I published an article yesterday entitled, Rumor Mill: LDS Family History Centers to Offer Additional Online Resources. I must admit that even I was surprised when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an announcement only a few hours later, early on Monday morning. The announcement is everything that I had predicted and a lot more.
In fact, I believe this is perhaps the most important genealogy announcement of the past few years.
The first part of the announcement is a name change. Of course, the Church's web site is well known as FamilySearch.org. That brand name has become synonymous with genealogy searches. The Genealogical Society of Utah, an organization fully subsidized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has always performed the business of collecting and preserving records of genealogical interest. Now the name of Genealogical Society of Utah is being changed to FamilySearch. The organization that collects, preserves and publishes records of genealogical interest is now one and the same as the web site.
Next, FamilySearch has announced a major new program that will aid other organizations in placing their records online. FamilySearch will provide free services to archives and other records custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, and preserve their collections. As mentioned in the announcement, "FamilySearch will also provide tools and assistance to records custodians who want to publish parts of their collection using state-of-the-art digital cameras, software, and web-based applications."
The result will be digitized records that may be hosted on FamilySearch.org or on most any other web site. FamilySearch is not concerned where the records will be hosted, only that the records be available to the general public for free or for a reasonable fee. The Church's goal is to increase public access to massive genealogy collections worldwide, regardless of where the information is located.
Even better, the providers of the information may opt to have the index of the record collection available for free on FamilySearch. Anyone who visits FamilySearch.org can search for records hosted on thousands of web sites, find a record of interest, click on the link and immediately view the record of interest. It makes no difference if the record itself resides on FamilySearch.org or on your local genealogy society's web site or any other web site that is a part of this collaborative effort.
One method of looking at this is that FamilySearch.org will now become the equivalent of a "Google for Genealogy." You will be able to visit one free web site and perform searches of tens of millions of genealogy records. You click on the link for a record and the next page you see will be that record, regardless of where the digital record is hosted
I would also point out one more item of note in the announcement:
FamilySearch will announce the first collaborative projects of its new Records Access program during the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Convention in Richmond, Virginia, the week of May 14, 2007. Many more project announcements are expected in the following months.
As I wrote at the end of yesterday's "Rumor Mill" article, "This should be a very interesting week for anyone who uses online genealogy resources!" I expect to be writing about more announcements in the next few days.