Change Can Be a Good Thing

November 26, 2013  - by 

From time to time, I get emails from some of you asking why FamilySearch is going through so much change. I’ve thought a lot about that question and know from personal experience that sometimes change can be difficult. This is especially true with the tools and services that are so dependent on technology. It can be very difficult for those of us who didn’t grow up using the tools of technology to keep up with this ever-evolving revolution.

At FamilySearch, one of the biggest challenges we face is balancing the human cost of change with the opportunities that exist to help our patrons access the greatest number of historical records, as easily and as quickly as possible–and still keep our services available to the public at no cost. This is no small challenge, and we deal with it every day.

It has been said that every organization is perfectly aligned to get the results it is getting. Because one major component of the FamilySearch strategic vision is to make family history more engaging for greater numbers of people, we’ve outlined several changes we need to make, including:

  • Make family history centers a place of discovery for the whole family
  • Enable family history experiences that don’t require access to technology
  • Create engaging new online experiences for all skill levels

In the context of that strategy, you’ll continue to see changes to and to FamilySearch operations worldwide.

Today, we are presented with some astounding opportunities to make the process of gathering, preserving, and accessing the world’s records so much easier than it was only a few years ago. I remember very well what it was like to do family history research only 25 years ago. To get the information you needed for an ancestor often required a person to send away a stamped letter to a clerk or minister with a check for several dollars for a single certificate. We had to wait a week or two—sometimes longer—to get a response. That process was repeated over and over again. Doing family history research was a slow, drawn out process and was often very expensive. But because of the changes that have taken place, people can now have access literally to billions of records and can do it from the comfort of their homes. They can literally search through all these records in a matter of minutes. It is a remarkable time to be a family historian.

Yes, FamilySearch is making a lot of changes, and we will continue to do so because we want to give you the best of what we have to offer. We never change just for the sake of change. Every change we make is carefully reviewed to determine if it will provide the greatest service to our patrons. It will be considered only if it increases the ease and efficiency of finding and organizing one’s family history. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to do your family history. It’s that simple.

We know that the only constant is that things constantly change; so, to keep up with new technology, an increased user base, and volumes of records, we have worked hard providing patrons with some excellent resources:

  • Before we make a change, we often ask hundreds of volunteer FamilySearch patrons to test a new process or a new product. These are everyday patrons like you who are very good at telling us what works and what doesn’t work. These folks are very good at helping us work off the rough edges before we introduce a change to the general public.
  • We have several newsletters and a FamilySearch blog to help announce changes and provide details of what those changes mean. These announcement provide useful information and links to online training.
  • FamilySearch has dozens of professionally trained instructional developers who create hundreds of excellent videos, online classes, printable paper products, and other products to help you learn everything you need to know to get the most out of your FamilySearch experience.
  • We also have an extensive networks of thousands of support people who provide one-on-one help where needed. Many of them are volunteers located throughout the world to help people in their local areas.
  • Anyone using FamilySearch can visit the online help center and discover an amazing selection of useful classes, videos and other help.
  • A volunteer named Leland Moon has created dozens of quick, easy-to-use videos to help demonstrate many popular FamilySearch features. Each video is only a few minutes long and is easy to follow.

Yes, FamilySearch is changing, and it will continue to change. Our intent is that each change makes it easier for you to find a record, a photograph, or a story that helps you find your ancestors. If we can do that, then we will be happy with the changes we bring about—and be confident you will be, too.

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  1. Some change makes a mockery of actual heritage and genealogical standards. It seems that these days that’s all the rage!

  2. Dennis, thank you for your newsletters, I too remember the days before the internet when you would have to pay to order films and wait to see if you were sucessful in finding anyone of yours on them. The age of computerized data and websites has changed all of that. To be sure it creates some problems but all in all it is an extraordinary way to research our family. I put a “watch” on any ancestor that I know for sure is correct and if anyone combines or changes anything that is there I can contact them for a discussion. That is what everyone should do for their family. The feature of finding and adding censuses, marriages, and other records directly to your tree was an outstanding feature and I thank you very much. Your improvements are coming gradually and as a non -computer user a few years ago I am keeping up with them because I know this work is getting some help from a higher power. Thanks for all you do!

  3. People don’t resist change (look at all the new, different, unpredictable things people do all the time). What we resist is feeling or being incompetent!

    And we also resist and get extremely frustrated at doing something once (correctly) and then having it broken or lost!

    I agree, change (progress) is good but give us notice and training so we don’t feel incompetent, and make it the kind of change that doesn’t break all that we have done.

  4. I have been very upset that I can’t use my personal PAFF any more, that is where I record the new members of our family. I would like to have at least been able to do that. I am going to our closest library to learn to do it and I do appreciate the changes to get information from other records, so thank you and I will try to learn the new changes, I am from the old school, in my late seventies so it truly has been a hard change for me but thank you again for your efforts.

    1. “I have been very upset that I can’t use my personal PAFF any more, that is where I record the new members of our family. I would like to have at least been able to do that. I am going to our closest library to learn to do it and I do appreciate the changes to get information from other records, so thank you and I will try to learn the new changes, I am from the old school, in my late seventies so it truly has been a hard change for me but thank you again for your efforts.”
      Actually, there is no reason you can’t continue to use your personal PAF for your data. There is no support for it, but it still works! I use Legacy Family Tree which can import PAF files, but it is a full-featured program that can be daunting when you first try it. And you can try it for free in the standard version.

      Don’t give up!

  5. I wish that there was a way to make corrections to indexing at as there is at I often find bad information and only because I am knowl the geography and who in my family are in that location do I know the correct information. For example, in the 1875 Wisconsin State Census, Hortonia, a township in Outagamie County, was misread and indexed as Carolina. There is no Carolina township in Wisconsin. Another example: in this same census for Appleton, Outagamie Co., my great-great grandfather is W. W. Briggs but he is indexed as H. W. Briggs.

  6. Irmão Dennis, tentar explicar o sabor do Sal é difícil, mas as infinitas possibilidades de seu uso, são infinitas, mesmo que o deleite de trabalhar com história da família, com os membros e não membros, da Igreja, o Family search é como o orvalho da manhã uma benção.


    Brother Dennis, trying to explain the taste of salt is difficult, but the infinite possibilities of its use, are endless. The delight of working with family history, with members and non-members of the Church, the Family search is like the morning dew a blessing.

  7. Hola!
    Gracias por la informacion que me ha enviado, al respecto deseo comunicarle lo siguiente:
    1.-Pese a vivir en un pais tercer mundista y tener mas de cincuenta años, soy privilegiada por tener acceso a Internet desde hace mucho tiempo y de contar con el apoyo tecnico de mi hijo y de otros jovenes del Sistema educativo de la Iglesia, lo que me permite tratar de seguirle el paso a los cambios tecnologicos, especialmente a los cambios de Family Search.

    2.- Estoy conciente de que en tecnologia solo hay dos alternativas, o avanzamos al ritmo del cambio o nos quedamos rezagados y esta ultima alternativa no es una opcion en Family Search.

    3.- Hay cambios que pueden ser oportunos, pero no necesariamente buenos. Ejemplo; Cambiar a solo lectura el New.FamilySearch. Poque?, porque lamentablemente, en cuanto a resultado en busqueda rapida, el New. FamilySearch, responde mejor que FamilySearch. Proporciona resultados que el FamilySearch no logra encontrar ni mostrar; entonces, restringuir el uso del New. FamilySearch poniendolo solo lectura es realmente bueno?, yo no lo creo.

    4.- Un “novedoso cambio de plataforma informativa” hizo que se tomaran los nombres latinos y se registraran al estilo ingles, resultado: un antepasado que se llamara Juan Gonzalez Martinez, ahora figura como Juan Gonzalez de primer nombre y Martinez de primer apellido; resultado: Que ahora, este antepasado jamas sera encontrado en el grupo de los Gonzalez y peor aun, estara fuera de la posibilidad de entrelazarse a sus otros grupos familiares, pues al no ser debidamente localizado, tampoco sera beneficiado con el sistema de arrastre del FamilySearch actual. Para personas con archivos familiares grandes, esto constituyo un gran desastre dificilmente reparable.

    5.- El actual sistema Family Search, da como no existente en sus registros ya digitalizados, nombres de personas cuya existencia es incuestionable, pues son nuestros ancestros y mas aun, ancestros de los cuales tenemos en mano, documentos originales de su nacimiento, matrimonio y defuncion.

    6. Apesar de todos esos inconvenientes, estamos muy felices de que Family Search sea tan grandioso y una herramienta milagrosa para continuar la obra de Dios mas alla del velo. Gracias por su afan de hacer cada dia mejor al FamilySearch. Si es posible, en el proceso, por favor recuerden al mejorarlo, no dejar atras las cosas que han demostrado ser buenas.


    Hna. Saint-Hilaire.


    Thanks for the info which has sent me, in this regard I wish to convey the following:
    1.-Despite living in a third world country and for more than fifty years, I am privileged to have access to the Internet and to have the technical support of my son and other young people who have been taught by the Church, allowing me to try to keep you up to the technological changes, especially to changes in Family Search.

    2 I am aware that with technology, there are two alternatives: we can either move to the rhythm of change or we must fall behind.This last alternative is not an option in Family Search.

    3. There are changes that may be appropriate, but not necessarily good. Example; Change to the new.FamilySearch to the read-only format. Why? When I do a quick search the new.FamilySearch responds better than FamilySearch. It provides results that the FamilySearch fails to find or show. Now we learn that we the new.FamilySearch is now restricted to reading only. Is that really good?, I think not.

    4. A new information platform “change” meant that Latin names were taken and changed to an English format. The result is that an ancestor called Juan Gonzalez Martinez is now listed as with the first name of Juan Gonzalez and last name Martinez. This ancestor never will be found in the Group of the Gonzalez and worse still, will be outside the possibility of be linked to their other family groups, therefore not be properly located, nor will they have the benefit of being in the current FamilySearch system. For people with large family files, this constituted a major disaster which in almost unrepairable.

    5. The current Family Search gives as non-existent in their already digitized records, names of people whose existence is unquestioned, as they are our ancestors and more ancestors, of which we have in hand, original documents of birth, marriage and death.

    6 In spite of all these problems, we are very happy that Family Search is such a great tool miraculous to continue God’s work more beyond the veil. Thank you for your effort to do better each day to the FamilySearch. If it is possible, in the process, please remember to improve it, not leave behind things that have proven to be good.

    Kind regards

    HNA. Saint-Hilaire.

  8. Change is one thing. Implementing change is another.

    Avoiding change saturation:

    Are You Driving Too Much Change, Too Fast?

    What If There Is Too Much Change?

    Great change management can be overwhelmed by too much change:

    1. Good points by Adam above (“Too much change = lack of a coherent vision, poor planning, not failure of users to adapt.”) and Mary Beth. I LOVE FamilySearch and have empathy (professional and personal!) for the significant challenges inherent in such an undertaking. But I keep seeing changes rolled out which don’t seem to have been thought through carefully enough in design or implementation.

      Also, I have been involved in some user testing and was dismayed on several occasions to see changes rolled out quickly before our feedback was even submitted, let alone considered.

      Measure twice, cut once. It doesn’t save time or money to rush changes to production before they’re solid. It also doesn’t make for a very positive user experience.

  9. I have started uploading pictures to my deceased relatives and find some are sideways in the viewer. Is there a tool to rotate the picture? Also I can’t get some pictures to align correctly in the view showing the individual. I’ll look for your help….

  10. I took a class at the local college and was talked into downloading YOUR PAf database b/c it will never be disposed of..NOT I have worked on getting the download correctly linked to all my sources and have found you will no longer help. Now you are changing even more JUST LIKE ANCESTRY.. When I have visited your Family Search branches, the helpers are more interested in working on their own data and are very short about helping a outside person. I have called UTAH to get help and had a run around there too… I don’t usually complain but with so much time at stake and no one seems to want to help other than make you pay for more. Frustrated with all the changes and needing more leaning curves. Getting too old to keep up ..

    1. I wish you could come to the Family History center where I am director, I would be glad to help you. If you would like to email me at I will be glad to see if I can help you.
      Sorry you have not received the help you were hoping for

  11. In my past, every time I hear a CEO speaking on change is a good thing, was usually the day before I got the slip telling me I was laid off. I am no longer open to hearing how change is a good thing by people whose jobs are secure. Nice try.

  12. At first when FT was introduced, I was skeptic. I thought new.familysearch was good enough. Now I think FT is great, sources, notes, history, corrections etc. My worries about how to preserve my sources, history etc are gone.

  13. The new features are wonderful and generally well thought out.

    However I’m disappointed in the overall reliability of the site.

  14. I discovered together with Salt Lake Family History; and had this site added to our Image Machine, This site had instructions that helped a patron receive her dark page of a death record. This completely lightened up the record to make it readable. I am hoping this added icon that made the future records readable. I hope I explained it well. Try it!

  15. RE: Upcoming changes in First Quarter of 2014

    My family history mentor informed me, late last year, that LDS church members will gain free access to two particular partners sometime during the first three months of 2014 by our signing into familysearch. Please advise if this is true and, if possible, give a more specific time window for our access. I love using the FamilyTree in conjunction with being able to access valuable documents and attach them to their individual FamilyTree page. This innovative capability of attaching “sources” documents and validates our family history research. Thank you for all that you do to make the positive changes to help all of us.