One Billion Images of Ancestral Historic Records Rebirthed Online

Contributed By By Paul Nauta, Church News contributor

  • 30 June 2014

The billionth image was published in FamilySearch.org’s growing Peru civil registration collections.

Article Highlights

  • You can begin learning of your ancestors’ lives through the waves of new online historic records that can recount the stories.
  • FamilySearch has worked with more than 10,000 archives in over 100 countries.
  • FamilySearch’s ultimate goal is to make the information from the billions of historic records in the digital images more easily searchable online for family history purposes.

FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) announced today the online publication of its one billionth image of historic records at FamilySearch.org, a feat that took just seven years to accomplish.

If you don’t have the time or means to travel where your ancestors walked, perhaps you can begin unveiling their fascinating lives through the tidal waves of new online historic records that can recount the stories of their lives. The billionth image was published in FamilySearch.org’s growing Peru civil registration collections.

“Although a few social sites like Flickr and Facebook can boast over a billion photos contributed by users, there is no site like FamilySearch.org that has published over one billion images of historic records online,” remarked Rod DeGiulio, director, FamilySearch Records Division. “And a single digital image can have several historic records on it—which means there are actually billions of records in our browse image collections online for people to discover and volunteers to index.”

Hidden in the growing collections of digital images are billions of census, immigration, military, birth, marriage, death, church, and court records that are priceless for family historians seeking to connect the family tree dots to their elusive ancestors. And the images come from national, state, municipal, and religious archives all over the world.

FamilySearch started preserving and providing access to the world’s historical records for genealogy purposes in 1938 using microfilm and distributing copies of the film through its global network of 4,600 local family history centers. In 2007 it made the shift to digital preservation and access technology and began publishing its massive historic records collections online.

It took 58 years to publish the first two billion images of historic records on microfilm—which was limited to patrons of its local family history centers and affiliate public libraries. In the past seven years, one billion images have been published on FamilySearch.org, which expands access to anyone, anywhere, with Internet access. DeGiulio projects the next billion images should take about three to five years to publish.

Seventy percent of the online images currently come from FamilySearch’s initiative to digitally convert its huge microfilm collection for online access. Twenty-five percent comes from new camera operations—275 camera teams digitally imaging new historic records in 45 countries. And five percent comes from agreements with partnering organizations.

Currently, FamilySearch publishes about 200 million images of historic records online each year (averaging about 500,000 per day), making the vast majority of them accessible for the first time to more people from anywhere in the world.

This effort also means more historic records are being preserved and protected against future damage and loss, and the speed at which they are being made available online for research is rapidly increasing. For example, it took 18 months on average for FamilySearch to make a historic document available to the public using microfilm. With the new digital technology, a camera team digitally captures the image from its current resting place in an archive somewhere in the world, and in just two to four weeks it can be accessible online for the first time. It’s a new dawn for historic records preservation and access.

“These historic records are now literally going from the archive to your living room in brilliant, high definition images, just like that. The world’s archives are coming to you online,” added DeGiulio.

The billionth image was published in FamilySearch.org’s growing Peru civil registration collections.

FamilySearch’s ultimate goal is to make the information from the billions of historic records in the digital images more easily searchable online for family history purposes. That will happen as FamilySearch’s growing base of online volunteers pores through each document, searching for names and other relevant information. They have already indexed 3.2 billion records at FamilySearch.org. The most popular FamilySearch.org record collections today indexed by volunteers are the U.S. censuses, immigration, and birth, marriage, and death records.

FamilySearch has worked with more than 10,000 archives in over 100 countries. Patrons will be impressed at the large diversity of records available online, like the Swedish church records and Peruvian civil registration.

“We are very pleased with the excellent cooperation we have enjoyed for many years between FamilySearch and the National Archives to microfilm and scan the Swedish church records. The simplicity of finding and reading about one’s ancestors on the web in the millions of scanned records will attract many beginners of all ages,” said Tomas Lidman, former director, National Archives of Sweden (SVAR).

“The National Archive of Peru is very happy with the cooperative relationship we maintain with FamilySearch. It is already bearing beneficial fruits to the people of Peru,” added Dr. Lizardo Pasquel Cobos, former director, National Archive of Peru.

What to Do

Visit FamilySearch.org, register for a free account, and use the Search feature to explore indexed records and the Browse All Collections feature to search digital images of historic records for your ancestors. If you want, attach your discoveries to their respective ancestors in your free FamilySearch Family Tree online.