Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

FamilySearch answers some of the questions about the partnerships with the other large online genealogical database programs

FamilySearch continues to clarify its previous announcements of a series of agreements with, and The stated reason for these agreements made by FamilySearch CEO, Dennis Brimhall, is "to accelerate the delivery of freely searchable genealogical records to family history researchers." He goes on to declare that, "These agreements are in line with the FamilySearch mission to publish online as many freely available, searchable genealogical records as possible."

Dennis goes on to explain as follows in the blog post entitled, "FamilySearch Partnerships: Some Questions and Answers:
The agreements are best understood in light of the overall pace at which searchable records are currently being delivered on Notwithstanding the astounding success of the FamilySearch indexing program and the tireless dedication of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, it will still take many generations to index and publish just the records contained in FamilySearch’s Granite Mountain Records Vault. This estimate does not account for the more than 35 million new images of records that are digitized each month—and that rate is increasing.

FamilySearch indexing, is, at best, only a partial solution to the challenge of making searchable records available in a timely fashion. Clearly, there is a need for additional, creative approaches to providing indexed records, which is why it makes sense to partner with leading commercial genealogy providers such as,, findmypast, Fold3, and MyHeritage. Working together, FamilySearch and its partners will bring billions of currently unsearchable and unavailable records to patrons decades before these records would otherwise become available.
 In the list of questions and answers that follow these statements, he explains the continued support of FamilySearch for the Indexing program and the Indexers. He spotlights the new Indexing website which will move the indexing process from desktop computers to an entirely web-based program. There is apparently an agreement to delay the availability of some of the indexes, when those indexes are created by the partners. The statement is as follows:
When the partner creates the index, FamilySearch allows for a period when the index is only available on the partner site to allow them to recover the investment they made in creating the index. If FamilySearch has the image rights from the original record archive, the images will continue to be available for all on the FamilySearch site. After this restricted period has passed, FamilySearch will publish the index on FamilySearch as well.
Dennis also clarifies the availability of the records to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but leaves so questions unanswered. He states,
Part of the agreement with our partners stipulates that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will gain the ability to access the full collections of records published on their sites. We would like to be clear that members will be able to view these images free in nearly all circumstances. These same sites are available free to all researchers in the Family History Library and our more than 4,700 family history centers worldwide. The other way to gain access at this point is to subscribe to the partner services.
What are the "nearly all circumstances?" He also has an answer for the question I have been asked a few time already, about the status of volunteer Indexers who are not members of the Church:
These agreements do not change the status of volunteers who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All records publicly indexed through FamilySearch indexing are still free and will remain available on without a fee. 
Further, donations from Church members fund FamilySearch. These contributions and the efforts of thousands of missionaries who work without pay are the means by which FamilySearch has been able to gather records for more than 100 years and make these records available to the public at no cost through, at the free Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and at the more than 4,700 family history centers around the world. This is an enormously expensive undertaking that is unparalleled in history. Clearly, these people deserve our thanks for enabling this work to go forward and for making it possible for tens of millions of people to discover their ancestors.
The concern expressed to me on several occasions is that the "voluntary" work done by the Indexers will somehow find its way into the other large database entities and they will benefit commercially from the indexing. The answer is apparently yes, that will happen. In fact the post ends the statement, "Our hope is that we can continue to find ways to help the commercial companies to be successful so they will continue doing the innovative kinds of things that have made family history the exciting pursuit it is today."

I totally agree. The idea that there is something "wrong" with charging for making millions of records available online is off base. If the members of the Church collectively had not paid to support the microfilming and now digitization of the records in the Church's (FamilySearch's) collection, we would not be having this discussion today. In addition, if the now very large genealogy companies were not doing exactly the same thing, paying for the acquisition of their records through "contributions" or if you want to call them "subscriptions" we would not have access to their brilliant technologies and fabulously valuable collections today. Let's stop worrying about who gets credit for doing genealogy and get on with our work.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Let's stop picking apart this wonderful arrangement, count our blessings and get to work!