It’s hard to believe, but FamilySearch.org is 15 years old today. Originally launched on May 24, 1999 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch has played a key role in dramatically changing the landscape of internet genealogy. When President Gordon B. Hinckley launched FamilySearch Internet, he commented, “I hope you understand this is far from just a new website. . . . Today we take the long-awaited step of allowing home access via the Internet to some of the most significant materials in our Family History Library.” That step mentioned by President Hinckley was just the first step in a long and remarkable journey to what was to become the development of one of the world’s leading genealogical websites.The origins of the FamilySearch go back a lot more than just 15 years. Its predecessor was the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) which was established in 1884.
From 1894 to the present, there have been a number of other organizations involved in genealogy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most recently, in 1975, Church established the Genealogical Department which later became the Family History Department. In 2000, the Church consolidated both the Family History and Church History Departments into the Family and Church History Department.
During most of this time, the GSU continued its existence as an entity and the name of the GSU was still used for some genealogical purposes. In about 1999, the GSU began using the trade name of FamilySearch and on 2 March 1999, FamilySearch International was registered as a corporation in Utah. The Genealogical Society of Utah is shown as the former business name of FamilySearch on the Utah State Corporation Commission records.
For a very complete history, see
Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.