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FamilySearch reaches milestone of one billionth published digital image

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 11:15 a.m. MDT

This photo of John F. Kennedy was found in the "Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965" collection on familysearch.org. The record says the future U.S. president traveled there as a student in the 1940s.

Provided by familysearch.org

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SALT LAKE CITY — FamilySearch International has reached a new milestone in its mission to preserve and provide public access to the world's historic records.

FamilySearch.org has published its one billionth digital image online, the organization was set to announce Monday.

The feat was accomplished in just seven years, Rod DeGiulio, director of FamilySearch records, said in a press release. He predicts the next billion images could be published in 3-5 years.

"These historic records are now literally going from the archive to your living room in brilliant high-definition images, just like that," DeGiulio said in a release. "The world's archives are coming to you online."

The billionth image was registered as FamilySearch.org was publishing a collection of Peruvian civil records.

Having access to these records and collections will enhance a person's ability to research his or her family history, said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager.

"The whole access benefit with digital technology is nothing but a win-win for those doing family history research. It couldn’t be more convenient, frankly," Nauta said. "It brings the historical records with their family history on it from some remote archive in the world to their Web-enabled device, home living room, or however they access the Internet. What this amazing initiative is doing is bringing the otherwise unknown and hidden historic records of the world from over 10,000 archives to your fingertips in the convenience of your home.

"These are records that would otherwise never see the light of day and are limited to only those who can afford to travel to the archive, wherever it may be located, and that’s if they even have permission to enter the archive. This increases access to people with or without time or financial means," Nauta said.

FamilySearch and its predecessors began preserving records for genealogical purposes in 1938 using microfilm. Copies of the film were then shared among a global network of more than 4,600 FamilySearch centers, the release said.

The real mushroom in exponential growth began in 2007 when FamilySearch shifted to digital preservation and technology to publish these historic collections online. During that seven-year span, FamilySearch has worked with more than 10,000 archives in over 100 countries, the release said.

Amid numerous natural disasters and calamities around the world, FamilySearch has felt an urgency to protect historic records from damage and loss, Nauta said. FamilySearch estimates publishing about 200 million images of historic records online each year, an average of roughly 500,000 per day, according to the release.

"Today we can digitally publish far more records much quicker to provide greater access to more people at a much greater convenience and pretty much no cost to them," Nauta said.

Among the billion images are growing collections of census, immigration, military, birth, marriage, death, church and court records. A single digital image can have several records on it, DeGiulio said.

When asked how valuable these records might be, Nauta described the experience of seeing a person at a computer, weeping tears of joy upon discovering something about an ancestor. Then he asked this question.

"If you could see a high-definition digital document of your great-great grandparents that witnesses to some vital event in their lives ... what price would you be willing to pay?" Nauta said. "I would say the experience is priceless. When a person makes that surreal connection with an ancestor, they become more real than a name on a family tree. The good news is you are now getting access to those precious records and the images are available online for free. You can’t put a price tag on it."

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogical organization in the world. The nonprofit, volunteer driven organization is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For more information, visit FamilySearch.org.

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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