Monday, September 8, 2008

New Family Search and More Free Genealogy Records

This is not really new news in the online genealogy world, but I did want to blog a little about the New Family Search web site
that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working on right now. In case you haven't already heard, the church is working on digitizing the millions of records they have on microfiche, microfilm and paper to make them available online to anyone in the world for free. What a project!

Here's how it works:
1 - The church has employees and volunteers in Salt Lake City scanning in and digitizing thousands upon thousands of images, including census records, vital records, state indexes, family histories, and pretty much anything else in their collection that they are able to share (because of copyright issues).
2 - Thousands of volunteers throughout the world, speaking many languages and including both members of the church and those not of the church, work every day on creating indexes for these images. This has to be done to make the information in the records searchable and organized.
3 - As the volunteers finish the indexing and other volunteers double-check the work, the images are put online along with the searchable indexes that are linked to them. These records are made available for free to anyone from their personal computer.

The church has even partnered with other genealogical societies, and state and county historical and preservation groups, to create indexes for their own sets of records. (They are even partnering with Ancestry.com to exchange some of the indexes they each have respectively worked on in the past.) Some of these will be available on the New Family Search site, and others will be made available through those individual society or government web sites. Either way, it's a win-win for genealogists all over the world no matter how you look at it.

For now, the New Family Search site is considered a pilot site, meaning it is still not considered "finished" for the general public. However, the church is encouraging everyone to check out the site, search and use it, and offer feedback which will help them in finalizing the site and its features. The new site is here at Pilot Family Search.

This project is slated to take the next several years, but the more volunteers they get who are willing to help index these valuable records, the quicker those new records will be online for everyone's benefit. If you are interested in helping to index
these records, even if all you have to spare is 1/2 hour a week, please check out the indexing website for volunteers at
Family Search Indexing.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I have participated as an indexer and arbitrator for the indexing program for the last 2 years. Although there is more than enough help available to you on Family Search Indexing if you decide to volunteer, I am also willing to answer any questions anyone might have about how it works, how much time is involved, difficulty level, etc.

Whether you are a member of our Church, of another faith, or none at all, I hope you will find value in this new, free and expansive resource from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is going to make genealogy and family history
research a little easier and cheaper for all of us.

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