March 24, 2007
By John L. Hart
Church News associate editor
PROVO, Utah — FamilySearch, the Church's massive family history database of searchable names, has been undergoing revision with the end goal of making it easier to find one's family forebears online.
Computer "search" is replacing the microfilm "research" part of family history.
Speakers from the Church's Family and Church History Department and others spoke at BYU's 10th annual Computerized Genealogy Conference, held on campus March 16-17, discussing ways that emerging technology is radically changing the traditional landscape of genealogical research.
In the forefront, several speakers noted that revision of FamilySearch's replacement for TempleReady is nearing completion of its beta testing and will begin to be implemented soon.
"While there are still numerous additions and new features to be included in the new family tree feature online that will replace TempleReady, the time has come to roll forward with what we have," said Jim Greene of the Family and Church History Department.
He said one of the main goals of the new Family Search revisions is to increase the number of those compiling family histories.
Instead of just one person in a family working on the family's history, "we need to get more more people involved," he said. "The problem is that there are a great number of people who just feel that it is too hard, so one of the objectives is to make it easier."
"You can capture what you already know. Can't type? Have a grandchild enter the data for you. You can do indexing from home. If you like the thrill of a mystery, searching the piles of genealogy data online is getting easier. There's something for everyone."
Another tool to make it easier will be a vastly improved capacity to post new indexes, linked to original images.
"Now, with the tools we have available through technology, through the Internet, through the ability to take the 1.2 billion names that the Church has already online, and consolidate them and show them to everybody at the same time — we now have the capability to do this.
In addition, within the next two years, the new FamilySearch will replace TempleReady and simplify the process of submitting names for temple work. This major effort will significantly reduce — and eventually eliminate — duplication of work and names, said Brother Greene.
He said that this charge was given to the department by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, "One of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity is that as we get more and more temples scattered across the earth there is duplication of effort in proxy work. People in various nations simultaneously work on the same family lines and come up with the same names" (October 2005 general conference).
Another speaker, Rick Crume, a contributing editor for Family Tree magazine, in introducing online research, said, "Today you can accomplish in minutes (online) what used to take weeks or months, and make discoveries that would have eluded you entirely using previous methods."
He shared online sites of directories and databases (please see box on this page) and encouraged searchers to be involved in research coordination to avoid duplication of effort and to possibly obtain information already completed by others.
One of these databases for research coordination is Pedigree Resource File (PRF), a database introduced in 1999 that now has more than 150 million searchable names that can be viewed in a pedigree or family tree format. Users can easily add their own family histories to the free database at www.familysearch.org. Information on how to do this is available online at the Share tab.
Bill Mangum, a project manager charged with developing improved search and data hosting capacities at FamilySearch.org, surveyed those in the audience and found many had been doing family history for decades. During these decades, these and other researchers had many problems, some that were discouraging and even heartbreaking.
His project group, he said, did all this research to "find out how people were doing, what they were doing, both inside the department and outside... where the breakdowns were, and how to fix them."
A project now underway that addresses many of the challenges of traditional research is the digitization of the Church's vast microfilm resources.
FamilySearch Scanning is a new technology that converts microfilm to digital images that can be searched online — think of it as a digital microfilm experience online. A second project now in place allows volunteers to index the digitized records online. Interested individuals can register now online at familysearchindexing.org and begin indexing now. Some of the current and upcoming projects are also listed at the site. He also noted that there are now more than 5,000 published family histories in the library that have been digitized and are fully searchable online as well at familyhistoryarchive.byu.edu.
March 24, 2007
Online genealogy resources continue to grow, said Rick Crume, Family Tree magazine contributing editor. Family history research begins with finding ancestors' life events, such as birth, marriages and deaths, recorded independently. Below are places to look for this information.
Directories and public records
U.S. Public Records Index
American History and Genealogy Project (USGenNet)
How do I get started
Online Genealogy Records and Resources
BLM General Land Office Records
BYU Family History Archive
Ellis Island Records
Obituary Daily Times
Social Security Death Index
Family History Library Catalog
Library of Congress
Ancestry World Tree
Gencircles Global Tree
Pedigree Resource File
RootsWeb's World Connect Project