6 Things to Look for in FamilySearch in 2017

Contributed By Paul Nauta, Church News contributor

  • 17 January 2017

Young men learn how easy indexing can be.

Article Highlights

  • In 2017, FamilySearch offers new or improved personalized dashboard, mobile apps, searching, indexing tools, discovery experiences, and records.

As worldwide interest in online genealogy services and activities continues to grow in 2017, FamilySearch plans to play a major role by offering six exciting developments to look forward to this year:

1. Personalized dashboard

The new logged-in home page for FamilySearch users features a host of fun discoveries and tasks to consider each visit.

Now available in 2017, if you log in to your free FamilySearch account, you will be greeted with your own customized home page full of interesting, relevant activity feeds, notifications, and suggestions on your personal dashboard.

The more you work on your personal FamilySearch family tree, the more new, applicable content the system will automatically send to you through your dashboard throughout the year. In other words, it continues to work for you even when you're not.

New features include:

  • Recommended tasks. “Next-step” suggestions for specific ancestors in FamilySearch Family Tree that can lead to new discoveries.
  • Ancestor hints. As millions of new historical records are added to FamilySearch weekly, the savvy search engine maps them against your Family Tree. High probability matches are presented for your consideration as “hints” on your dashboard. Keep checking back to see what new information it has dug up on your ancestors. Add it to your ancestor’s source page.
  • Recent ancestors. Forgot what you did the last time you visited your tree? Your new dashboard will automatically keep track of the ancestors you are researching each time and create a list that makes it easy to pick up where you left off a few minutes ago or during a previous visit.
  • To-do lists. Make quick notes in this convenient new feature to help you remember what you want to do on your next visit to your family tree. Jot short reminder notes about records to search, people to contact, photos or documents to upload and add to an ancestor’s profile, or personal and family stories you want to capture for posterity in the Memories feature.
  • To-do cards. See fun new photos, stories, and relevant documents about your ancestors that have been recently added by other family members and cousins to your collective family tree. It's a fun way to identify relatives who are currently working on your family lines and make new discoveries or connections with extended family members.

2. New and improved mobile apps

FamilySearch’s Family Tree mobile app.

FamilySearch’s two mobile apps—FamilySearch Family Tree and FamilySearch Memories—will see new updates.

Users will be able to search Ancestry.com from the convenience of the FamilySearch mobile app. Imagine being able to search the two largest online sources of family history records from your mobile device!

A new descendancy view feature will give users the ability to create notes for specific ancestors, easily see a log of any changes made by others, and download user-contributed memories (Memories app). Multiple windows in the Family Tree app will significantly increase the speed of research from mobile devices.

3. Improved searching

Close-up of FamilySearch Historic record hints notification box.

FamilySearch historic record hints from ancestor’s Life Sketch view.

The FamilySearch.org search engine is already best-in-class, but in 2017, users will notice even faster search results from newly published historic records worldwide, and quicker hints from those new records and user-contributed trees.

4. New indexing tools


According to Craig Miller, senior vice president of product development and engineering, FamilySearch International is excited to launch the web-based version of its successful indexing software in 2017. 

“It will be easy to use and will work on any digital device with a web browser (excluding cell phones), eliminating the need to download the indexing software,“ he said. “That means more volunteers worldwide will be able to contribute in making more of the world’s historical records searchable by name online, and more quickly.”

Indexing is the nifty, web-based tool FamilySearch volunteers use to make hundreds of millions of historic records worldwide searchable by name for free online each year. These indexes are the secret ingredient to your ability to discover ancestral connections online quickly and easily.

Additional innovations to the tool in 2017 will include more rapid completion of tasks, improved help, and even automated indexing for some record sets (obituaries), which means more records searchable at your fingertips, faster.

5. New discovery experiences

A mother and her daughter explore their family history together on large touchscreen monitors at the Layton, Utah, FamilySearch Center.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is a top tourist attraction for the state of Utah. In February 2017, FamilySearch will open a wonderful, state-of-the-art Discovery Experience attraction on the library's main floor. The new feature will enable guests to have fun, large-as-life personal discovery experiences with their family history using the latest technologies. Similar discovery experiences will be implemented in select locations worldwide in 2017.

Artist’s rendering of interactive discovery stations at the Family History Library Discovery Center.

6. More free historic records

Online volunteers look at digital images of historic records online at FamilySearch and type select information to make it easy for others to find their ancestors online for free.

Over 330 FamilySearch digital camera teams worldwide will digitally preserve 125–150 million historical records in 2017 for free online access. Another 200 million images will be added from FamilySearch's microfilm conversion project that uses 25 specialized machines to convert its vast microfilm collection at its Granite Mountain Records Vault for online access.

Over 30 percent of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm have already been digitized and published online. The digital collections can be found in the FamilySearch catalog online and by perusing collection lists by location.

FamilySearch's online community of volunteers will be focused on creating searchable name indexes to two major collections in the United States (marriage records and immigration records that will include passenger lists, border crossings, and naturalization petitions), and core record collections from select high priority countries.

If you are not familiar with all the free benefits of FamilySearch, create your free account at FamilySearch.org, and start your fun journey of discovery.