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Building momentum: FamilySearch in ’14 (and what to expect in 2015)

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(Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

More missionaries are serving in the mission field today than ever before — 88,000, which would have accounted for the entire Church membership in 1869. Twenty-six temples have been announced or are under construction today — the same number as the total temples in the world at the end of 1983. In like manner, family history work has recently hit its stride in homes and families around the Church.

And there’s still a lot to do.

“Everything we’re doing focuses on three broad goals,” said Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager. “We want to help more Church members find their ancestors, help them take those names to the temple and encourage them to teach others how to do the same. We want Church members to feel confident in their experiences and to share them with others.”

Recent analytics show that FamilySearch.org, the Church’s online family history tool, saw approximately 263,459 visits per day during 2014. Those visits resulted in 7.2 million page views per day. Six and half million users were registered with the website during 2014. But perhaps more impressive than engagement statistics is the volume of family history memories that are being recorded.

Preserving Stories

During 2014, FamilySearch released a number of tools to help Church members record not only names and dates but also stories, photos and other important documents. These tools are available online or through mobile devices and allow users to upload photos, write stories, conduct audio interviews and more.

“Maybe you have a knack for photos, or maybe you’re good at remembering family stories,” Nauta says. “Over the last year we’ve given you all those tools to help preserve your family history. We’ll do more and more of that in 2015—trying to find ways to take the spiritual experiences of family connections to a broader segment of members.”

During 2014, Church members uploaded 1.1 billion records, 5.2 million photos and 409,489 stories to Family Tree.

Greater access

The LDS Church entered agreements during 2014 that gave all Church members access to premium family history websites. Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and findmypast are now accessible to all Church members, which dramatically increases the number of family history records available.

“Those agreements were a really big deal for members of the Church,” Nauta says. “They give Church members access to easily 80, if not 90, percent of the premium genealogy content that’s available online. I don’t know if members have embraced what a gift that is to them. Even though hundreds of thousands have dialed in and registered, it could be in the millions.”

Indexing

Online genealogical records are available because hundreds of thousands of people—more than 747,000 inside the Church alone—are digitizing and indexing them. During 2014, 517.2 million indexed records were published online. 1.04 billion digital images of historic documents were also published.

“We’re doing better than ever, but we need to be,” Nauta says. “For every record that we index, we have 10 that we don’t. I don’t think members understand that because we talk such big numbers. We index millions of names, but there are billions of names from hundreds of millions of new records that still need to be indexed.”

Young people, entire families

At RootsTech 2014, Elder Niel L. Andersen challenged youth to become more involved with family history. Elder David A. Bednar has also encouraged young people to participate actively in family history research, as has Elder Scott.

The youth are listening.

“Some stakes and families are doing a great job of getting involved and not letting Grandma and Grandpa be daunted by technology,” Nauta says. “The youth have responded to Elder Andersen’s challenge, and those from Elder Bednar and Elder Scott. They’re pulling their parents and grandparents along. The parents are getting it on both sides from their parents and from their kids. It’s a wonderful thing.”

These family history efforts are challenging the perceptions of previous generations that there’s little to be done.

“For 50 years it seems that Church members had the perception that someone in the family was the designated temple/family history person,” Nauta says. “There was a perception that all the work had been done in some families. But now, it’s easy to see what has and hasn’t been done. Members have been shocked.”

Senior missionary couples are essential to the success and hastening of family history work, both in 2014 and in years to come. Volunteer service missionaries serve in a variety of ways—from their homes and far from home; full time and part time. They help by digitizing historical records, administrating in offices, serving in temples, helping in family history centers and more. Learn about senior missionary opportunities here.

Where from here

As for 2015? The plan is to keep moving forward with both major developments and slow, steady growth.

“We’re at the highest level of engagement in the history of the Church, both in raw numbers and in percentage participation,” Nauta said. “For many areas, it’s significant growth this year over last year. It needs to continue, however, for decades to get where we need to go. We’ve been flatlined for so long with so few members engaged that it will take a long time to get where we need to be.”

During 2015, FamilySearch plans to provide access to more premium family history websites for Church members, continue aggressive digitizing and indexing efforts, improve collaboration abilities online, offer more third-party technological experiences, hold a large RootsTech conference and more.

“We’re doing well. We’re happy,” Nauta says. “The members are doing good work. We’ll just keep the momentum going.”

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5 Responses to "Building momentum: FamilySearch in ’14 (and what to expect in 2015)"

  1. Beatrice says:

    What I would like to see accomplished is to tell us, who do our family history research and temple work, how we can get ordinances that have been reserved for many years (in my case over 8 years) released so that they can be completed. I am not alone in this request. I have talked to many others who have the same experience. Family Search will not release those ordinances although I and many others have requested it. In addition, the patrons who have reserved the ordinances do not have any useful contact information. Usually there is only a number (not a phone #) or a first name and a few numbers with the name (again, not a phone number).

    We have been asked to work together with others in doing the research but with the above contact information, it is not possible. One gentleman I spoke with last week told me he was able to contact a person who had reserved the ordinances for over 4 years. The person who reserved the ordinances told the gentleman that she was reserving the ordinances for her grandchildren. When asked how old the grandchildren were, the reply was: 6 and 8.

    This is a very frustrating situation that we wish would be addressed. When the site comes up to reserve ordinances, there is a link that can be read that says “only reserve ordinances that can be completed in a timely manner”.

  2. Katie says:

    I would like to suggest that the “reservation” process for temple ordinances be run like the indexing program is. One has a designated time to complete the batch for indexing and then if it is not finished, it is taken back and made available to other indexers. Why can’t the same be done for reserving temple ordinances. I think 6 months would be an adequate amount of time to reserve a name for ordinances and completing the work. If the work isn’t completed, then have it released so others can access it and reserve it. I think this would encourage members to only reserve names that can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

  3. I have received notices that some temple ordinances need doing for some of my
    grandmother’s siblings, however, they have all been done. 2000/2001. I have the Family
    File slips with all the “date stamps”. I know it was all done because I did the
    females and male members from my ward did the males. Also My parents were
    sealed to each other yet FamilySearch keeps telling me that it needs to be done.

    Last of all, I have lost patience with indexers who are careless. I have found many
    errors by going to the original records which don’t agree with the indexer.
    Barbara

    • J Moriyama says:

      Make sure that all duplicate records for an individual in Family Tree have been merged. Then the complete record and all completed ordinances will be listed. At that point, if the completed ordinances are not listed, you can scan your slips with the date stamps and have familysearch.org make the corrections. It is always good to save your slips as backup of completed ordinances.

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