Posted by Crista Cowan on September 5, 2013 in Collections, Digitization, News

The following press release was issued this afternoon by and FamilySearch.

Groundbreaking Agreement to Deliver Valuable Historical Content Over the Next Five Years

PROVO, Utah, September 5, 2013 – and FamilySearch International (online at, the two largest providers of family history resources, announced today an agreement that is expected to make approximately 1 billion global historical records available online and more easily accessible to the public for the first time. With this long-term strategic agreement, the two services will work together with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.

The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide. expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.

“This agreement sets a path for the future for and FamilySearch to increasingly share international sets of records more collaboratively,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of “A significant part of our vision for family history is helping provide a rich, engaging experience on a global scale. We are excited about the opportunities it will bring to help benefit the family history community and look forward to collaborating with FamilySearch to identify other opportunities to help people discover and share their family history.”

The organizations will also be looking at other ways to share content across the two organizations. Both organizations expect to add to the already digitized records shared across the two websites in addition to new record projects to be completed over the next five years.

“We are excited to work with on a vision we both share,” said Dennis Brimhall, President of FamilySearch. “Expanding online access to historical records through this type of collaboration can help millions more people discover and share their family’s history.”

This marks a groundbreaking agreement between the two services. But the two organizations aren’t strangers to working with each other; hundreds of millions of records have already been shared and are available on and The companies also announced in early 2013 an additional project where they plan to publish 140 million U.S. Wills & Probate images and indexes over the next three years—creating a national database of wills and other probate documents spanning 1800-1930 online for the very first time.

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Twitter


  1. Suzanne Rogers

    This is great! I’ve had the worldwide membership since I first signed up, but I didn’t really have access to my non-US family records in Guatemala, Colombia and the Basque Country.

  2. Fran is free and has a wealth of information, but their search engine isn’t as easy to filter/define as Ancestry. I imagine the search will be greatly improved, but no longer free.

  3. Eric

    I have a bad feeling about this. Looks to me like all that free information from Family Search will no longer be free once folded into Tell me I’m wrong.

  4. Samantha

    Oh dear….If FamilySearch doesn’t stay free I may need to stop my family history search online because I have to save for college 🙁

  5. Ellen Georgieff

    The only problem I see is that the information on family search is without documents. I found some mistakes there, and had there been a document to confirm the information, I would have been pleased.
    The next logical step would be importing members of a tree from one program to another. If this happens, you will need to fix the errors in a similar idea of linking face book to ancestry. – That was a major mess-up. – I lost ALL my data that was typed in under EVERY title in the timeline, for every person that was connected to face book, back 4 generations.

  6. Carol

    Sounds great in theory but like Eric, I have a bad feeling about this. I want to be positive, but with Ancestry charging for its site access to records and scans, and FamilySearch being free (except to borrow a film which cost is outrageous and short time) but not having the scans, this could go wrong. Both sites have indexing problems, big time. And this is not something that can be accomplished in a short time. Five years is extremely optimistic.

    Ancestry’s site is far easier to search, even with all its quirks and difficulties. FamilySearch is not as user friendly. We might wind up with something like VHS verses Beta which have both gone by the wayside. Whatever happens, it is going to cost the user because like anything else the end customer gets the bill.

    Ancestry pushes Family Tree with syncing and FamilySearch pushes Roots Magic (and possibly other programs) with syncing. And they both do “upgrading” to the programs which costs every time. Ancestry is a business for profit up front, and FamilySearch is under the partial tax-exempt cover of the LDS Church (Mormon). This could become a monopoly.

    Compatibility could become a serious problem. One thing for sure, folks need to have multiple backups in different formats. Even archival paper which lasts a long time if it is protected, won’t last forever. Maybe papyrus!?


    Please note that the Press Release states “Historical Records”. These are *NOT* family trees (Thank the Lord!). Thus any fears of even more junkology will be placed on the net by either Ancestry or FamilySearch is unfounded.

    Both organisations will, however, continue to allow their member to do so.

  8. Carol

    Good point, Andy. I wasn’t even thinking of the trees, many of which I agree wholeheartedly are frequently junk-trees, created by name collectors.

  9. Kate Penman

    Sounds good in theory but like many people here, I fear that ‘money’ is going be the price of this. And I do feel that Ancestry is going to benefit A GREAT DEAL from the free services of the many volunteers that have recorded the Family Search material. When the volunteers carried it out, it is unlikely they realised that a multi-national company was going to benefit. I’m sorry about that, on their behalf. Family Search is much hardier to negotiate now and real images are not available but the service has helped many, many people find clues as to where they go next. If money is involved, that is going to put the new service out of the reach of many people and their Family Tree hunting days will be over… *sigh*

  10. I hope that the free files that I work hard on for FamilySearch do not cause Ancestry to increase their already outrages fees. We provide the family tree ties, they should be open to others and then only charge for the documents that they purchased from public records. I have not had much luck finding information that I myself did not upload to Ancestry.

  11. Kenmaag

    I just hope GREED doesn’t get in the way. It is hard to believe it will be free. It sounds more like what we are encountering now at FS with partner sites that will show an index for the record but you have to go to a pay site like Fold3 to see it. I hope I am wrong.

  12. Billie McGregor

    Greed is sure to get in the way it always does where religion is involved and FamilySearch and now Ancestry will be governed by the Mormon Church. At which time any church member can access any and all of your mutual (no matter how distant) deceased family members and using a proxy child and your ancestor’s name will baptize them into the Mormon Church.

    I do not approve of this practice and in fact am appalled by it and find that there is virtually no way to prevent this from happening. While it is alleged that this practice is strenuously discouraged, there is no way to guarantee that it doesn’t happen.

    I would refrain from using any product associated with Family Search and the Mormon Church. I strongly support and applaud their effort to maintain the genealogy of our nation, but I am vehemently opposed to their blatant disregard for the civil liberties of the deceased.

  13. Judy

    I have read quite a few of the comments. I don’t understand when someone says that you can’t see the original image on FamilySearch. I realize that a lot of the records that appear on FamilySearch have not been digitized yet (especially in the areas that I am searching) but I have researched on some records that have not been indexed but have been digitized over the last couple of months. I have also been able to locate some of the records that have been digitized and indexed and been able to see the original image to confirm that the image did belong to one of my ancestors.

    I would also like to see FamilySearch and Ancestry being able to talk to each other.

  14. Susan Mulledy-DeFrank

    I think FamilySearch is already revved up to charge for the information in the future. I remember when Ancestry first spun off of Rootsweb (they were both free in the day), they had the census so you could just look at it yourself and not worry that a person transcribing for them had grossly typed the name wrong. I pay for Ancestry and have since it began charging so I’m sure I’ll pay for FamilySearch too, but I want references for who provided the info. As some of you have said some of the trees are quite erroneous.

  15. Kay Donnelly

    Will famous relatives ever become available as an option again. Used to get a thrill regarding who I , however far removed I may be related to. I hope it was not abused and will return.

  16. Cathy Johnson

    Being an old time researcher of over 35 years, I have seen lots of changes in genealogy. When I started my journey, there was not near the interest that there is today.

    While I agree that is pricey I would like to point out that in the “old days” thermal copies at the National Archives were $1.00 per page . I might spend $20.00 or more on a “good day.” (By the way, most of those copies are now faded). Writing letters and waiting for responses often took weeks. I spent lots of money on postage, many times never getting a response, always including an SASE (self addressed, stamped envelope). I subscribed to several genealogical magazines and periodicals. I rarely do any of those things any more.

    Personally I appreciate that I can do research comfortably in my own home and at much faster pace. I have sat for hours on end at microfilm readers looking at un-indexed documents. Digitized documents are much easier to read and save. I no longer carry a notebook with handwritten family group sheets as everything is available to me on my computer, tablet and even my phone. If I need to contact someone, I simply send an email and get a response within a few hours or a few days. provides a great service. I am not Mormon but I have visited many of their libraries and have been treated extremely well. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Mormon Church for their preservation of genealogical records. Without their work, many of the records that we enjoy today would no longer exist let alone be available. Remember, they have preserved records from all over the world.

    I prefer to stay optimistic about the announcement and recognize that my lifetime of genealogical pursuits has brought me endless pleasure beyond words.

    I am happy to pay my subscription. Thank you for providing me with countless documents and for asking nothing in return.

    Thank you to my fellow genealogists for your sharing and giving spirit as well as your endless enthusiasm. This encourages others to continue where we leave off. I hope you all find what you are seeking.

  17. Eileen

    I did not see the word “free” in the article. Please tell me what I used to get for free on FamilySearch is now something I’m going to have to pay for. If not free, I’m not a happy camper. Please let us know the answer to this big question!!!

  18. Pam

    I sure hope familysearch stays free, or I will no longer be indexing. Sure not going to index projects and then be charged to view them after participating in various indexing projects.

  19. Brenda

    I have to say I agree with Cathy Johnson. I started my family’s genealogical research 20 years ago, and then, once I had exhausted all local resources, had to put it on hold. The cost then to start to travel and get documents from out of state (usually WITHOUT knowing if it would be the correct one until I physically SAW it) was very expensive. What I spend on Ancestry in one year is what I would spend in a two month period then. It would be great if FamilySearch remained free. And I am happy with my Ancestry and feel it is well worth what I am paying. But I am realistic enough to recognize that Ancestry and FamilySearch can’t acquire all the information and index it for free. I do think FamilySearch will remain free for a while though, since they seem to work well in sync with Ancestry.

  20. Lindi

    This is nothing but positive news.

    Genealogy has always been a very expensive hobby, but now it has moved into a much more accessible realm. I currently pay for an ancestry subscription, but should it become out of my budget, I can still access it for free at my public library.

    Even if FamilySearch became only a hub that linked to other sites, it would still be serving its purpose and making our research easier. They mention the probate files specifically. Those are already on familysearch, but not indexed. It sounds as if Ancestry has agreed to do the indexing for them in exchange for access to them on the Ancestry site. That index will save hours of research time. Even if it is only available on Ancestry, go to the library, look up the index, go find the unindexed file on Familysearch. Win win, even if you don’t have an ancestry sub.

    I do not have a Fold3 subscription anymore, but if I wanted documents from the site, the $40/yr fee (I see sales for this price every month) is HALF the cost of ONE pension file from the National Archives. I spent over $80 a couple years ago on ONE pension file. For half that, I can access an increasingly large amount of those files and save them for a one time fee all year.

    Genealogy has become MUCH more accessible, and the companies spending the money to digitize these are providing this service. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can either drive to the locations and go through the archives yourself or go to a library and access the information on Ancestry for free. The fee is for the ease of accessing it from your home.

    I am looking forward to more digitized documents. Partnership here is a great thing.

  21. Pamela

    That’s interesting news. So, how will this work, exactly? Will the indexed version on be a subscription only service and will the non-indexed/indexed versions on family search remain free? Or are we talking purely about previously non-digitized records available only through microfilm presently?

  22. Lorraine Giles

    I am a “newbie” at this family tree-who do I think I am research, and has been such a help at getting me true and factual information. Yes, it does cost to have the subscription, but it is so worth it. It takes someone hours on end to find and copy all the information to help us all in our journeys. Plus nothing worth anything in this world is free! You get what you pay for….I appreciate EVERYTHING Ancestry does for me and I hope that new venture will prove to be as helpful as this journey has been for me!

  23. Steve

    I think that this is a wonderful partnership. I hear so many people complain because indexes are free “bait” that lures users into paid sites. Pardon me, but I still vividly remember not too many years ago that I would have gladly given anything to have an index (free or paid0 that allowed me to find a record that I was looking for. For the cost of a few birth, marriage or death certificates a month I could easily pay for a monthly subscription.

    Yes, I have no doubt that FamilySearch will continue to make ALL of their records available for free. But I worry that so many people have gotten so used to getting everything for free that they don’t appreciate what a gift these services are. Thank you Thank you FamilySearch.

  24. My initial reaction is negative – is purely for profit and whatever it touches gets more expensive. I have been lucky enough to find original docs on Family Search i.e. Texas death records whereas doesn’t have the original docs. I use each site for different reasons and appreciate that Family Search is free. They also have so many more England baptism and marriage records than I’ll be hopeful that I won’t see a negative outcome.

  25. Jan

    Cathi Johnson and Lindi — Thanks much for your positive takes on this news, and for your long-view perspective. I was cynical at first blush, and really thank you for helping remind me of all of the time and money I, too, have spent at National Archives, ordering docs through the mail and all…

    My only question is WHAT types of documents specifically? Did I miss something in the details?

  26. Dona Stephens

    I can not even begin to add up the time and money has saved me.
    I spent monumental amounts of time on non indexed records years ago, (remember scrolling through census records, page by page, town by town, county by county; crank by crank of a microfilm reader handle) looking for my family; to access all these records you had to travel somewhere.

    Saving up to take trips to diverse libraries and courthouses and cemeteries. Using vacation time from work, always, for ancestry search.

    Let’s hear a cheer for everyone who gives time, money and effort for the very, very, FREE Find a Grave! Where you can add information to help others for free.

    Another hearty cheer: we are literate, have use of free libraries, with thousands of books and records. Being able to read, and borrow books for free to take home and enjoy, could not even be imagined by most of those we search for. Their time was spent in drudgery, because they had none of the wonderful, wonderful conveniences we take for granted.

    Now in the privacy of my own home, on a computer I bought, with internet service I pay for, with electricity I pay for, with Ancestry I pay for, I have 24/7 access to all kinds of information. I do not have to dress up, I do not have to pack up, gather saved up coins for copy fees, just depress the key on my computer.

    I have a car, buy groceries at stores, (I cannot even imagine having to grow everything I eat), or washing my clothing in the river, or only seeing other humans on Sundays when I travel by foot or buggy into the local church.

    Those of us alive in these times, are incredibly blessed to find our families so easily (at times). My prayers always include gratitude for the “Hundred million miracles happening every day!”

    I pay for many things, I wish were free. I will wait patiently for this announcement to come to fruition. Many people are WORKING and praying for this effort to be a success. I am grateful for computer geeks and software development obsessed techs. Let’s be grateful for their love and obsession with technology!

    Those of you who grouse about everything, I pray for your enlightenment. We are so blessed!

  27. Becky

    I have been using for many years and had been happy. Recently I have been using Family search more than I live in Ohio and am able to find original Birth, Death, Marriage Certificates which I add to my tree via web links and sometimes add the digital picture. Family search has provided so much accurate information regarding parents, occupations from those digital records. I find myself using Family Search more than It takes awhile to learn their system but I find it easier than I have been disappointed with and Family Tree Maker because of inability to filter non related people out of the searches. Lately the comparision when adding people gets locked up and unusable. I usually have to have 2 tabs open and look to see if what I want to add is accurate. My Mom started the family history before the computer access we now have. She and my dad traveled to find information and waited for the mail. She would be amazed to know that I have almost 8600 people on the tree with sourcing information attached.

  28. BEE

    #34 Dona, add to that, dealing with parking meters in parking garages that don’t work, wasting precious time after a long drive to a City Clerks Office out of town, or a time limit on the machines at a busy Mormon Library, again, after a long drive over, then having to make the drive back.
    The latter, I haven’t done in years, but the former happened this spring, since in my location, I wouldn’t travel much in the winter months.
    How great to sit here and find all the great information I’ve found on ancestry. Unfortunately, I have never figured out familysearch.

  29. Lynn WM

    Like many others, the idea that Familysearch may become more fee based doesn’t make me happy. However, the collaboration between and FS will provide a genealogical treasure. I like the expansion of available records, but I regret that it will likely require more money from the users’ end. I won’t let that stop me from continuing to index for both and FS, though. The errors which appear in both sites’ indexes make me want to cry sometimes, and I will continue to do my small bit toward making the indexes more accurate.
    As several have pointed out, the cost for getting these records online is only a fraction of what us old-timers (I’ve been researching for 42 years) have paid by the old-fashioned methods. It doesn’t help much for the newbies and the cash-strapped, but it is true.

  30. Whitewolf

    I agree with many others here and fear that ANY family tree information will no longer be free,but you will have to subscribe to to get anything. Sorry,but I’ve done family tree research for a number of years now and found most of my info through FamilySearch,not,and it didn’t cost me more than my time. I’ve used both services,but now only using FamilySearch as I just don’t have the money to stay subscribed to to get any new info.

  31. FHC Librarian

    This may be off-topic but Dona #34 mentioned it.

    Find-a-grave is definitely one of the very best sites. It is truly a marvelous co-operative effort by all. Think of all the folks who do the research, post a memorial on the site and add genealogical information, which probably is quite accurate for the most part. Then think about the folks who voluntarily go to these cemeteries a take a photo to post to a memorial. These folks spend time and money doing this. I hope you all properly thank these volunteers.

    Do remember though, even gravestones have mistakes on them. Stonecutters were/are human, and peoples’ memories were not always accurate. I found several stones with errors. Don’t take anything for gospel. Document your sources!

  32. carolyn

    No Way……. Tell me this is not happening. What is wrong with Family Tree ? Do they need the money that bad.. The only one out there that we could turn to and their selling their stuff. No no no …..

  33. Jessica

    Like many others, my most pressing questions are:

    1) Will Family Search’s records remain free? and

    2)Exactly what records are the 2 sites working to digitize, index and then make “available” to the public

    [and I say “available” since it’s unclear if this merger means FS will no longer be a free online service]

  34. It is fascinating to observe what many consider “free”. Family Search records are not free. This information may come to you at “no cost” but someone is paying for the website, the servers, the employees who manage and maintain the company, etc. The records may be “digitized” by volunteers but employees are coordinating the effort, developing sophisticated search algorithms (who still needs Soundex), maintaining the database, and making it accessible 24/7 (libraries and archives have hours of operation, don’t they?). These “employees” may be volunteers also, but given the outstanding quality of the website and service, someone is getting compensated for their efforts . Family Search adds great value to genealogy research by providing accessibility, convenience, reliability, and integrity to records which would otherwise not be accessible . Obviously it has core competencies that complement Ancestry’s. Together, life will be better, otherwise why partner? Ancestry is a business committed to its owners to provide a return on investment. The market place will determine the cost of a subscription and customer access to these services. Potential customers will make a choice just like every other purchase decision they confront in life. So far, the cost is much less than cable tv, cell phone service, or pest control service. If Family Search can develop a business plan to provide that information to anyone at “no cost”, great, sign me up! Otherwise, we will all benefit from their combined effort and the access to one billion more records. Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!

  35. Deb H

    2 days since the original announcement and no response from Ancestry to any of these posts (all of which pretty much have the same couple of questions)? They just HAD to know these questions would arise, especially in view of their new pricing structure. Hopefully they’ll chime in soon!

  36. Cathy Johnson

    Today I read following on the website; and I quote, “FamilySearch will continue to make our records available to the public for free. It remains our commitment to make as many genealogical records and resources available at no cost.”

    You can view it for yourself here:

    I personally look forward to having more records available from legitimate companies such as and These two companies preserve records that might not otherwise be available to us and perhaps lost forever due to the ravages of time.

    No lecture here, but we need to think beyond ourselves and what this means to future genealogists and historians as well.

  37. Suz

    This is absolutely fantastic news, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

    Thank you, and Family Search!

  38. Jan

    I guess time will answer all of these questions. I am a retired Senior Citizen so hopefully won’t be priced out of the joy of discovering my heritage. I am the oldest left in my family so feel it is imperative to get this information down for my family members. I’m the last to “remember the stories”. Thank you to both Ancestry and FamilySearch these past three years for all of the proof they have provided me with printable documents.

  39. Anon

    This is a nice idea and I laud anything that helps get us more information for our research. However, I’ve used familysearch many times and nearly everything I have found has had serious errors, up to and including linking family members completely wrong. If they are joining forces I hope the info is clearly marked which site it is coming from. Otherwise this could backfire.

  40. Lucy

    This is great news – a joint effort to digitize records and place online for all! If it “might” cost more in the future that would be expected. You have to pay to travel to state archives, libraries or courthouses to gather original materials – time and money, so to me being able to access actual records online is wonderful. At least, as someone so aptly commented, it says historical records not “junkology” family trees. Now if only they could control the “junk” trees, many of which seem to appear from a 14 day free trial, and are then abandoned and left for dozens of others to just copy without verification or documentation, this could become a most valuable genealogy resource site, and worth the money we all pay.

  41. Angela

    Family Search is not what it used to be, it already directs you to to view census results. I have a bad feeling about this, just hope I’m wrong and this merger doesn’t result in even higher membership prices and more limited info otherwise.

  42. Long time user

    The junk trees are placed on Ancestry by USERS, and not all of them are placed there by newbies or the fly-by-night users. Ancestry doesn’t have the manpower to research every tree placed on the site. (Also true for Familysearch.) It would make the cost of a subscription prohibitive. It is up to each person to be responsible to research, document and source their own ancestors.

    I notice you can no longer access the One World Tree which was filled with bad trees and the occasional snippet of a good tree. Now there is a new database called the “Family Data Collection-Individual Records.” Everyone should read the description of this database below. I have already found many errors on it and rate it right there with OWT, and like the OWT, there will be SOME records that are partially correct.

    “A unique database containing 5 million genealogical records (20 million names) that were saved from destruction after being rejected from scientific studies. The Family Data Collection records were created while gathering genealogical data for use in the study of human genetics and disease. Compiling data for genetic research does not require the same type of documentation as traditional genealogical research. The genes themselves verify relationships and qualify or disqualify a person from a particular study. Citing the source of every genealogical fact in the electronic gene pool was deemed unnecessary and cost prohibitive by medical researchers. Millions of individual records were created from birth, marriage and death records; obituaries; probate records; books of remembrance; family histories; genealogies; family group sheets; pedigree charts; and other sources. The records collected that did not fit a specific study became the project’s “by-products” and were schedule to be discarded. After viewing the quality of the source material used to create the gene pool and despite the absence of cited documentation, the electronic rights to the data were purchased, rather than see it destroyed.
    Thousands of families are known to be present in the database, containing 20 million names in 5 million records. This data covers the entire U.S. for a wide expanse of years. At a minimum, each record contains an individual’s name, date and place of birth, and the name of his or her father. A complete record will contain the following information for an individual: Name, Date and Place of Birth, Date and Place Married, Date and Place of Death, Name of Spouse, Name of Father, Name of Mother, Use this database as a finding tool, just as you would any other secondary source. When you find the name of an ancestor listed, confirm the facts in original sources, such as birth, marriage, and death records, church records, census enumerations, and probate records for the place where the even took place.”

  43. Another Sucker

    I used to be a very very active Mormon, but now, with ventures like this it appears we are all to ‘pay’ for the rights to see our ‘own’ intellectual information in the interest of making yet more money for the Mormon Church.
    And the first presidency wonders why, with it’s multitude of ‘for profit’ business’s people are leaving the church,dissilusioned that the church really ain’t about saving souls but saving money.
    Wake up President Monson, is it really Jesus you are talking too?
    unless it is that Jesus will come back in his stretch limo,pin stripe suit,gold cuff-links,Rayburn shades,Rolex watch,etc to see how his business affairs are going?
    This arrangement between Family Search & is making money out of sacred ordinence work,very bad.
    And all us poor souls who spent thirty years collecting highly personal family information now to be sold by this sick joint enterprise.
    Not to mention the NSA affiliation?..yes we know!,to keep track of the good and faithful and to ‘milk’ every dollar from their personal information and suppress those who speak out by collecting their meta data which will be used to indentify the dangerous who speak truthfully about ‘real intent’.

  44. Denise Brooks

    I am very happy with this news. And I feel that everyones fears should be put to rest. This is an awesome decision and I have nothing but a positive vibe. Like anything new there will be glitches that may have to be ironed out but the shortterm and longterm look incredible…and that is understating my excitement. Thanks sooo very much to the two major players.

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