Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Indexing's relationship to the records on FamilySearch Family Tree and elsewhere

The fact that makes an agreement with or any other entity has absolutely nothing to do with the Indexing project. If the volunteers for FamilySearch index any of the records, all of the users or patrons, if you will, of FamilySearch have access to those indexes. While some of the indexes may eventually show up on the website, does not have those records exclusively. Please take time to carefully read the announcement made by on this subject. Apparently, those commenting on this subject have not read the announcement. 

It is also important to remember, what I have said previously more than once, all of the content of is available for free and if you go to a FamilySearch Center, the content is also available for free.

There seems to be an undercurrent of conspiracy theory going around trying to claim that FamilySearch is somehow giving records to exclusively. If anything it is the other way around, FamilySearch is getting the benefit of  the records. Quoting from the FamilySearch Blog:
Will people have to pay to see records indexed by FamilySearch volunteers?
No. Such indexed records will continue to be available for free at as they always have. If a person is paying for a subscription to a service such as at, they may have access to these records from within Ancestry products, but this is not required.
Further, this agreement increases the benefit from the records' availability:
What is the benefit to FamilySearch volunteers?
Any indexer who gives because they want to help others experience the joy of finding their ancestors should feel even more excited at how their gift is being utilized to benefit even more people. Not only will records indexed by volunteers continue to be freely available to visitors of, but they will also be accessible to researchers and patrons of other sites and services.
Again, the records will continue to be freely available to FamilySearch users:
Who will have access to records that are indexed by FamilySearch volunteers?
Records that are indexed by FamilySearch volunteers will continue to be available at no cost to visitors of In addition to this, many of these records will also become available through partner sites such as
If you are questioning your role as an indexer, here is the response:
Why should I do volunteer indexing at FamilySearch?
Volunteer indexers play a vital role in helping people to discover their ancestors. Family history research today is dramatically different than in the past thanks to the internet and searchable indexes. Millions more people are now able to engage in meaningful research about their ancestors because of the accumulated effort of hundreds of thousands of FamilySearch indexing volunteers. But literally billions of records remain un-indexed, each of which represents a possible missing clue that will help another person to remember a treasured ancestor. Help will be needed for many more years but even a small contribution can make a huge difference for someone else.
What is the underlying question here? There is no conspiracy. Please demonstrate to me that one record now or before on FamilySearch, that was previously free is now locked up in a subscription service and cannot be viewed for free online.


  1. Thank you for writing this.
    What seems clear to me is that both familysearch and ancestry created a bit of a communication disaster with the first announcement.

    And still we don't know details of how the upcoming "billion documents" projects will be presented.
    Since familysearch has handled these "shared content" projects differently each (?) time, such information matters.

    They could have taken the probates and wills as an example and explain some basics as to what will actually happen after indexing. It seems a no-brainer to me that the indexed documents will be searchable both on familysearch and ancestry. What is unclear by their wording of the press releases is, if you will actually get to see the scanned images. (on or possibly for free on
    I haven't worked with probates and wills yet, but I figure the indexed information (names, places, dates) will not be "enough" ... the essential is the actual text of the probate/will. For that you will have to see the scan. (Or of course the information where "in real life" the document is stored and where you need to go to get access.)
    So this big project would have been a wonderful example to explain their coperation. They could have added a few words if they will be handling the other documents accordingly or maybe are still figuring out how to present them.

    No use crying over spilled milk. Let's hope that in the future they will make their announcements a little more understandable. I just wondered what this coperation of familysearch and ancestry will mean to me, but a lot of people seem to be seriously frustrated which I feel was unneccessary.

    It would be a shame if people gave up indexing. Even if you only get the basic information and will have to "go some way" to actually look at the document - the search results and the notice that such documents exist is really worth the effort in my opinion.

    Come to think of it, James, is there actually some information on when you have search results but have no access to the actual scan where you can get hold of the document in real life? Like "The original copies of these documents are stored in ..." ... or would that be too hard to keep updated?

  2. I am not a conspiracy theorist. And (as I've said previously) I've seen partnerships between FS and commercial companies before. Still, one has to point out that the original release and the comments are not at all specific, and this has allowed the conspiracy theorists and the anti-Ancestry brigade to enter.

    Take "Such indexed records will continue to be available for free at as they always have". Given we are talking about new content, then "as they always have" does not apply to new content. Secondly, what on earth does "indexed records" actually mean? Does it mean the indexes? Or does it mean the images? Or both? If that particular ambiguity had been resolved before the statement was written, then a lot of concerns would have been allayed.

    Personally, I'm relaxed, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more thought go into the FS responses.