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Family Search Indexing

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Family Search, the online genealogy portal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church, is carrying out a massive program to digitize old genealogical records. Volunteers include people inside and outside the Church. The records will be open to anyone interested in doing genealogical research. This program is called Family Search Indexing.

The project has been around for several years, and anyone can participate. No special knowledge is needed in family history research or of computers. However, a computer is needed to participate. There is no time requirement, and any volunteer can work at his or her own pace. About 150,000 people have participated thus far (about 50% are not LDS), indexing more than 700 million names.[1]

Go to and create a user account. There's a download required of about 15 MB. You will choose a batch of names from some type of historical media, such as census records. Each batch contains information about approximately 50 people. You will read the information on the page and enter it in a series of fields at the bottom of the page. The images can be increased in size, or darkened or lightened, to make them clearer. There will always be someone who will check over your work before it is finally submitted, so errors you might make are not as dire to the final outcome. The program has a walk-through tutorial, but many people are able to begin working without any instruction. When you finish a record and save it, it is automatically transmitted to Family Search in Salt Lake City, even if you haven't finished the record. You can save unfinished work and come back to it later. If you go too long without getting back to it, someone else might finish it for you.

The data for Family Search Indexing is being extracted from records in the church storage facility at Granite Mountain in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake Valley. There are about 2.5 million rolls of microfilm stored there, and the Church constantly adds new genealogical data.[2] Extracting and digitalizing the data makes it searchable and available online, free of charge, to family history researchers worldwide. The Church provides a free, digital, searchable copy of collected data back to the provider of the data.

There is a perk for volunteers—an idea of cultures past can be gleaned from the records you digitalize. For instance, a Texas death record might show the results of a shooting spree by the town gunslinger. Another record might show younger women marrying older men. Another record might show an apartment house with immigrants from 25 countries.

Milestones in Family Search Indexing

FamilySearch volunteers expect to have transcribed more than 325 million names by the end of 2009, just three years after the organization began its online indexing program.

The milestone was a number once thought impossible to reach in such a short period of time. In 2006, a few thousand volunteers indexed only 11 million names. But thanks to continuing advances in technology and a growing number of volunteers—more than 100,000 across five continents—an estimated half million individual names are indexed each day.

At that rate, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, expects that 500 million names will have been indexed by the end of 2010. [1]

And yet all this work barely makes a dent in the vast stores of historical records throughout the world, which grow by more than 100 million records (each with multiple names) every year.

To hasten the work of making important historical records available online, the Church’s Family History Department is continually working to develop new ways to preserve records not only as quickly as possible but at the highest quality possible. This has resulted in specially designed digital cameras, innovative scanning technology, and new software and applications.

  1. LDS Week, Daily Herald Newspaper, Sunday, March 29, 2009
  2. Ibid.

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