Monday, February 28, 2011

The Inside Scoop on FamilySearch

The St. George Family History Expo is over and I am now in Logan, UT. I drove the first 45 minutes to Cedar City on Saturday night after my book signing. I knew a snowstorm was coming through, but I was confident I could manage. After all, I have been driving in snow for sixteen years! Well, let’s just say it was the worst driving experience of my life. About the time I got too far to turn around, the rain changed to snow – thick, blowing snow. I went 20 miles an hour the rest of the way, often barely able to see the road in front of me. I was a nervous wreck by the time I arrived. Fortunately, the five and half hour drive the next day was much smoother!

I had a great time at the Expo. One of the highlights was a fascinating hour-long conversation I had with Jim Greene, the Marketing Director of FamilySearch. I interviewed him for an article I am writing for Family Chronicle magazine. You’ll be able to read all about it in that magazine in a few months, but I wanted to share some of the highlights about the changes – and what lies ahead for FamilySearch.

First, Jim and I spent some time talking about what has changed the most at the new FamilySearch site (not to be confused with – but the new version of I hope most of you have had the chance to see the site and experiment with some of its new features. The site has now integrated the Wikis that have been in development for some time. You’ll find them under the “Learn” tab. I was relieved to learn that EVERYTHING that was formerly included in the Research Outlines, Resource Guides, Letter-Writing Guides etc. is now found here.

Access to original records continues to expand. Many of the changes that I had been hearing about for years have now been implemented in this section. In addition to adding digitized, indexed records that you can access on FamilySearch, they have also begun to implement two other models of accessing records. First, they have begun to put digitized images online that you can browse even before they are indexed. And second, you can now find searchable indexes on FamilySearch that link to commercial websites (often requiring paid subscriptions) for images of the original records.

Finally, I have been hearing rumors for years of a new, integrated Family History Library Catalogue (FHLC). In fact, I was supposed to write an article on it some time back, but the article was canceled because the new version of the FHLC kept getting delayed. But, now it is up and running – or some parts of it are, anyway. Now, when you search the FHLC, if the record is available on the FamilySearch site, there will be a link to the record. And here’s a sneak peek into the future: FamilySearch envisions a day when this will be open to the community just like the Wikis are. Anyone will be able to add links to records – and not just FamilySearch records, but any online record. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

I also learned what else the future holds for FamilySearch. Of course, more original records will be added to the site. FamilySearch has 200 camera crews working with other repositories such as NARA to digitize records. They also continue to digitize their own records. Of course, indexing lags far behind the digitization. So if you aren’t already helping with indexing, don’t forget that your help can bring these indexes online faster by participating in the program (you can learn more here).

I also wanted to know what the future was for the confusing array of sites. Now, there is which has the new facelift. From there, you can link to the “old” FamilySearch site. And finally, if you are a member of the LDS Church you can access the interactive family trees available at In the future, these will all be combined to one FamilySearch site – open to everyone. The interactive family trees will not only allow people to change and correct information as they do now, but upload original documents, photos etc. to the trees like many personal software programs currently do. When will the general public gain access to these trees? FamilySearch plans to begin to unroll it soon – but only a little at a time to make sure their server can handle the additional users.

I also asked Jim about the reception the changes have received. He was very honest about this, telling me that at first the response was overwhelmingly negative. He attributes this both to changes they needed to make and to the simple fact that is often hard for people to get used to something new. Over the past couple of months, the feedback has shifted to include more positive responses, but negative responses still outnumber the positive. He encourages anyone with specific criticisms (not the blanket “I hate the new site”) to send their comments in to FamilySearch because they read these carefully and try to make adjustments accordingly.

For more information, watch for my upcoming article in Family Chronicle Magazine.

I also wanted to post a few pictures from the conference. Author Bridget Cook was the dinner speaker on Friday night. Here she is (in the center) talking with two attendees. She talked about our genealogy skeletons in the closet and her new book, Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter. Probably few of us have skeletons in the closet that large!

Here I am at my book signing in the exhibit hall with a distant cousin I just met. I mentioned one of my ancestors in my lecture and Joyce came up afterwards to tell me that we shared this ancestor. What a fun surprise!


  1. So GLAD to hear you got through the snow OK. When Gordon and I drove north to Salt Lake at noon the next day, the snow plows had accomplished a great deal, and except for a little rain/slush here and there falling from the sky, we were OK.

    Thanks for sharing your interview, too.

  2. You guys made a better choice than I did by staying put in St. George! The roads weren't great the next morning - at least for the first couple of hours, but it was certainly better than that night.