Getting the most from LDS Family History Websites

Familysearch is the brand name for the Family History products provided by the LDS Church.  The website has been available for over 10 years.  All resources are available free of charge except rentals of microfilm where the fee covers costs including shipping to Canada

How big is FamilySearch?  Here are some basic facts:

  1. # of searchable names from original source records in’s Historical Records Collections: Over 2.64 billion
  2. Number of searchable names from user contributed records in FamilySearch’s Trees collections online: Over 500 million.
  3. There are over 1,100 historic record collections at
  4. # of browsable digital images of historic documents at 485 million.
  5. # of hits on Over 10 million hits per day.
  6. FamilySearch Indexing is the largest community-based transcription initiative in the world.
    1. Over 170,000 active (index at least one project/year) volunteer indexer.
    2. Indexing 500,000+ arbitrated names per day.
    3. Over 780 million names indexed since the application was launched in 2005.
    4. Publishing over 200 million indexed names per year now (double entered, arbitrated).
    5. Over 130 current projects. New projects added weekly. See the current lists of projects at
    6. Indexing program is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish with more language interfaces and international projects coming.
    7. Greatest need is for native language indexers for international projects and volunteer indexing arbitrators.
    8. Many partners—historical societies, state, national, and religious archives—use it to improve access to or accuracy of their indexes.
  7. 2.4 million rolls of microfilm (Search the catalog online at for more details)
  8. FamilySearch is producing over 160 million new digital images a year from original source documents.
  9. 15 high-speed scanners are dedicated to converting existing films. Time to complete the digitization of the film collection is projected at 6 years.
  10.   185 camera teams currently filming records in 45 countries (new field captures). Most are digital cameras.
  11.   4,600 Family History Centers in 126 countries
  12.   Scanning digital books in cooperation with select public libraries. Search over 40,000 historic books at

(Source:  FamilySearch Facts File as of March 2012)

FamilySearch Websites

  1. – main FH site:
    1. Indexing – site where you register and download the software to do indexing – help create indexes to microfilms so we can search them on the internet – scanning of images is going faster than indexing – please help!
    2.   When you go to the website you are at the threshold of two very large databases which currently have separate searches:
      1. Records.  The default search is  Records which is really called Historical Records Collections.  This consists of over 1100 collections and over 2.5 billion records!  These numbers change almost every week as more collections are added.  To see the extent of the collections go to the links to Browse by location – notice Canada now has its own link!   Many of these collections have images of the original documents attached.  There are almost 500 million images on the site. Some images are only available from the website of the copyright holders.  How many images you have access to will in part depend on your participation in Indexing or your membership in an organization that supports FamilySearch.  Where do Historical Records come from?  From the results of the Indexing projects, from earlier projects that extracted names from microfilm, and scanned images of microfilms that has not been indexed yet.  Note that not all the collections in Historical Records have been indexed, and therefore not all names will appear by doing a simple search!  Collections that are images only need to be viewed to find the names.  Hint:  Search wide (with little information in the search boxes then use the filters to narrow your search) – watch demonstration!  Do you know how to do each of the following searches in the Historical Records collection at
    • Search given-names only, based on a very localized area or narrowed time-frame:
    • Search just the surname, with a localized town or parish
    • Search on just a year of birth and a small place
    • Search with one wildcard (*) in just the surname, using a place-name
    • Search by using two or more wildcards (*) in a surname or ?.
    • Search using only the father’s name or both father and mother’s name (i.e. a parent search for children). Click on Advanced Search and select Parents under the Relationship drop down list.  Hint:  when I do a parent search I usually give the first and last name of the father but only the first name of the mother. Also search to determine some of the illegitimate children born to a person.  You do this by only putting in the mother’s name.
    • Search when you don’t know or are unsure of the spelling of the prefix or a large portion of the beginning of a surname
      1.   Trees.  To the right of the word Records is a link to Trees.  This is completely different set of collections from Records.  Millions of records to search, but no images. Currently Trees is the home of the Ancestral File (AF) and Pedigree Resource File (PRF) Collections. AF as no sources, PRF has some sources.  The information, however can be a valuable road map for research. (see definitions at end of handout)
    1. Click on link “Learn” to access the research wiki (online collaborative encyclopedia on how to do research), research courses (over 300 free), discussion forums, and getting started with genealogy videos .
    2.   Clicking on the Books tab on the main page takes you to the FamilySearch Books search.  Try searching for your family names.
    3. A completely new version of this website was launched in  Dec 2010 and has been updated several times since then – always look forward to updates (What’s New or Blog) – includes results of indexing and many images –
    4.   Look for tutorials and videos on how to use (under Help)
    5.   Use Feedback link to suggest improvements.
  1. – where you can see and try products under development –  note these 3 products:
    1. England Jurisdictions 1851 – a must for anyone doing English research – has great maps – can see parishes and their neighbours – see UK Ordnance Survey maps – can get there directly through
    2. Community Trees – a collection of well researched and sourced trees from various locations – can get there directly through
    3. TechTips – technology tips for genealogists and family historians – discover technologies that will improve your family history research and knowledge – direct through
  1.  – to order microfilm into your FH Centre
  2.   There are new FamilySearch products under development . . .  watch for them!


What is the Ancestral File (AF)?

A collection of 40 million names submitted to FamilySearch between 1979 and 2003.  See the article in the FamilySearch Research wiki for more information

What is the Pedigree Resource File (PRF)?

Collection of genealogies submitted to FamilySearch since 1999 in GEDCOM format.  PRF includes some sources which makes it different from AF.  The collection on contains over 200 million records (compared to 120 million on the old version of FamilySearch). Initially the information was shared on CD and then later submissions were shared on DVD.  There are about 150 disks. FamilySearch is discontinuing the distribution on disk.  For more information go to the FamilySearch Research Wiki

What is a GEDCOM?

An  ”acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunications. GEDCOM is a data structure created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for storing and exchanging genealogical information so that many different computer programs can use it. It is identified by the file type “.ged”.” See the wiki article for the rest of the information on GEDCOMs.


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