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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where is FamilySearch today?

Its that time again. Time to review the status of FamilySearch. I do this for a variety of reasons. First, because I have an almost vested interest in seeing that it grows and succeeds. The reason? I am actively involved on the Support Team for the FamilySearch Research Wiki and Moderator for Arizona and Utah and I have several other FamilySearch related activities. Plus, I teach and do presentations on FamilySearch all the time and last, I wrote the book The Guide to FamilySearch Online.

These alone are good reasons to be fussy about what goes on with the vast websites of FamilySearch.org.

The main changing feature about FamilySearch will continue to be the huge number of digitized records going into the FamilySearch.org Historical Record Collections.  As of the date of this post, there are 1067 collections comprising millions upon millions of records. I note that multiple collections are being added almost every day of the week except Sunday. If you are doing any research at all, you need to periodically check to see if there have been any records added in your area of interest. I realize that there are a few blogs out there that periodically update the list of Historical Record Collections, but since new collections are added every day, this is a pretty easy topic. I do appreciate the reminder however and there does need to be a mechanism for finding out when a database helpful to your own research shows up. Right now, all we can do is check back frequently.

One item, mostly of interest to those on New.FamilySearch.org, is that this controversial online database will be entirely replaced by an updated product called Family Tree sometime, possibly before the end of 2012. A live version of the program is in circulation among a restricted number of users. Look here in my blog for a review of the new Family Tree program shortly. I might say that my first impressions are that the program will end the pain and suffering of the present New FamilySearch users but may create a whole new set of concerns. But all in all, things are generally looking up.

Another part of the FamilySearch.org website that is now growing rapidly, after a long period of stagnation, is the online digitized books comprised of volumes from the Family History Libraries collections as well as books from the various Family History Centers around the world. I understand that just before RootsTech 2012, FamilySearch added about 40,000 books to the online collection. You can access the books by searching directly or you can use the Family History Library catalog. If you find a book you want in the catalog, the entry for the book will tell you if the book has already been digitized. This is also an ongoing process and the number of books scanned will increase regularly.

The big news is the 1940 U.S. Census project enlisting volunteers to index the census records. I have already posted about this subject but it bears repeating. There are approximately 132,000,000 people in the 1940 U.S. Census. They can have one person index 132,000,000 names or some larger number do fewer names. Right now with an estimate of 100,000 indexers working, each one would have to do about 1320 names to finish the job. There is a direct relationship between the number of indexers and the time it takes to finish. The question is simple: Would you like an index to the 1940 U.S. Census? If your answer is yes, then you need to get busy and learn how to Index between now and the release date on April 2, 2012.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki continues to grow unabated. There are several statewide projects going on all the time to increase the content and make it more accessible to the user. Again, as with the other now vast collections on FamilySearch.org, the Research Wiki grows incrementally and the addition of new pages happens all day long 24/7. It is like traffic on a freeway, always there and sometime more than others.

FamilySearch raised the cost of renting a microfilm from $5 to $7.50, probably a needed increase due to increased costs of just about everything else in the world. The good news is that as the microfilm is digitized, access becomes free online.

RootsTech 2012 was a huge success and as I have posted previously, many of the presentations are available either on the RootsTech 2012 website or on YouTube (search for RootsTech).

Internally, FamilySearch had a recent change in CEOs from Jay Verkler to Dennis Brimhall. This change will become more than superficial as time goes on. I understand from talking to FamilySearch employees that nearly every department has undergone some sort of restructuring. Many of the faces are changing and projects and programs presently given precedence may change. Will some programs be cut or reduced? Time will tell.

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