Mormon church, private companies aim to get more family history records online
Genealogy • Mormon church, private companies collaborate to digitize documents.
Published: February 4, 2014 09:57AM
Updated: February 4, 2014 05:17PM
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The Granite Mountain Records Vault is the official storage unit for 2.4 million rolls of microfilm containing approximately 3.5 billion images. The information links to billions of people in over 100 countries and is recorded in 170 languages. Courtesy LDS Church

FamilySearch International, the non-profit organization which manages The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ genealogical records, announced Tuesday a new collaboration with commercial family history companies to get millions and millions of new records digitalized.

The group will collaborate in digitization projects with commercial companies such as Provo-based Ancestry.com, Archives.com, FindMyPast, Fold3 and My Heritage. FamilySearch also announced plans to involve many other interested organizations to provide records, tools and other resources to allow more people to build, preserve and share their family trees online.

“For the top countries with the highest online research demand, using our existing resources and volunteers, it will take up to 300 years to index the 5.3 billion records that we already have,” said FamilySearch CEO Dennis Brimhall in an announcement on the week the huge RootsTech conference opens at the Salt Palace. “That means you and me and the next 10 generations of our posterity would not live to personally benefit from them. And there are another 60 billion records that still need to be digitally preserved. We can do significantly better by working together with other organizations and as a community.”

Todd Godfrey, senior director of global content for Ancestry.com, said his company that helps families put together their roots by using primarily online resources, supports the new collaborative effort. It invested $60 million in September to digitize about 1 billion new international records.

“We have been collaborating for over 10 years in a digitization project,” said Godfrey. “We often share the work including the trading of digital images, indexing and digitalization. We are playing different roles but together we can accomplish a lot more.”

Godfrey said the biggest thing getting more records digitalized does is give family history enthusiasts a way to accelerate their discoveries. Since the United States is a country of immigrants, having international records available plays a key role in family roots research.

“Records are a key to discoveries in family history,” he said. “The faster we can get the right kind of records to our users, the faster they can make discoveries in their family tree.”

Brimhall shared FamilySearch’s vision to empower people globally to share their family memories and save them for future generations when he delivered the keynote address to last year’s RootsTech conference.

“Imagine if your ancestors had easy access to computers, digital cameras and family history web sites that allowed them to upload, preserve and share important family memories through photos, stories and vital names, dates and places,” Brimhall said. “How amazing would that be?”

FamilySearch and its predecessors within the LDS Church have been preserving and providing access to the world’s family history records for more than 100 years. Its volunteers have indexed just more than 3 billion records in extraction and online indexing projects, but officials say they have only scratched the surface.

As the new history record collections are published under the latest agreements with FamilySearch’s affiliates, they will be available on FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com or MyHeritage.com for free.

FamilySearch offers free public access to Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com through 4,715 FamilySearch-owned family history centers worldwide. Additional details regarding expanded records access will be announced sometime in 2014, when they become available.

The LDS Church keeps these detailed records because of its belief that the family unit is eternal in nature and family relations continue beyond death.

FamilySearch offered some facts it has discovered in research and record-keeping:

• About 28 billion people lived on the earth in recently recorded history, from A.D. 1500 to 2010.

• Information for an estimated 1 billion unique individuals may exist today in online family trees, a fraction of how many still need to be linked.

• The bulk of online family history research is focused on the records of North America, Europe and Latin America. Less than 7 percent of these records are searchable online today.

• An estimated 60 billion historical records still exist to be digitally preserved and indexed.

• Only 8 percent of FamilySearch’s current online indexing volunteer workforce is non-English speaking. The majority of historical records to be made searchable online in the future will require volunteers who read non-English records.

• With current volunteers and resources, it could take up to 300 years to make the current inventory of historical genealogical records searchable online. This time can be reduced to 20 to 30 years with more business and community involvement.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton

Facts about research and record-keeping

About 28 billion people lived on the earth in recently recorded history, from A.D. 1500 to 2010.

Information for an estimated 1 billion unique individuals may exist today in online family trees, a fraction of how many still need to be linked.

The bulk of online family history research is focused on the records of North America, Europe and Latin America. Less than 7 percent of these records are searchable online today.

An estimated 60 billion historical records still exist to be digitally preserved and indexed.

Only 8 percent of FamilySearch’s current online indexing volunteer workforce is non-English speaking. The majority of historical records to be made searchable online in the future will require volunteers who read non-English records.

With current volunteers and resources, it could take up to 300 years to make the current inventory of historical genealogical records searchable online. This time can be reduced to 20 to 30 years with more business and community involvement.