OFFENBACh, Germany — Genealogy is quickly becoming a favorite pastime of Americans. Somewhere between 18 and 23 million people in the U.S. trace their family history.
The LDS church is helping to make sure people have access to as many records as possible, all from the comfort of their own homes. The LDS church is helping people trace that family history by sending camera teams across the globe to photograph important documents.
KSL followed some of their efforts in Germany.
Utah mother-daughter duo Baerbel and Anne Johnson have been researching family history at the city archive in Offenbach Germany outside Frankfurt.
"My grandfather grew up in Offenbach and had his first business in Offenbach," said Baerbel Johnson.
They recently found a city directory from 1899, with an entry for Moris Klamisch, her great grandfather, who was a machinist. They viewed the original passport of Baerbel's grandfather as well.
"Thats the first time I'd ever seen a picture of my grandfather," she said.
Finding these records is exciting, but not everyone gets to peruse family documents in foreign archives. Enter the LDS church. It sponsors a nonprofit family history organization called FamilySearch, which boasts the largest collection of family history records in the world.
"We enable people to make searches for family history," said Olaf Zander, operatinos manager for FamilySearch.
Utah couple Virginia and Karl Goeckeritz have been combing through church microfilm records near Frankfurt and soon they may be able to do that from home. This year, FamilySearch employees will post 320 million of their microfilm images online. And they are gathering new digital images.
David Schauperl is one of 200 camera teams taking pictures in 45 different countries, going into churches and archives to photograph birth and death registers.
"Some church records and immigration records," Schauperl said. "And right now we see here behind me boxes of wills and Testaments."
Those images, roughly 300 a day, are then sent to Salt Lake City, and within a month, the records are published on FamilySearch.org
Recently, the 1940 census was released with 3.8 million new images for people. That sounds like a lot but compare that to the LDS church: This year they will release 80 million new images that people will eventually have access to.
The LDS church has to get permission before filming these documents. In some countries, that's easier than others. But they continue to add more camera teams in Europe and around the world.
That means when families get a chance to visit the country of their ancestry, they can spend more time exploring.
"To think that I'm in Offenbach with my child. That's a really cool thing," Johnson said.
The Johnsons admire the city artwork of Anne's grandfather.
"That's what I loved about today is it brings history closer to where I am and also kind of solidifies who I am," said Anne Johnson.