FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization and website offering genealogical records, education, and software. It is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and is closely connected with the Family History Department of said church.[3][4] It was originally established in 1894 as the Genealogical Society of Utah and is the largest genealogy organization in the world.[5]

FamilySearch International
PredecessorThe Genealogical Society of Utah
FoundedSalt Lake City, Utah, US
(November 13, 1894 (1894-11-13))
FounderFranklin D. Richards
James H. Anderson
A. Milton Musser
TypeNonprofit organization[1]
PurposeFamily history, Genealogy, Kinship and descent
Area served
ServicesRecord digitization and preservation

Digital record access Genealogical collaboration tools

Genealogical training
President and CEO
Steve Rockwood[2]
Parent organization
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history. Facilitating the performance of LDS ordinances for deceased relatives is another major aim of the organization. It offers free access to its resources and service online at, one of the most heavily used genealogy sites on the Internet.[6][7] In addition, FamilySearch offers personal assistance at more than 5,100 family history centers in 140 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.[8]

Use of the historical record search and contributing to the Family Tree require a free registered account. The Family Tree section allows users to collaborate on a single, shared, worldwide family tree. There are over 1 billion individuals in the tree. The historical records database contains over two billion digital images, including digitized books, digitized microfilm, and other digital records.[9][10]


Genealogical Society of Utah

The predecessor of FamilySearch, the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) was founded on 1 November 1894. Its purpose was to create a genealogical library to be used by members of the Society as well as other people, to share educational information about genealogy, and to gather genealogical records in order to perform religious ordinances for the dead. It was founded under the direction of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the presidency of the church appointed Franklin D. Richards as the first president.[11]

The society published the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine from 1910 to 1940.[12]

The GSU began microfilming records of genealogical importance in 1938.[13] In 1963, the microfilm collection was moved to the newly completed Granite Mountain Records Vault for long-term preservation.

In 1975, the GSU became the Genealogical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which later became the Family History Department. At that time, its head officer was renamed President from Executive Director, starting during Theodore M. Burton's term.[11] However, the title "President of the Genealogical Society of Utah" and other GSU titles were still used and bestowed upon department officers.

In 2000, the Church consolidated its Family History and Historical departments into the Family and Church History Department, and Richard E. Turley Jr. became managing director of the new department and president of the GSU. Later this decision was reversed and the Family History Department was separated from the Church History Department, becoming its own department.[14]

Presidents of The Genealogical Society of Utah

Franklin D. Richards1894–99[11]
Anthon H. Lund1900–21[11]
Charles W. Penrose1921–25[11]
Anthony W. Ivins1925–34[11]
Joseph Fielding Smith1934–61[11]
Junius Jackson1961–62[11]
N. Eldon Tanner1963[11]
Howard W. Hunter1964–72[11]
Theodore M. Burton1972–78[11]
J. Thomas Fyans1978[11]
Royden G. Derrick1979–84[11]
Richard G. Scott1984–88[11]
J. Richard Clarke1988–93[11]
Monte J. Brough1993–2000?[11]
Richard E. Turley Jr.2000?–08[15]


In 1998 the GSU began digital imaging of records and in about August 1998 the decision was made by LDS Church leaders to build a genealogical website. In May 1999 the website first opened to the public as FamilySearch.[16] The beta version, released April 1, almost immediately went off-line, overloaded because of high popularity.[4] Only a few days after the official launch, the website had received an estimated 100 million hits. To handle the load, site visitors were only given access to the site for 15 minutes at a time.[17] In November 1999, 240 million names were added, bringing the total number of entries to 640 million.[18]

In 2009, the LDS church launched a collaborative tree known as "New FamilySearch." It was the precursor to the current "FamilySearch Family Tree," and was only available to church members.[19] The system was an attempt to combine multiple genealogical submissions to FamilySearch's databases into one single tree, but it did not allow users to edit information that they had not submitted. It also was difficult to add sources to individuals in the tree or determine what was the correct information among multiple submissions. By April 2011, plans were in place to redesign the database into a more collaborative platform.[20]

In 2011, the FamilySearch website received a major redesign. The previous site had allowed users to only search one database at a time, but the new version allowed sitewide searches of multiple databases. It also included the addition of more databases as well as some digitized and indexed microfilms.[21]

On 16 November 2012, FamilySearch announced that the new Family Tree database was now available to all users of New FamilySearch, and that the New FamilySearch database would eventually be phased out.[22] On 5 March 2013, FamilySearch announced that Family Tree was now available to everyone, whether or not they were members of the LDS Church.[23][24] On 16 April 2013 FamilySearch completely revamped the site design generally, with new features and a changed color scheme. Some of the new features include an interactive fan chart and some printing capabilities, as well as the ability to add photos to Family Tree.[25]

In February 2014, FamilySearch announced partnerships with, findmypast and MyHeritage, which includes sharing massive amounts of their databases with those companies, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints receiving free subscriptions with these companies. They also have a standing relationship with BillionGraves, in which the photographed and indexed images of graves are both searchable on FamilySearch and are linked to individuals in the family tree.[26][27]

At the end of 2015 FamilyTree had 1.1 billion persons added by 2.47 million of contributors.[28]

In August 2017, FamilySearch discontinued distribution of physical microfilm to its family history centers due to large-scale availability of digital images of those films and planned digitization of remaining films.[29]

In May 2018, FamilySearch added and digitized their 2 billionth record.[10]



Since 2011, FamilySearch International has organized an annual family history and technology conference called RootsTech. It is held annually in the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference is attended by genealogists, technology developers, and members of the LDS church. In 2014 there were nearly 13,000 people in attendance. In 2017 it claimed to be the world's largest family-history technology conference.[30] It is the successor to three former conferences: the Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy, the Family History Technology Workshop[31] and the FamilySearch Developers Conference.[32] Over the years, RootsTech has welcomed a number of celebrities, television personalities, and actors as keynote speakers.


Historical Records

The main service of the FamilySearch website is to offer access to digital images and indexes of genealogical records. These images can be searched along with a number of databases. While access to the records is always free, some records have restricted access, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center, an Affiliate Library or by LDS members.[33][34] also contains the catalog of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The library holds genealogical records for over 110 countries, territories, and possessions, including over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 742,000 microfiche; 310,000 books, serials, and other formats; and 4,500 periodicals.[35]

FamilySearch Family Tree

FamilySearch FamilyTree (FSFT) is a "one world tree," or a unified database that aims to contain one entry for each person recorded in genealogical records. All FamilySearch users are able to add persons, link them to existing persons or merge duplicates. Sources, images, and audio files can also be attached to persons in the tree.[36]

There are also several features specific to the membership of the LDS Church, facilitating temple ordinance work. In keeping with an agreement with Jewish groups and to prevent abuse, performing LDS ordinances for Holocaust victims or celebrities results in account suspension until the researcher proves a legitimate family connection to the subject of their search.[37]

FamilySearch allows users to input same-sex marriages or other unions.[38]

Indexing projects

Searchable indexes of the records on FamilySearch are created by volunteers of the FamilySearch Indexing program. To ensure greater accuracy, each batch of records is indexed by an indexer and is then checked by a more experienced indexer. Indexing volunteers need not be members of the LDS Church. FamilySearch is currently working with genealogical societies all around the world to index local projects.

At the end of 2010, 548 million vital records had been transcribed and made publicly available through the FamilySearch website.[39] In April 2013, FamilySearch Indexing completed their goal to offer 1 billion indexed records online.[40]


FamilySearch offers free lessons on to help people learn how to find their ancestors. The topics range from basic research to training on specific record types and are designed for both beginners and experienced researchers. Most of the classes come from research consultants in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but FamilySearch is also collaborating with partners such as the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Missouri, to record and post classes.

In 2007, it was decided to start a Family History Research Wiki to help FamilySearch users and others researching genealogy and family history to find and share information on data sources and research tips. The first version of the wiki was built on the Plone wiki software product, but it was soon discovered that MediaWiki software was much more suitable, so in January 2008 it was moved to the MediaWiki platform. In the intervening years it was rolled out in other languages, and as of July 2014 it was available in 11 languages.[41] The other language wikis are found via links at the bottom of the wiki homepage. The wiki in English had over 79,500 articles and over 150,000 registered users as of July 2014.[42]


In 2009 a forums site, which grew to include a variety of subject and topic categories, was started. Some of the extra features included social groups where people could discuss a particular surname or other topic related to genealogy. Help topics were also featured with discussions related to New FamilySearch (, FamilySearch Indexing, and some other products and site features. The forums were never linked from the homepage, but were accessible at Effective 31 December 2012 the forums were closed, although they remain available in read-only form.[43] In 2018, FamilySearch launched a new community forum, called "FamilySearch Community." [44]

Many FamilySearch users have created communities and Facebook groups in an effort to answering members’ genealogy research questions, aid in translation of documents, and other resources. These research communities cover the majority of the world's countries, allowing members constant help with genealogical research.[45]

Mobile apps

FamilySearch has two mobile apps: FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories. They are both supported in iOS and Android and are available in 10 different languages. The FamilySearch Tree app provides most of the features available on the FamilySearch website when exploring the Family Tree. The FamilySearch Memories app accesses the features in the "Memories" section of the Family Tree, and allows users to record audio and upload photos directly into the FamilySearch Family Tree from the mobile app.[46][47]


Family History Library

FamilySearch operates the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The library was built in 1985 as a successor to previous libraries run by the Genealogical Society of Utah. The library is open to the public and has a large collection of international genealogical materials, including microfilm, books, and digital materials. The library's catalog and many of their digital materials are located at the FamilySearch website.

Granite Mountain Records Vault

FamilySearch stores copies of their records in a dry, environment-controlled facility built into Granite Mountain in Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City, Utah. The storage facility is known as the Granite Mountain Records Vault. The vault stores over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 1 million microfiches.

Family History Centers

FamilySearch operates over 5,100 Family History Centers in 140 countries around the world. The centers are branches of the Family History Library, often located within LDS church buildings. Their purpose is to help people with their genealogy and provide access to and help with genealogical materials and software provided by FamilySearch.


In 2008, the Vatican issued a statement calling the practice known as baptism for the dead "erroneous" and directing its dioceses to keep parish records from Latter-Day Saints performing genealogical research.[48]

See also


  1. "About FamilySearch". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2 Aug 2019.
  2. "FamilySearch International Appoints Steve Rockwood as President and CEO to Replace Dennis Brimhall Who Retired". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 2 Aug 2019.
  3. "World's Largest Family History Event Held in Utah". RootsTech. 2 Feb 2016. Retrieved 4 Aug 2019. Stephen T. Rockwood is the managing director for the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and president and CEO of FamilySearch International, so either the two organizations are the same or they are closely connected.
  4. Davis, Erik (1 July 1999). "Databases of the Dead". Wired. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019. The article refers to the "Family History Department" of the LDS church as the entity behind the creation of the original FamilySearch website.
  5. Noyce, David (3 August 2017). "Mormon genealogy library unveils a fun new way to discover your roots". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  6. "Top sites ranking for Hobbies And Leisure > Ancestry And Genealogy in the world". SimilarWeb. Retrieved 2 Aug 2019.
  7. " Competitive Analysis, Marketing Mix and Traffic". Alexa. Retrieved 2 Aug 2019.
  8. "Find a Family History Center and FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries". FamilySearch. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  9. "FamilySearch Company Facts". Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  10. "FamilySearch Adds 2 Billionth Image of Genealogy Records". FamilySearch News Releases. 23 Apr 2013. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  11. Allen, James B.; Embry, Jessie L.; Mehr, Kahlile B. (1995), Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994, Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University
  12. Meyerink, Kory Leland (1998). Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, Inc. p. 710.
  13. Pugmire, Genelle. "LDS Church celebrates 120th anniversary of Genealogical Society, now FamilySearch". Daily Herald.
  14. T, Justin. "Breaking News: Changes in Family and Church History Department Organization". Juvenile Instructor Blog. Archived from the original on 2015-10-06.
  15. "Biography - Richard E. Turley Jr.", Church Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 12, 2008, retrieved 2008-11-20
  16. Reuters (24 May 1999). "Sowing Seeds for Family Trees". Wired. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  17. Toone, Trent (28 Mar 2017). "How technology revolutionized family history work in recent decades". Deseret News. Retrieved 4 Aug 2019.
  18. Inc, Ancestry (2000). 640 Million Names Added to Familysearch Site. Ancestry Magazine (January–February 2000). p. 9.
  19. "Updated to Bring New Features Under One Roof". Church News. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019., which replaced TempleReady last year and includes the Family Tree feature, will be integrated into the updated site.
  20. "The Case for moving to "Our Tree" : A FamilySearch White Paper" (PDF). FamilySearch International. April 2011.
  21. Crume, Rick (9 Jun 2011). "Inside the New". Family Tree Magazine. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  22. Green, David (16 Nov 2012). "Family Tree Now Available To Users". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  23. Wright, Matt (12 Apr 2013). "Family Tree is Available to All Users". FamilySearch Blog.
  24. Lloyd, R. Scott (11 Mar 2013). "FamilyTree: New FamilySearch Service Promotes Collaboration". Church News. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  25. "FamilySearch launches redesigned website". KSL News. 18 Apr 2013. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  26. Brimhall, Dennis (26 Feb 2014). "FamilySearch Partnerships: Some Questions and Answers". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  27. "MyHeritage Partners With FamilySearch To Add Billions Of Historical Records To Its Genealogy Database". Tech Crunch. 15 Oct 2013. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  28. Sagers, Diane (29 December 2015). "2015 Year in Review: FamilySearch Grows as World's Foremost Family History Resource". FamilySearch Blog.
  29. FamilySearch (30 May 2017). "Microfilm Distribution to Be Discontinued on August 31, 2017". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019. Improving search results and indexing additional records is on-going work, as is improving international resources for those living in countries outside of the United States.
  30. Griffis, Joan (2017-03-01). "Joan Griffis/Illinois Ancestors: RootsTech 2017 names prize winners". The News-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
  31. "Family History Technology Workshop". Brigham Young University.
  32. "Conferences and Workshops". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  33. "What are the image restrictions in Historical Records?". FamilySearch Help. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  34. Tanner, James (27 Aug 2017). "Restricted Records on". Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  35. "About the Family History Library". Retrieved March 11, 2010.
  36. Morton, Sunny (15 Feb 2019). "The World's Largest Shared Family Tree". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  37. Jensen, Derek P. (March 7, 2012), "Mormon church blocks whistle-blower's access to baptism data", The Salt Lake Tribune, archived from the original on October 21, 2013
  38. "FamilySearch completes project to allow same-sex family trees". Deseret News. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  39. "FamilySearch Volunteers Have Indexed Over 500 Million Records". FamilySearch Blog. 1 Feb 2011.
  40. Connolly, Courtney (22 Apr 2013). "Thanks A Billion". FamilySearch Blog.
  41. "FamilySearch Wiki:Non-English versions of the wiki". FamilySearch Research Wiki. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  42. "Statistics". FamilySearch Research Wiki. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  43. "FamilySearch Forums". FamilySearch. Archived from the original on 2013-02-10. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  44. "FamilySearch Community Groups Help with Questions". Roots and Branches Blog. 1 April 2018. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  45. "FamilySearch Genealogy Research Groups". FamilySearch Research Wiki. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  46. "Using the New FamilySearch Mobile Apps for iOS and Android!". FamilySearch Blog. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  47. "Family Tree Mobile". FamilySearch. Retrieved 3 Aug 2019.
  48. Muth, Chad (2008-05-02). "Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Ladder-Day Saints". Catholic News Service. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
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