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This photo of frontiersman and Mormon pioneer Ephraim Knowlton Hanks was found on FamilySearch.org.

SALT LAKE CITY — The largest genealogy organization in the world has announced significant changes to its website to help users do more family history work.

The new enhancements will allow visitors to collaboratively build their family tree online, preserve and share family photos, and receive personal research assistance — all for free.

"Every person who has ever lived has a right to be remembered and is a story waiting to be told,” Dennis C. Brimhall, CEO for FamilySearch, said in a press release. "Every family is a story in progress.”

The new FamilySearch.org features should appeal to a larger audience of people who are very interested in their family’s stories, but who don’t consider themselves genealogists or researchers, Brimhall said.

“We all treasure memorable family photos and ancestral stories that inspire, amuse or connect us," Brimhall said. "Families can now share and preserve for posterity those social heirlooms that help vitalize their family history."

One of the major enhancements is Family Tree, an online application where users can add information about themselves and their ancestors to collaboratively build, manage and share their family history. The tree is already populated with more than 900 million records contributed by patrons. And there are billions of historic records that can be searched for free to help further expand family trees.

The "Photos and Stories" feature allows users to preserve favorite family photos of ancestors and share them through social media. People in a photo can be identified and tagged, then connected to ancestor files in the Family Tree. A user can also upload favorite stories about an ancestor to preserve them for future generations. Each person can save and share up to 5,000 ancestral photos in Family Tree.

"When a parent or grandparent takes the time to tell you a story, there’s a bonding that occurs there," Brimhall said. "Likewise, a family photo and story preserved and shared in the context of one’s family tree, in an instant, can personally touch us and teach us time-honored principles by those who have gone on before us, like the value of hard work, dealing with life’s ups and downs, and the impact of choices."

Other features added include the interactive Fan Chart, a tool used to create a colorful fan chart of people's ancestry; the Family Tree Wizard, a tool that asks questions to help you begin to build your personal family tree and get you started; and Live Help, a global online community that provides free product help and personal research assistance by phone and web chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The help website and services are available in 10 languages.

The changes to FamilySearch.org, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came in an effort to reach a wider audience, according to Paul Nauta, a manager of FamilySearch public affairs.

"We wanted to add valuable experiences that appeal to a greater audience of users, beyond researchers and genealogists," Nauta said. "Those interested in the connections, stories, and photos that bring family histories and ancestors to life. ... We hope additional generations and demographics of new users will get engaged, sharing, collaborating, discovering their family histories together through trees, stories and photos."

Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources and services for family history purposes. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

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