Saturday, May 17, 2008

FamilySearch Tree Demo now available

Family Tree
The FamilySearch Family Tree allows you to navigate from yourself, to your ancestors, and beyond. Users of the Family Tree collectively and collaboratively organize information into its appropriate node on this shared tree. Ultimately, each node will be a folder containing or linking to all known information for an individual.

Navigate the tree. Open the Folders to discover additional information about individuals. Search for records not found on your part of the tree.
(requires Adobe Flash Player)

Family Tree Demo Version is now available to all.

FamilySearch Records Search Pilot is Expanding

FamilySearch Record Search is a quick and easy way to search millions of historical records for clues about your ancestors. 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)

Record Search - Good gets Better!
12 May 2008 by Tim Crabb
We continue to work to make the site easier to use and have appreciated the comments and feedback that we have received over the past two weeks since our last update. Now we have updated the site one more time with the following changes:

No login required: We have opened the site up for quick and easy access without registering
Improved Home Page: Modified a bit of the look to freshen the site for new users
Improved Place Suggestions: Country and State suggestions are significantly better - see if it works better for you. But don’t forget searching by county and or city is still very much supported.
Client Side Caching: The site updates are better managed and subsequent startup times should be quicker
New Collections: Civil War Pensions and US 1860 Census (one state)
Please take a look at the site - we will be watching the blogs and feedback to hear how these changes are helping you!

Updated 12 May 2008 to version 1.31. Read more about Record Search on the Labs blog.

New Ancestry Search Beta Now Available to Everyone

New Ancestry Search Beta Now Available to Everyone
Back in February I wrote that a new Ancestry Search was in early “mini-beta” stage. The beta is now an option available to all users and the Ancestry search team is anxious to hear your thoughts. You can access the new search preview by going to the Search tab and then clicking the Try It link in the upper right corner of the page. (Don’t worry, if you decide you want to switch back to the old search, there will be a link in that same spot that will take you back whenever you want.)

In addition to improvements in finding the best possible matches, here are some other features you’ll find:

Hover preview. When you hover over a search result, you’ll see a preview window open with more details so that you don’t have to click on every item.
Image snapshots. When you are working with newspapers, you’ll see thumbnail images of the search terms as they appear in the document, again saving you from having to click through on irrelevant items. Thumbnail images are also available on photo search results.
Refine search box. The box to refine your search has now been moved to the left side of the page, so you don’t have to scroll down to the bottom of the page. For searches of the entire site, there is also a box below the refine search box that allows you to narrow your search by category.
Exact Match Options. Specify whether you want all terms to match exactly, only particular fields, or go for the closest matches.
Card Catalog. Browse titles in the card catalog with the ability to filter by category, location, and/or date simultaneously, and then sort the results alphabetically, by the date the database was added or last updated, by popularity, and by size. Click here to try it out!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FamilySearch Teams with to

14 May 2008

1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index are first projects

SALT LAKE CITY-FamilySearch announced today its records access agreement with to publish two significant Civil War Era databases online-the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index. The two relevant collections will provide free online access to millions of names of individuals from the 1860 to 1865 period in the United States. The completed databases will expand FamilySearch's growing, free U.S. Census collection online and Footnote's Civil War Collection.

The censuses and Civil War pension files are the most used collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The 1860 census provides a snapshot of families living during the Civil War Era. The index to the Civil War pension applications allows searchers to quickly see if a Civil War veteran or his widow applied for a pension-which can lead to rich family history information contained in the original pension document.

Under the agreement, FamilySearch will provide the digital images of the original documents for the 1860 U.S. Census, and will provide the indexes to both the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions. FamilySearch plans to publish the indexes for both of these collections for free this year at The images of the original documents will also be viewable at or accessed for free through the 4,500 FamilySearch family history centers located worldwide.

As segments of the collections are completed, users will be able to search them at

Civil War Pensions Index
Ten percent (3 million) of the U.S. population served or fought in the U.S. Civil War, and 2 percent (620,000) died-more American casualties than The American Revolutionary War, World War I, World War II, The War against Switzerland, The War of 1812, and the Vietnam War combined. If soldiers or their families applied for a pension from the government, an index card for the pension application should exist.

The index also extends beyond the Civil War to include veterans who served between 1861 to 1917 in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion, and the regular establishment.

Each card usually lists the soldier's full name, rank, company and regiment, when he enlisted and discharged, and provides a certificate number required to order a copy of the original pension application from NARA. The completed index will allow users to search on a name, or browse by state, arm of service (infantry, cavalry, militia, etc.), regiment, and company to locate individual records.

1860 U.S. Census
The 1860 U.S. Census index will allow users to quickly search the names of 31 million people captured on the census. Additional information includes the age, sex, color, place of birth, and marriage status. Slave schedules show the name of the slave owner, number of slaves owned, number of freed slaves, and the age, color, and gender of the slaves. The names of the slaves were not included in the 1860 Census.

"These record collections provide a valuable view of America during a critical time in its history," said Russ Wilding, CEO of "Together with the other Civil War documents on, visitors are able to piece together a picture of our history that few have seen before."

Ransom Love, director of Strategic Relationships for FamilySearch, added, "Footnote is targeting U.S. historical records and building their Civil War Collection. FamilySearch wants to provide free indexes to all of the U.S. Censuses online. This joint project helps bring both companies closer to their respective goals."

FamilySearch Engages to Enhance Its Popular Online Catalog

14 May 2008

FamilySearch Engages, Inc. to Add Functionality and Enhancements to Popular Online Family History Library Catalog

SALT LAKE, Inc. has teamed with FamilySearch to improve the user experience of the Family History Library Catalog for millions of people worldwide by adding new Web 2.0 functionality and enhancements. The improvements will also enable users to spend research time more efficiently by directing them to the information that will generate the quickest results.'s improvements to the catalog will make it searchable by major online search engines and allow users to annotate item descriptions-increasing their accuracy and enriching the content.

FamilySearch's Family History Library Catalog is used extensively by genealogy enthusiasts. It is a window to the vast collection of genealogical resources amassed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the past 100 years-millions of microfilms, fiche, and books from 110+ countries throughout the world.

Genealogists use the popular online catalog to see if FamilySearch has any material that can help them in their research. Materials are then requested through one of FamilySearch's 4,500 local family history centers worldwide.

"The enhancements will help make to the Family History Library Catalog will increase its usability and exposure. Beginners will find it particularly easier to navigate, and searching and browsing will be more rewarding," said Paul Nauta, Manager of Public Affairs, FamilySearch.

Improved Searching
Upgrades to the Family History Library Catalog will allow it to be combed by the major Web search engines. That means Web searches done by millions of family history enthusiasts who may not have been familiar with the rich content of the Family History Library Catalog will now discover exciting new sources to assist them in their genealogy pursuits.

In a typical search of the Family History Library Catalog, users first identify known facts about a family and then go through a step-by-step process to locate records. Newly integrated tools will help users better identify information. Guided searches will help users decide what they want to learn about their families, point them to relevant records, help them obtain and search the records, provide clues to more information, and assist them with the application of the new information.

As part of the enhancement, will make searches more useful by allowing the user to browse, sort (by popularity, relevance, most used, etc.), and perform multiple searches. A new "probability engine" feature will calculate the likelihood that a particular source contains the desired item. It will also be able to search across someone's entire family tree to determine which ancestry lines have the highest likelihood of success based on known sources.

"We are excited to work with FamilySearch and to add this extensive catalog to our database collections," said Paul Allen, CEO,, Inc. "We have looked at doing this collaboration for quite a while. We will enhance the catalog by connecting it with new innovative tools, along with the best resources of our databases, the social networking site, and our We're Related application in Facebook. Putting all of these resources together will dramatically change the meaning of 'search' in genealogy."

Social Networking will also add an annotation feature that will encourage user contributions and make the catalog much more dynamic and current. Users will be able to add or suggest a new source, enhance an existing source by adding a place (location) or a time period, and rate and review a source based on its usefulness.

Another enhancement to the Family History Library Catalog will be its increased interactivity. Every entry in the catalog will link to an online or digital source, if available. The user will then be able to link directly to the publisher, buy the book, or search for the nearest copy.

"FamilySearch is excited to work with to enhance the Family History Library Catalog. They are leaders in the Social Networking space and will greatly enhance and extend the catalog and its usefulness to millions of people," said Ransom Love, FamilySearch Director of Strategic Relations. "We hope this is the first of many other possible opportunities for FamilySearch to outsource key infrastructure components to innovative companies like They will receive access to key resources to help them grow much quicker and FamilySearch's assets will be upgraded and extended in return."

"We know that search traffic will increase on both the FamilyLink services and FamilySearch's site when users discover the new guided search tools," said President David Lifferth. "Last month we had over 700,000 unique visitors and 8.5 million page views. We are predicting that these numbers will more than double after the first quarter of use."