The BYU Family History Library will have access to many new international historical records, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch announced last week.
According to the initial announcement, the agreement lays out a five-year plan to digitize and index over a billion international historical records, which will then be published on both ancestry.com and familysearch.org.
“We are excited to work with Ancestry.com on a vision we both share,” said Dennis Brimhall, president of FamilySearch, on the FamilySearch blog. “Expanding online access to historical records through this type of collaboration can help millions more people discover and share their family’s history.”
As the second most popular hobby in the United States, genealogy is researched by millions of people of all faiths and nationalities. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 4,689 family history centers in 128 countries that anyone can access for free. These centers will have access to both the new records this deal will make available and to on-hand volunteer experts to help patrons learn how to use both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.
BYU houses the biggest family history library outside of Salt Lake City, offering visitors access to nearly 20,000 records as well as the ability to scan their own slides, pictures and documents for free.
Elder Paul Dunn, the missionary coordinator for the BYU Family History Library, is excited about this new agreement between the world’s largest providers of family history resources because it is a larger collaborative effort than any before.
Beverly Mattinson, a library volunteer, also sees the good this agreement can bring for those interested in genealogy.
“I think the Church recognizes that Ancestry.com reaches a lot of people and because they do, (the Church) wants to reach as many people as they can with the information that they have been indexing, which is why they would cooperate with one another in opening the Church’s vaults,” said Mattinson.
In addition to further-reaching audience scope, this deal focuses heavily on international information with 200-plus crews out filming international records.
“This effort will fit with what we are already thinking,” said Dunn. “We are trying to build our collection of international stuff here — films and such — more for the same reason the Church is. We have a much more international community, with the students coming from many different countries. We would like to have the basic films here so that when (international students) come in they don’t have to order everything. This effort will take films, put them online and index for them, where they can be searched easily.”
Roger Layton, communications manager for the Harold B. Lee Library, listed statistics that the BYU Family History Library gave 3,200 family history presentations in 2011 and expects that this ease in searching will lead to an even bigger boost in usage.
Mattinson, who has volunteered in the library for over five years, has seen this boost firsthand.
“I have seen an increase in people coming in here, and I think it’s because there is so much more available, and it’s because of all the indexing that’s been done,” Matinson said. “I think genealogy and the family tree is going to grow a lot faster than normal because of all the technology and everything that is going into trying to connect all the families of the world through new data and information.”