FamilySearch celebrates 10 years of indexing historic records
Unprecedented crowd-sourced initiative has made billions of records easily searchable online for free
You go online to FamilySearch. You type an ancestor’s name. You instantly find your ancestor in any number of 5.5 billion historical records in the free online database. You are elated at how easy it was as you fill in another missing piece of your family tree puzzle. That successful experience was brought to you by a phenomenon called indexing. And most likely, you were the recipient of a gift empowered by the efforts of many online indexing volunteers.
Next week (December 5th) is International Volunteer Day, and FamilySearch International is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its web-based, volunteer-driven, indexing initiative, which started in 2006. The migration from the previous CD-ROM-based format to the web has been nothing short of amazing, and the rest has been record-making history—literally. The indexing initiative is the largest undertaking of its kind and is unparalleled in its achievements.
As a thank you to indexers and the millions of people who have found family documents from their efforts, FamilySearch is sharing a collection of free downloadable “I HEART Families” images for use on social media, or as cell phone and computer wallpaper.
FamilySearch and its predecessors have been gathering and preserving the world’s historic records to assist people like me and you in making family history discoveries. It publishes millions of digital images of historic records from around the world on FamilySearch.org weekly. FamilySearch’s proprietary software, a lot of computing power, and the contributions of hundreds of thousands of volunteers and countless millions of donated hours make the genealogically rich names and information hidden on those historic records easily and freely searchable to millions of curiosity seekers online.
In 2006, the call went out for volunteers to help in this unprecedented, global cause, and the online community responded. In fact, in just 10 years, over 1.2 million volunteers worldwide have joined the cause and continue to donate much needed time and talent to help index the world’s historic genealogical records.
In the past 10 years, online volunteers have personally pored over 1.5 billion images of historic records from all over the world and made over 5 billion ancestral names conveniently searchable to me and you from any web-enabled device.
Who are these unsung heroes? “They are your next door neighbors and work colleagues who continue to respond to the call to make the world’s historic records freely searchable online for anyone interested in discovering the branches of their family trees,” said Collin Smith, a marketing manager for FamilySearch Indexing. “They hail from all over the world—200 countries to be exact and collectively, the volunteers speak and read 58 languages.”
Why do they do it? Their motivations vary according to Smith. Some are paying it forward because they personally have benefited from priceless searchable record collections online. Others like participating in something meaningful and historic that will make a big difference somehow. Ornella Lepore, a native of Naples, Italy, now living in the United States, helps index Italy’s records online—particularly those pertaining to her ancestral roots. “I can’t afford to travel to Italy as often or whenever I want to do my family history research,” said Lepore. “Having the historic records indexed online where my ancestors are from will help me in my research in the long run.” Not every historic collection from Italy she helps with will hold keys to her personal research, but she knows in time, some of them will. And that’s motivation enough for her.
The entire suite of US Censuses from 1790 to 1940 is most notable of the volunteers’ efforts. All of those records are now freely searchable online at FamilySearch.org. In 2012, the power of this online community was unleashed on the newly released 1940 US Census. They indexed the entire census—all 3.8 million pages of it—in just 4 months, giving access to 134 million names.
And so these volunteers continue to show up daily online, unsung and untold in the internet clouds, ages 12–95, picking historic projects of interest and making a difference for the next person online hoping to find an ancestor in the growing sea of historic records.
Learn more about volunteering online at FamilySearch Indexing.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,957 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.