|Type of site||Family history|
|Available language(s)||English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Owner||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
|Launched||May 24, 1999|
|Alexa rank||4,617 (April 2014[update])|
FamilySearch is a genealogy organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It 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.
FamilySearch cites as its motivation to provide genealogical information the "beliefs of the LDS Church that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue beyond this life."
In 1894 it was founded as the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and in 1938 GSU began microfilming records of genealogical importance. In 1963 the microfilm collection was moved to the newly completed Granite Mountain Records Vault for long-term preservation and then in 1995 after a controversy, a deal was struck between the Jewish and LDS communities to "Remove from the International Genealogical Index in the future the names of all deceased Jews who are so identified if they are known to be improperly included counter to Church policy." 
In 1998 the FamilySearch/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 they 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 replacement website, backed by a consolidated database, giving users the ability to edit data. (Later named 'New FamilySearch' and which is now known as the 'Family Tree feature' on the FamilySearch.org website.)
In November 2005 the new FamilySearch.org entered its first Beta test. Enough bugs were found, along with extensive user feedback and suggestions, that it took longer than expected to get to 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. In 2008 the The Vatican issued a statement calling the practice known as baptism for the dead "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. Then, in November 2009 the new FamilySearch was available to church membership worldwide, except for members in the five Asian temple districts.
February 2014 FamilySearch has announced partnerships with Ancestry.com, findmypast and MyHeritage which includes sharing massive amounts of their databases with those companies. Also they have a standing relationship with BillionGraves.com in which the photographed and indexed images are made available for search on FamilySearch.
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. The microfilm and microfiche can be ordered and viewed at over 4,000 library branches (called Family History Centers) worldwide. FamilySearch also offers research help through the FamilySearch Wiki and Forums.
Digitization and indexing projects
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. To ensure greater accuracy, each batch of records is indexed by two separate indexers and any discrepancies are sent to an expert arbitrator. Indexing volunteers need not be members of the LDS Church and 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 training
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 Forums
In 2007, it was decided to start a 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 February 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 76,000 articles and over 150,000 registered users as of February 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 Tree
||This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: Please clearly separate information about New FamilySearch from that about FamilySearch Family Tree, and fully explain the histories and current states of both in a way where it is clear which one you are talking about.. (February 2014)|
||This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: Add citations rather than simply stating facts out of the blue or vaguely alluding to sources.. (March 2014)|
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released to the public a web application that makes users able 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 to 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, regardless of membership in the LDS Church or lack thereof. This was announced via a blog post on the FamilySearch website; the 'Family Tree' tab shows whether or not one is logged in. Clicking on the tab takes one 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.'
Integration with BYU Family History Archive
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.
- "Familysearch.org Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- Alexa traffic report 21 Mar 2009 (excluding #1 Ancestry.com)
- FamilySearch About Us
- Agreement with the LDS Church
- News release (16 November 1999) — 240 Million New Names Added to FamilySearch.org
- Muth, Chad (2008-05-02). "Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons". Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- "About the Family History Library". FamilySearch.org. Retrieved March 11, 2010.
- Jensen, Derek P. (March 7, 2012), "Mormon church blocks whistle-blower’s access to baptism data", The Salt Lake Tribune
- https://blog.familysearch.org/node/1088 Official Family Search Blog
- FamilySearch Wiki:Non-English versions of the wiki
- FamilySearch Forums site notice
- BYU Family History Archive