital records come online.  You will see many more resources to help you find ancestors.  You will see many more online training courses.  The FamilySearch experience will richen and deepen.  My goal for the Family History Library is to take the resources to you online.  You may still choose to come to the Family History Library.  It is still the best place on earth to do genealogical research.  I hope, in the coming years, that you no longer have to come to the Library.  I hope that all the services offered in the Library will be available to you from the comfort of your own home.  The updated FamilySearch.org website is a key part of delivering on this vision.
If you have a moment, go and visit FamilySearch.org and have a look at the new site.  If you see areas for improvement, please send them in.  If you have success, let us know about that as well.  Enjoy your search, and enjoy the new website.