Billions of family names to go online

LDS Church plans to be history 'clearinghouse'

Published: Thursday, May 17 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Anderson said "numerous other national and international projects" of a similar nature are now under development and will be announced as agreements are signed or data is published.

As a result of the "affiliate arrangement," Anderson said FamilySearch.org will "have all the indexes for everything. You can think of it more or less like a Google — you go there to find the source of information you're looking for. Sometimes we're the source, and sometimes a third party is the source."

At least one or two similar agreements are expected to be announced this week in Virginia, Anderson said, noting several of the church's family history specialists are presenting at the conference this week.

While some Web sites may eventually use their information as a money-making enterprise, as commercial family history companies now do, Anderson said the church is not charging partners to help them make their records available.

Church officials have been looking to form such partnerships "for some time now," Anderson said, but have had to push forward the development of technology that would allow it to happen with "the way we scan, photo, transfer and archive. Because some of the necessary technology wasn't available, we had to develop it ourselves."

Working with a scanner producer, the church helped develop high-speed scanners that can scan a roll of microfilm in "a couple of minutes," as opposed to an hour or more that traditional scanners required.

New software developed to process that information into images and make it ready for processing, as well as to manage the warehousing of such huge information banks, also had to be created, Anderson said. "Almost every step of the way, there were significant engineering projects or hardware that needed to be developed."

Now that the technology is in place, the Records Access project will mean "at least 20 billion unique new names that will be in those records (to be posted online), but I'm not uncomfortable saying it could be 80 billion." That's compared with a total of about 5 billion names now online, he said.

The new technology and resulting "affiliate" agreements through FamilySearch will "fundamentally change people's ability to find their ancestors and connect with their families online. It's just going to be a real watershed event," Anderson said.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

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