SALT LAKE CITY — FamilySearch, the nonprofit family history website, is about to hit a big milestone: In the next few weeks, FamilySearch volunteer indexers will have completed their 1 billionth searchable record.
Indexing is the process of recording information from historical documents so that they may be searchable online, helping people from every corner of the globe to find their ancestors. This indexing has been made possible by a veritable army of volunteers from around the world, working to index census, birth, marriage, death, immigration and other records from more than 60 countries daily.
“We’re impressed and amazed at what volunteers have accomplished in such a short amount of time,” Mike Judson, manager of Indexing Workforce Development for FamilySearch, said in a press release. “We believe there is potential to do the next billion much faster.”
More than 263 million records were published in 2012 alone, but that’s not the whole story. FamilySearch utilizes a double-entry method, which means those 263 million records were actually indexed twice. In addition, most of those entries were reviewed by an arbitrator, a third indexer checking for accuracy. This means that nearly 900 million separate indexing tasks were performed by volunteers in just one year.
Indexing in various forms has been going on since 1921. But with the explosion of the digital age came the need to make these records widely and easily accessible online, allowing people to search genealogical records by name, date and location. FamilySearch was launched in September 2006 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to meet that need. The service, found at the website familysearch.org, is free to use and open to everyone.
The indexing efforts have helped accelerate family history research like never before. FamilySearch volunteers have helped to index many high-profile records, including the 1940 U.S. Census and millions of Civil War records. Not only are volunteers putting these records online, FamilySearch teams are capturing as many as 35 million photographs each month from archives all over the world and making them digital and searchable.
Judson said the indexing efforts of FamilySearch have been so successful, in part, because people from all walks of life share a common interest: helping those who lived before us to be remembered and honored.
In total, FamilySearch has 3.3 billion searchable names in its database. While the progress so far is incredible, the work is far from over.
“Reaching the billion mark is definitely a cause for celebration, but it is also a call to action,” said Judson. “More people need to have the experience of finding their ancestors and discovering those connecting stories to their past. We all have parents, we all have grandparents, and universally I think we are all interested in who those people are and where they came from, which ultimately tells us about ourselves.”
FamilySearch is still reaching out for volunteers to join in its indexing efforts. Volunteers can work at their own pace from their own homes. Visit www.familysearch.org/volunteer/indexing to find out how to get involved.