Doing genealogy (family history work) is important to members of the Church of Jesus Christ because its doctrine teaches that life does not end with death. (See Plan of Salvation.) Family units can continue after death when members make and keep special covenants made in the temple. People who have passed away can also make these covenants and be united with their families throughout eternity. This work, however, must be done by proxy, where living persons stand in on behalf of deceased persons. Once the work is done for a specific person, that person can then choose if he would like to accept it or not. Members of the Church feel it is vitally important that all who have passed away at least have the option to choose. In order to do this work, Church members must be able to identify their ancestors, which leads to family history work.
The Church of Jesus Christ has set up many family history centers through the world and has a large Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the development of the internet, Church leaders saw the potential to assist people in doing their family history work and launched the Family Search website. To use Family Search, visit www.familysearch.org. You can then register for free with the website. When registering, you will be asked for Church membership information, but this is optional and can be left blank. The website will then provide you with your own place to share records with people and turn records in to the Church that you have found through other sources, so that other people searching for their family history will have access to them. This is also optional.
If you are just starting family research, you can find helpful tips by reading the information titled “How do I get started?” on the right hand side of the screen. If you are stuck, and cannot find anything, another option is to locate a Family History Center in your area. This source is located on the home page of Family Search in a light green box in the middle of the screen. Like the website, the services offered at Family History Centers are free. There are volunteers there who can help you locate things you might not find otherwise or explain how to get started.
FamilySearch.org experienced over 200 million visits in 2021. The Church of Jesus Christ announced on September 21, 2021, that the global effort to digitize FamilySearch's collection of millions of rolls of microfilm is now complete. This milestone took 83 years to complete. The archive containing information on more than 11.5 billion individuals is available to the public on FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch’s database now includes more than 14.3 billion searchable names and images from historical records — such as birth, death, marriage, census, military service and immigration documents — from all over the globe. Over 200 countries and principalities and more than 100 languages are represented in the digitized documents. In addition to preservation professionals in the Church History Department, the effort also involved Church staff and senior missionaries who visited many religious and government archives worldwide over the past eight decades. The microfilm will continue to be stored and preserved in the Church’s physically secured and climate-controlled archives.
FamilySearch is also in the process of digitizing its large microfiche collection, which should be completed in the next several years, according to the news release. Microfiche stores exposures of documents on flat sheets of images rather than reels.
OCLC has partnered with URL FamilySearch International to share data between WorldCat and the FamilySearch Catalog. As a result, more than 1 million FamilySearch genealogical records are now discoverable in WorldCat, the world’s largest database of records representing resources in libraries worldwide. Links to WorldCat are now available on FamilySearch.org.
The partnership between OCLC and FamilySearch is an ongoing effort to improve and enhance the tools available for genealogy researchers throughout the world.
Those who use the FamilySearch Catalog now have access to local histories of counties, cities, and regions; maps, photos, and other images; local biographies and profiles of prominent citizens; and city directories, catalogs, inventories, and original manuscript materials.
Those who begin their research by using WorldCat will have access to collections from FamilySearch that include historic documents of genealogical value, including: civil registration records; church records; probate, census, land and tax records; military records; family histories; clan and lineage genealogies; and oral pedigrees.
Many FamilySearch records added to WorldCat represent large collections of vital information, such as birth and death records from localities all over the world. If digitized, these records link back to FamilySearch.org where they can be viewed online. If on film, these records can be requested from FamilySearch to a satellite or affiliate FamilySearch Family History Center. FamilySearch records with a corresponding WorldCat record will indicate a library or libraries that hold the item.
This means genealogists using the FamilySearch Catalog may now be able to find additional copies of books and other sources at libraries closer to them. Many additional materials related to their research that are not in the FamilySearch collection will also be discoverable in the collections of other libraries that include their holdings in WorldCat.i In 2013 he Church of Jesus Christ announced updates that will enhance the experience for anyone using FamilySearch.org. "Families can now share and preserve for posterity those social heirlooms that help vitalize their family history."  New collaborative features mean that "... individuals can collaboratively build their shared family tree, starting with themselves and then expanding to past generations."
- All of the features and services on FamilySearch.org are available in 10 languages. A robust collection of free how-to videos and other online resources are available as well. Just click on the help button on the site for more details. Below are some descriptions of the new features and upgrades:
- Family Tree Wizard: This tool is a resource for those just starting their family history. In an inviting interview style, the tool asks questions about a person's living and deceased ancestors and then builds connections into the Family Tree to get users started on their own family history. Users can see the status of their family tree in a colorful fan chart or the traditional pedigree view.
- Photos: Users can attach photos and documents to any ancestor's profile in a family tree. The photos can be shared with family members in a family line. Once the family photos are in the system, they can also be shared through social media. More than 600,000 photos have already been added by users to the site.
- Stories: With this feature, users can write, preserve and share favorite stories about a specific ancestor in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Family members remember fun or inspirational stories about an ancestor far longer than names and dates. Users can save and contribute the popular stories and honored memories.
- Interactive Fan Chart: In 2012, FamilySearch tested a feature that enables an individual to see their family tree in the context of a colorful fan chart. Millions of fan charts were printed from the website. This feature has been enhanced to be easier to read and more interactive.
- Live Help: Interest in family history is growing worldwide and FamilySearch has launched a global online community that provides free product help and personal research assistance by phone and web chat 24 hours a day — in 10 languages.
- Notifications: Set up an email account to receive updates about changes to your family lines in the Family Tree. If a great aunt attaches a photo, document or story or adds new information to an ancestor's file, a person can receive an email notifying them a change has been made.
- 3.2 million indexed records and images from Austria, BillionGraves, Brazil, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States were added in December 2013. Included in these records are images from the Brazil, Sao Paulo, Immigration Cards, 1902–1980; South Africa, Eastern cape, Estate Files, 1962–2004; South Africa, Western Cape, Estate Files, 1966–2004; Austria, Seigniorial Records, 1537–1888; Italy, Catania, Caltagirone, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1861–1941; Russia, Nizhni Novgorod Poll Tax Census (Revision Lists), 1782–1858. Also included are indexed records from the U.S., Minnesota, Naturalization Card Index, 1930–1988 collection; and Spain, Province of Sevilla, Municipal Records, 1293–1966. For more information, go to FamilySearch.org.
The new enhancements follow the trends in social networking and collaboration through media. The Church of Jesus Christ is encouraging its youth to become involved in Family History, especially because of their abilities with technology.
Even if an ancestor's information is not available, FamilySearch adds more than a million images of historic records and newly searchable names almost every day. With the amount of records being added, things can change in a family line quickly, so it's important to check back often.
Family Search Introduces New Photo-Scanning System
FamilySearch has implemented a new service now offered in more than 2,800 of the Church’s North American family history centers and coming soon to international centers.
The recently installed customized Lexmark multifunction products (MFPs) quickly scan family photos, vital records, correspondence, or significant documents and transfer them online to a patron’s personal genealogical space. The scanning system produces high-quality digital images in both .jpg and .png file formats and will accommodate up to 5 MB in size. Items may also be scanned and saved to a thumb drive, all free of charge.
- “The scanning process is simple and straightforward. Just the touch of a button on the scanner, a login to an established FamilySearch.org account, and the important photos or papers are scanned and transferred as high-quality digital images. The items are cropped and deposited in a folder in your FamilySearch account. You can then at your leisure label them, identify people in the photos and connect them to respective ancestors in your FamilySearch Family Tree. From there, you can post links and share the information with other family members and encourage them to share as well.”
Resources and References
- FamilySearch.org - LDS Church run website for discovering your family tree
- New.FamilySearch.org - LDS Church website for tracking temple work on your family tree
- Labs.FamilySearch.org - Record Search is a quick and easy way to search millions of historical records for clues about your ancestors. Many census records have been digitally catalogued to allow for automated search of your forefathers. Click on a map to see what records exist for a geographic area or enter what you know about an ancestor, click search, and see matching records - all online. We're adding millions of new records so be sure to check back often. (requires Adobe Flash Player).
- Millions of New Records Added to Family Search
- Genealogy.Wikia.com - Free Wiki format allows for multiple users to share genealogical research on their forefathers. Similar to MormonWiki.
- USGenWeb.org - Free genealogy and family history online made possible by the USGenWeb Project volunteers. ... and fully committed to free genealogy access for everyone.
- Cyndi's List - Provides links to thousands of categorized and cross-referenced genealogical resources.
- Genealogy Toolbox - The Genealogy Toolbox is collection of tools to assist those interested in researching their genealogy or family history. Links to hundreds of thousands of Web sites with content relevant to family history resources, as well as linking to content gathered by our TreEZy search engine, and digitized images of original documents.
- FamilySearchIndexing.org - Church website using an army of volunteers to build a giant online indexing system. Volunteers from around the world are able to quickly and easily transcribe the records — all from the convenience of their homes. The indexes are then posted for FREE at familysearch.org. Millions of rolls of microfilm provide census, vital, probate, and church records from over 100 countries for indexing projects. Governments, churches, societies, and commercial companies are also working to make more records available. (See FamilySearch Indexing.)
- Pilot.FamilySearch.org - Church website similar to labs.FamilySearch.org using state of the art technology for family search.