Did you know that FamilySearch International, formerly known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019 and that the FamilySearch website is now 20 years old? It seems like just yesterday (1999) when FamilySearch.org first opened its website to fanfare and a rush of users and then promptly crashed due to the unexpected stampede of enthusiastic genealogists. During all those years, FamilySearch has been an innovator and leader in the genealogy world, transforming the way we do family history research while providing access to billions of records.
So, what happened in 2019? First of all, the number of registered users for the FamilySearch website grew by over 2 million from 11.8 million in 2018, to 13.9 million in 2019. Those users contributed 72 million new individuals and 262.5 million sources to the Family Tree. In addition to that, the users contributed more than 8.75 million photos, stories, documents, and recordings from their own collections to the Memories in Family Tree. FamilySearch also did its part by adding more than 123 million name-searchable records and another 832.5 million new record images to their collection. All of these sources and records help to build and prove the relationships between people and contribute to “The Story of You”, the theme for RootsTech 2020, through encouraging people to discover who they are by bridging the gap between the past and future.
Beyond just adding records, FamilySearch also provided some upgrades and improvements to their website. One of these additions was the long awaited ability to edit indexed names for some records. This allowed the users to correct indexing errors as well as errors in original documents by editing the names. Future improvements in editing, expected in 2020, will allow for dates and places to be editable.
There were also some additions to the ways families are presented in the Family Tree. Now, same sex marriages can be added as well as indicating “no marriage” and “no children” events between couples. These will help reduce the number of notifications and research tips users receive.
We are all grateful for the work done by others, whether that be indexers or fellow researchers, to help build our family trees. Now, we are able to express our thanks. When viewing the indexed information for a record you will see a box in the lower left indicating that the record was indexed by a volunteer. You can then click on “Thank the volunteer” and send them a short message. Also, occasionally, you may see a popup which informs you of the top contributors in your family line and provides a way to thank them for their work.
Another new feature is the ability to see how you are related to a contributor. Many times we get messages from other users asking how we are related to the family. Now they can just click on the contributors name and see that connection, if the contributor has their relationship indicator turned on. This can be found in your user profile, just click the box to turn it on.
Also, new advancements in computer learning are pushing the boundaries of technology. BYU Linking Labs is working on several huge projects. One is the Community Reconstitution Project. This project works to reconstitute communities (groups of people, populations of towns or counties, etc.) by pulling names from record sets. Another is the Census Tree Project. They presented this project at RootsTech 2019. The project links the 188 million people that lived in the US between 1900 and 1940 across the census records. In my opinion, the most amazing project they are working on currently is the Automated Indexing Project. This project provides the technology necessary to automatically index records, including handwritten records. They recently completed indexing the 122 million people in the 1930 US Census and are also working on the 1940 US Census and Ohio death records. Volunteers can help teach the AI computers by using the app located at bit.ly/rll-index.
These are just a few of the many updates in FamilySearch during 2019 but what can we expect in 2020? Well, we should see improvements in the merging features. Some of us have already seen this improvements as it was tested with random users last fall. There will be new ways for us to manage and share our Memories. We will be able to better track our contributions to the Family Tree, and there will be an increase in our ability to find new records. The Explore Images tool will open up new digitized records within days of the records being collected. 2020 will be another groundbreaking year in family history research at FamilySearch.
To read more details about these improvements visit the following pages: