By SETH GIFFORD BLAYLOCK
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a new genealogy Web site, www.familysearch.org. The site, still in the beta-testing stage, is the latest of many genealogy sites popping up all over the Internet.
The April 19 issue of Time magazine highlights the LDS site as “the most widespread access ever to the world’s largest genealogical repository.”
Paul Nauta, manager of planning and communications for the Family History Department for the LDS Church, said the Web site is an important step for the church.
“One goal of the church is to continue to improve access to our family history information,” Nauta said, stating that emerging technologies like the Internet are being used to reach that goal.
Nauta said because more and more church members have access to the Internet, it seemed natural for the LDS Church to provide access to genealogical files on the Web.
One familysearch.org service is the Family History Library Catalog. The Catalog, an index of the millions of microfilm records available through the Church.
Using the catalog, users can find records they want to access, and order the needed microfilm within days to be viewed at a local Family History Library branch.
Nauta said genealogists have waited anxiously for easier access to the catalog.
“If there was nothing else on the site, it would be worth it to them,” Nauta said.
Other sources to be made available on the site include an index of helpful Web sites, other sources, and an online version of the Church’s Ancestral File.
“They can go on the site and see what the Church has for them,” Nauta said.
Geoff Rasmussen, computer technician at the BYU Family History Library also believes the Internet is an important tool for genealogy enthusiasts.
“It’s going to revolutionize the whole world of genealogy … by making resources more readily available to the whole world,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen maintains the BYU Family History Library’s own Web site where users can access anything from city directories to newspaper and periodical indexes.
Many other genealogical resources exist on the Internet including personal and even corporate pages. Ancestry.com maintains one of the largest of these.
The company started out as a publishing company 15 years ago. They became an on-line presence in 1996 by making databases useful for genealogy available on their site.
Jim Ericson, web marketing director for the company, said Ancestry.com adds two to three new databases, such as census indexes, every day.
Many services on the site are free, but users must pay a subscription fee in order to gain access to all of the site’s information. At present the company has tens of thousands of subscriptions, Ericson said.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is save people time,” Ericson said explaining that traditional genealogical research usually involved extensive travel and long hours at the library.
Ericson agrees with many others that genealogy mixes well with the Web.
“It’s a perfect application for it,” Ericson said.