A Global Perspective: the Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community

The 46th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy is coming to a close. Today, in addition to those who registered to attend the full conference, family history consultants have been invited to receive a full day of training. The consultants will be instructed in their core responsibilities to help others find their ancestors. There will also be classes on United States, British, LDS ancestral, and professional research, methodology, FamilySearch compatibles, and computers & technology.

From left to right: Frederick E. Moss, legal advisor to the Federation of Genealogical Societies, David E. Rencher, and Glenn Kinkade of Dallas, Texas

From left to right: Frederick E. Moss, legal advisor to the Federation of Genealogical Societies, David E. Rencher, and Glenn Kinkade of Dallas, Texas

Yesterday, David Rencher, chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch International, gave the closing keynote address, The Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community. Mr. Rencher outlined the journey of growth and phases of FamilySearch International. Sometimes by looking back we may achieve a clearer vision of the future.

FamilySearch invites everyone, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to search for their ancestors. As people accept this challenge, there are going to naturally be more beginners. He asked those present to remember when they first started their family tree and to be patient with the errors made by those new to this endeavor. He encouraged participants to manage this learning curve by mentoring them in their pursuit. He spoke about “pain points” and acknowledged that mistakes have been and will continue to be made.

Mr. Rencher compared FamilyTree to the recent renovation of the LDS Ogden temple where he realized that “scraps will be left over when building a temple” and that the same is true when reconstructing the pedigree of the human family online. He addressed the debate of quality vs. quantity and shared his experience of completing work that was a duplication in his earliest days in this field. He said that, “why all that I did was completely disposable, I had an experience that turned my heart.” In essence, the time he spent was never “wasted,” yet FamilySearch is “trying to have the most accurate lineage-linked system” as organized by man. “Let’s focus on the work that we are to do and do the best work possible.”

Mr. Rencher outlined the role that FamilySearch has taken, from its earliest days of negotiating access to the world’s records to a point of agreement and signed contracts. Microfilm is still being used by the request of a few repositories. In addition, there are 189 cameras in the field capturing digital images, while microfilm is being scanned from the vault to be placed online. “The films I wanted were converted first; the ones you wanted — last, not really, but there must be some executive privilege,” he joked. Mr. Rencher discussed how FamilySearch has improved its quality check. “You know the image skipped is the one you want.” Amazingly, FamilySearch provides 1.6 million new searchable names each day, so “if you did not find your people yesterday, check today.”

Once FamilySearch International was “the only game in town.” Now there are major for-profit companies and FamilySearch “welcome[s] them to bring their resources to the table.” He said, “we are not in competition.” He mentioned the free access members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received to ancestry.com, findmypast.com, and myheritage.com. He says that it is about a $700 savings for members each year. However, “these members fund all that is free on familysearch.org.” He said that he is also very excited about FamilySearch’s partnership with BillionGraves and shared an example of his contributions to this project. He said, “I have no teary-eyed videos today. You are stuck with my humor,” as he pointed out a discrepancy between a vital record and a cemetery stone he used as an example from his personal research.

FamilySearch also collaborates with non-profits, such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). One current project is the Preserve the Pensions from the War of 1812. FGS “took point on that” and the images will be offered for free on fold3.com. He showed examples of the plethora of documents found in these files, including “that torn page out of the family bible” from the days when duplication services were not available. There are 7.2 million pages related to this project. Each dollar that is donated will preserve two pages; this becomes four pages with ancestry.com’s commitment to match donations dollar for dollar. These files are being digitized alphabetically and the records are currently digitized to about the letters G-H and are available online. For the month of July there was a goal to raise $1800 a day to preserve these records. Although it is now August, your monetary support to this project is still greatly appreciated!

Mr. Rencher admitted that “there is an element of independence that must be given up to collaborate and sometimes it is painful … [but, the goal is to] connect people to their ancestors.” His presentation slides, The Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community,  are available on the conference website. Elder Paul F. Koelliker keynote address, Family the Fabric of Eternity, is also available on the conference website.

Copyright ©2014 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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