FamilySearch Celebrates 20 Years Online
Twenty years ago, global nonprofit FamilySearch launched an innovative new website, a free internet genealogy service. Two decades later, FamilySearch is a leader in the rising tide of popular ancestry-related services online. During that time, FamilySearch has expanded and evolved its free mix of online offerings, holding true to its purpose to provide economical access to the world’s genealogical records and create fun family history discoveries for everyone.
On May 24, 1999, FamilySearch.org took the online genealogy world by storm, offering free access to hundreds of millions of historical records online—a treasure for those seeking to make family history connections. For perspective, online broadcast news, e-trading, and downloadable music services were the rage at the time. Google, ranked 93rd of top websites, was still an up-and-coming service that was attempting to redefine the role of a search engine by indexing the web to make results junk free and more consumer relevant.
At FamilySearch.org, searching historical records for new discoveries continues to be a big interest for site visitors. Millions of new customers grace its portal each year, looking for new family connections. And for good reason. The site now boasts over 7 billion searchable names and over 3 billion searchable images of historical records. And it adds more than 300 million new historical records and images yearly from archives worldwide.
The website has expanded its free offerings since its grand opening two decades ago. Patrons have added 1.4 billion ancestors to the site's robust, collaborative family tree. And the tree is integrated with two powerful mobile apps. You can preserve family photos and create audio files that help tell your family’s stories. The website also features an impressive inventory of very useful help services, like how to make sense of DNA test results, and it’s all still free.
Randy Bryson, now retired, was a FamilySearch IT director when the site was launched in 1999. He fondly recalls the big day. He said that the site was so wildly successful that it constituted 10 percent of all internet traffic at the time and was a top 10 website based on the amount of data it was hosting (20 terabytes). “Traffic on the site was so extreme at the time of the launch that we had to limit user access to 30 minutes at a time,” said Bryson. “The amazing thing was that people didn’t go away. When they were timed out, they would just log right back in to finish their search.”
Today the site is nimble and quick. Bryson said he was moved by the amazing gratitude of the site’s users. “It was very overwhelming, emotional, and gratifying” to see people able to easily access records of their ancestors conveniently online from their homes.
Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO, is not surprised by the continued popularity of the website. He said, “When individuals discover more about their family history or make new family connections, it changes them. They see and treat each other differently.” Rockwood said that future services under development on the website will create more of these fun discovery experiences worldwide for site visitors.
FamilySearch.org continues to enjoy impressive growth today, adding over 50,000 new subscribers weekly and hundreds of millions of new family photos, documents, stories, and historical records yearly from contributors and archives around the world.
See what has changed and make new family connections in your family tree for free at FamilySearch.org.
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 5,000 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.