One Billion Images of Ancestral Historic Records Rebirthed Online

June 23, 2014  - by 

FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) announced today the online publication of its one billionth image of historic records at FamilySearch.org, a feat that took just 7 years to accomplish. If you don’t have the time or means to travel where your ancestors walked, perhaps you can begin unveiling their fascinating lives through the tidal waves of new online historic records that can recount the stories of their lives. The billionth image was published in FamilySearch.org’s growing Peru civil registration collections.

“Although a few social sites like Flickr and Facebook can boast over a billion photos contributed by users, there is no site like FamilySearch.org that has published over 1 billion images of historic records online,” remarked Rod DeGiulio, director, FamilySearch Records Division. “And a single digital image can have several historic records on it—which means there are actually billions of records in our browse image collections online for people to discover and volunteers to index.”

Hidden in the growing collections of digital images are billions of census, immigration, military, birth, marriage, death, church, and court records that are priceless for family historians seeking to connect the family tree dots to their elusive ancestors. And the images come from national, state, municipal, and religious archives all over the world.

FamilySearch started preserving and providing access to the world’s historical records for genealogy purposes in 1938 using microfilm and distributing copies of the film through its global network of 4,600 local FamilySearch centers. In 2007, it made the shift to digital preservation and access technology and began publishing its massive historic records collections online.

It took 58 years to publish the first two billion images of historic records on microfilm—which was limited to patrons of its local FamilySearch centers and affiliate public libraries. In the past 7 years, it has been able to publish one billion images at FamilySearch.org, which expands access to anyone, anywhere, with Internet access. DeGiulio projects the next billion images should take about 3 to 5 years to publish.

70% of the online images currently come from FamilySearch’s initiative to digitally convert its huge microfilm collection for online access. 25% comes from new camera operations—275 camera teams digitally imaging new historic records in 45 countries that have never seen the light of day or the Internet. And 5% come from agreements with partnering organizations.

Currently, FamilySearch publishes about 200 million images of historic records online each year (averaging about 500,000 per day) making the vast majority of them accessible for the first time to more people from anywhere in the world.

It also means more historic records are being preserved and protected against future damage and loss, and the speed at which they are being made available online for research is rapidly increasing. For example, it took 18 months on average for FamilySearch to make a historic document available to the public using microfilm. With the new digital technology, a camera team digitally captures the image from its current resting place in some archive somewhere in the world today, and in just 2 to 4 weeks, it can be accessible online for the first time. It’s a new dawn for historic records preservation and access.

“These historic records are now literally going from the archive to your living room in brilliant, high definition images, just like that. The world’s archives are coming to you online,” added DeGiulio.

FamilySearch’s ultimate goal is to make the information from the billions of historic records in the digital images more easily searchable online for family history purposes. That will happen as FamilySearch’s growing base of online volunteers pore through each document searching for names and other relevant information. They have already indexed 3.2 billion records in this manner at FamilySearch.org. The most popular FamilySearch.org record collections today indexed by volunteers are the U.S. Censuses, immigration, and birth, marriage, and death records.

FamilySearch has worked with more than 10,000 archives in over 100 countries. Patrons will be impressed at the large diversity of records available online, like the Swedish church records and Peruvian civil registration.

“We are very pleased with the excellent cooperation we have enjoyed for many years between FamilySearch and the National Archives to microfilm and scan the Swedish church records. The simplicity of finding and reading about one’s ancestors on the web in the millions of scanned records will attract many beginners of all ages,” said Tomas Lidman, former Director, National Archives of Sweden (SVAR).

“The National Archive of Peru is very happy with the cooperative relationship we maintain with FamilySearch. It is already bearing beneficial fruits to the people of Peru,” Added Dr. Lizardo Pasquel Cobos, former Director, National Archive of Peru.

What to Do

Visit FamilySearch.org, register for a free account, and use the Search feature to explore indexed records and the “Browse All Collections” feature to search digital images of historic records for your ancestors. If you want, attach your discoveries to their respective ancestors in your free FamilySearch Family Tree online.

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Comments

  1. I LOVE Family Search Records and use them nearly all day, every day. The entire site, heard my scream of excitement at 3am when I found my BIG mystery on the Census in 1880 in Arizona. I suspected it was him and his family but could not Read the official page. On Heritage Quest. so I tracked him down in Family search and found the Indexed copy. His name, Never would have registered. His Daughter’s married name, with her husband living in the same house. BAM.
    Seeing the IMAGE on the computer is so much easier to cypher, then the piece of paper, I print out at the main FHL. In SLC where I am thrilled to live so close to.
    AND I use Family Search to find information for total strangers on Find A Grave., Hoping they can feel the same goose bumps I do when I find my DNA from long ago.

  2. I stopped indexing a couple off months ago due to some “family problems.” I thought that I didn’t have the time. What was I thinking? I will never fall into that trap again – the work is too important. When I see the huge amount of work Family Search has done, I cannot put off doing what little I can to help further your work. I will resume indexing TODAY and continue every day till the Lord takes me home. Thank you for all you do.

  3. Can you please explain to me how Ancestry.com advertises itself as the largest collection of family history records? Who really is the largest? FamilySearch or Ancestry? I’d like to know the truth here.

    1. What’s your point? What’s the difference? Several weeks ago my granddaughters came for a visit and the oldest lamented that she would love to trace her father’s ancestry, but couldn’t afford Ancestry.com. I told her about Family Search. Before this time I never thought she was interested. Now she’s on her way and I know that when I die someone will take over our ancestry search.

  4. The online records have been wonderful for me. Thanks to them, I was able to localize my family name in Italy, something that I figured I’d never be able to do. Now I’ve been able to trace that branch of the family back further than any other because of the online images. A thousand thank-yous to you FS folks. 🙂

  5. La vuestra, es una obra de titanes. Tantos millones de nombres indexados, y a disposición de todo el mundo. Felicitaciones por vuestro incesante trabajo.!

    1. Translation of above comment: Ours is a work of titans. So many millions of names indexed, and available worldwide. Congratulations for your tireless work.!

  6. Congratulations for FamilySearch.org. This is an awesome accomplishment and an amazing contribution to the genealogical community. Thank you.

  7. How do I access my databases (about 12) from Ancestry.com. I used my LDS account to change my paid account and I have been unable to work on my trees.

  8. Great job!!! I have gained so much from all your hard work. I am wondering though why I can’t access some records I could before? I had found my grandfathers marriage cert from Chicago in the Catholic Church. The actual very was there now to get it u have to go through many images and I have not found it again or am I missing something. Thanks, Vicky

  9. We are currently serving a Records Preservation Mission and are so thankful to be a small part of the wonderful work.

  10. Is there a way I can digitize the records I have so that you can easily add them to your database? I have diaries, photos, historic documents from 1800-2000. Many from early church members that have never been seen.

  11. I have enjoined the research, have been at it for years, and never get bored finding a birthday or marriage date, that could “not be found”, even to finding my grandma’s three husbands, that she “had no knowledge of”, I am also very pleased that one can now do all the research at home.