FamilySearch has announced further details and motivation behind its recent partnership deals. In recent months FamilySearch partnerships have been announced with Ancestry.com (see “Ancestry.com Announces Extensive Partnership with FamilySearch” and “More Information on Ancestry.com/FamilySearch Agreement”), FamilyMyPast.com (see “FamilySearch/FindMyPast Announce Agreement”), and MyHeritage.com (See “MyHeritage Announces Partnership With FamilySearch”).
In the agreements the partners were given rights to publish record collections from FamilySearch.org. “Working with individual industry leaders such as Ancestry.com, Archives.com, findmypast, Fold3, and MyHeritage will also increase and broaden access to the records FamilySearch has already published online,” said the announcement. Publication of these records on multiple websites removes barriers to family history research. The records on Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com are available free to the general public in the 4,715 local FamilySearch-owned family history centers worldwide. “They will be available…free on Ancestry.com, findmypast.com, or MyHeritage.com to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” FamilySearch said. “Additional details regarding expanded records access will be announced sometime in 2014.”
FamilySearch clarified that not all of its records will be shared with partners. They said that contractual obligations prevent it from sharing some of its records and indexes with partners or with the general public. (I’ve written before about restricted record access. See “FamilySearch Image Restrictions.”)
The agreements included partnerships in acquiring, indexing, and publishing new record collections. “This collaboration will carve centuries off the time needed to increase access to the world’s historical records,” FamilySearch said. These collaborations will bring more financial investment than the nonprofit community alone can provide. In addition to the 5.3 billion records already obtained by FamilySearch, there are an additional 70 billion records FamilySearch would like to acquire worldwide, according to a graphic accompanying the announcement. Ten billion of those are from the Americas and Europe. The graphic also said that FamilySearch Family Tree contains about one billion people and that another 27 billion born since 1500 A.D. still need to be identified and added.
“For the top countries with the highest online research demand, using our existing resources and volunteers, it will take up to 300 years to index the 5.3 billion records that we already have,” Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO, said. “We can do significantly better by working together with other organizations and as a community.” A graphic accompanying the announcement said that collaboration would reduce that to 20 to 30 years.
Some users may view it as a downside that the indexes produced by these commercial organizations is generally done by offshore indexers. I think that is offset by accelerated access to the bulk of the records. FamillySearch.org already includes records indexed by other organizations. Most users have already come across records from Fold3 and FindMyPast with those annoying links to websites that require payment to view the images. According to FamilySearch wiki articles about their record collections, there are other indexes obtained from third parties.
FamilySearch said in April that volunteers hit the milestone of one billion records indexed with its current indexing program. This week’s announcement said that, including the earlier extraction program, volunteers had indexed over three billion records.
FamilySearch said these partnerships are but first installments removing barriers to family history research. “FamilySearch plans to involve many other interested organizations that will provide records, tools, and other resources to allow more people to build, preserve, and share their family trees online.”
To read the original announcement, see “FamilySearch Works to Put the World’s Historical Records Online in One Generation.”