Wednesday, October 5, 2011

FamilySearch Surpasses

imageDavid Ouimette of FamilySearch said that their collection of the highest quality genealogy records has surpassed’s. He made the remarks at the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference. He said FamilySearch has more Images of civil vital records, church records of vital events, and census records. 

300 million

According to Ouimette, every month FamilySearch digitizes tens of millions of the 3.6 billion images in the vault. “We’re going as fast as we can, publishing indexes to high quality records first,” he said. “We have about 200 cameras that are currently active throughout the world,” said Ouimette. They digitize millions of images in archives weekly.

“As of last night,” he said, “FamilySearch has almost 300 million images.”

He showed a table of the number of images and records for each record type. I scribbled down the numbers as fast as I could, so you should probably regard them with suspicion. For one thing, the number of images doesn’t total to 300, so buyer beware. For another, I had to move the decimal point just to get them to add up half-way right.

FamilySearch Records


Keyed Records

Vital Records 122.59 283.1
Church (Vital) Records 92.25 345.9
Military 2.75 34.8
Census 1.71 825.7
Probate 1.24 0.6
Immigration 0.99 37.1




Acquisition/Publication Strategy

Ouimette explained how FamilySearch selects records to acquire and publish. Much of this part of his presentation was repeated from last year, so I’m not going to repeat it. Instead, in the FamilySearch Wiki see “Digitizing the Records in the Granite Mountain.”

He showed two maps showing states and countries where FamilySearch has current acquisition projects. I’ve permission to show the country map, but I’m going to share it later with matching map from Ancestry. But I digress…

After acquisition, FamilySearch indexes the records using a process which Ouimette described as “A/B double blind plus arbitration,” to turn a phrase. It isn’t “double blind” in the experimentation sense. Rather, each batch of records is indexed by two indexers, an A indexer and a B indexer. Each are “blind” to the results of the other. If the batches differ in any way, the batch is sent to a third person, an arbitrator. While the arbitrator can change any value in the batch, it is anticipated that they will only change values in dispute. The arbitrator can select the value supplied by the A indexer, the B indexer, or supply another value entirely.

Indexers are not keeping up with FamilySearch’s image production. With the size of FamilySearch’s image collection surpassing Ancestry’s (if you exclude enough of Ancestry’s), one must ask the question. Will the number of FamilySearch’s indexed records ever surpass Ancestry’s?


  1. When I research, I find that indexes are nice, but NOT essential. A look at the records is the essential part. For some searches, I ignore the index, even though it is available. The browse gives me a better sense of surrounding data, and also finds what is there.

    To some extent, the index is a trap. For example, the 1870 census for Wabash County shows my great grandfather as J Suckler. Only shear luck made me recognize John Strickler and his family from this listing. The enumerator managed to write "Strickler" correctly for two other families.

    Notice, this is an enumerator mistake. An indexer has no choice, it says "Suckler" and "Suckler" is what will be indexed. Browsing found my family in a way indexing never would.

  2. Census records are one of the most valuable genealogy resources. The caveat is that census records do contain errors and require additional verification.

    My grandmother is listed as having been born in Pennsylvania instead of in California. My g grandmother was born in Pennsylvania. Looking at the 1920 census page I noticed that enumerator had shifted the birth place column down one row.

    An index may be helpful, but there is no substitute for persistence.

  3. And in some cases, indexes are useless. has tons of records that I want/need to review, but the index search tool is flawed and will need considerable work before it's useful once again.

  4. I've probably notified Ancestry of more than 100 incorrect index entries over the years, and not a SINGLE one has ever been corrected. Usually my comments are ignored, but on a rare occasion I get a reply. For example, a nearly 10 year old error in the WWI draft registration documents was explained to me as an error in the data which came from NARA and that Ancestry was not allowed to correct the index without NARA's permission!
    So as others have said, don't rely upon the index. It's just an aid.

    1. My daughter's NC birth record is incorrectly indexed as a death record on If you look at the actual index record, it CLEARLY says birth record. But even after pointing the problem out to over three years still remains indexed as a death instead of a birth.

  5. I've done the same thing with Ancestry. Had a membership for many years, then I just decided "the heck with it," since they can't take the time to fix their mistakes, for which I took the time to bring to their attention..


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