SALT LAKE CITY – Less than seven years after its initial launch, the internet-based FamilySearch indexing will celebrate the completion of its one billionth freely searchable record sometime in the next few weeks. Indexing is recording information from historical documents to make it searchable online. An army of volunteers from across the globe have contributed to the effort, currently indexing more than one million census, birth, marriage, death, immigration and other types of records daily from more than 60 countries so people all over the world can find their ancestors.
“We’re impressed and amazed at what volunteers have accomplished in such a short amount of time,” said Mike Judson, manager of Indexing Workforce Development for FamilySearch. “We believe there is potential to do the next billion much faster.”
Various forms of indexing involving paper, microfilm and then CD-based copies of records have been ongoing since 1921. By 2005, diligent volunteers managed to transcribe between 800-900 million records. Since the launch of FamilySearch indexing online in September 2006, the number of indexed records has more than doubled.
“Reaching the billion mark is definitely a cause for celebration, but it is also a call to action,” said Judson. “More people need to have the experience of finding their ancestors and discovering those connecting stories to their past. We all have parents, we all have grandparents, and universally I think we are all interested in who those people are and where they came from, which ultimately tells us about ourselves.”
Judson explained that indexing is so widely successful, in part, because people from all walks of life have a common interest in helping ancestors who lived before to be remembered. While FamilySearch has 3.3 billion searchable names in its database, Judson noted that all it takes is one person indexing one name to create the possibility that someone will find an ancestor.
One such example is Kira Alsbury, a Utahn who recently attended a presentation on family history and indexing. She became particularly interested in researching her mother’s side of the family, which came from Venezuela. Alsbury thought she might have to learn Spanish or go Venezuela to do her genealogical research, but she was very surprised when she found that volunteer indexers on FamilySearch had already indexed more than 600,000 vital records from Merida, Venezuela. With one quick search, Alsbury was able to find her maternal grandfather’s christening record and to begin uncovering her maternal family line.
“I’m really grateful to have that connection and to learn about these people because they’re my family, whether or not they’re alive,” said Alsbury. “I found family names that I never knew before. It’s a miracle and a blessing to get that stronger sense of the foundation of our family and where we came from.”
More than 263 million records were indexed by volunteers and published in 2012. With FamilySearch indexing’s double-entry method that means those 263 million records were actually indexed twice, and most were reviewed by a third indexer known as an arbitrator, totaling nearly 900 million separate indexing tasks that were performed by volunteers in a single year.
In 2012, the 1940 US Census Community Project, a joint effort between FamilySearch and several commercial and non-commercial entities, was an unprecedented success with more than 184,000 volunteers working together to index and arbitrate 132 million records in just over four months. This project demonstrated not only the power of the online community but also the level of interest that exists for being able to search and make ancestral discoveries from historical records.
Volunteers are currently working on more than 100 active indexing projects online. Two of the largest are the US Immigration and Naturalization Community Project and the Italian Ancestors Project.
To learn more about indexing or to become a volunteer, visit www.FamilySearch.org.