“Church’s FamilySearch.org Reaches Seven-Year Mark,” Ensign, Aug. 2006, 76
FamilySearch.org, the largest provider of free family history resources and genealogy records in the world, has helped millions of people find their ancestors and preserve their family history since it first launched seven years ago in May 1999.
“Seeking to understand our family history can change our lives,” President Gordon B. Hinckley said during a press conference to launch the site in 1999. “It helps bring unity and cohesion to families. There is something about understanding the past that helps give our young people something to live up to, a legacy to respect. We’re grateful to be able to make a significant contribution to that” (“News of the Church,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 74).
FamilySearch.org allows users to search numerous databases for records of deceased ancestors, access millions of microfilmed records stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, download free Personal Ancestral File (PAF) family history software, learn how to get started on family history, and share their genealogy with other family members.
Steve W. Anderson, marketing manager for FamilySearch™, notes that many new databases, record collections, research guides, and other resources have been added to the Web site since its launch.
When FamilySearch.org was first launched, nearly 400 million names were available in the site’s searchable databases. At its seventh anniversary, the number is more than one billion names. The site’s capacity to serve more patrons has also increased since its launch.
FamilySearch.org receives more than 100,000 visitors a day and has more than one million registered users.
“Many thousands of patrons are new, and in just minutes they are able to find information about their ancestors that they have never been able to find before,” Brother Anderson says.
Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs for FamilySearch, says that “FamilySearch.org’s primary objective is to improve access to the Church’s genealogical holdings.”
Brother Nauta says he has heard countless success stories—and has one of his own—of using the genealogical resources available on FamilySearch.org. His paternal grandfather came from Italy to the United States. After his grandfather’s death, Brother Nauta and his siblings lost contact with that side of the family. About a year after Brother Nauta posted his genealogy online, a university student in Italy e-mailed him: “Hey, I saw your genealogy … and we’re related! Would you like to know more?”
Through this contact Brother Nauta discovered more about his ancestors and their roots in Italy. He has since had the opportunity to visit the town and his newfound relatives in Italy. He said of his Italian cousins, “It was like I had never not known them.”
Brother Nauta, who attends family history conferences around the world and often hosts a booth at these conferences, says many people have come by the family history booth, saying, “You can’t help me with my family history—it’s a lost cause.” But within 20 to 30 minutes of searching on FamilySearch.org, they have discovered information about their ancestors. “People just sit there and cry with joy to be connected with their ancestors,” he says.
A number of new features are slated for addition to FamilySearch.org as the Church continues to help people around the world discover their heritage and unite their families.