Friday, March 4, 2022

FamilySearch: Online Volunteer Tool Changes the Future of Family Discoveries Genealogical Records Will Be Searchable Faster

 I received this press release from FamilySearch today:


Online Volunteer Tool Changes the Future of Family Discoveries
Genealogical Records Will Be Searchable Faster

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—Usually the key to successfully discovering an ancestor you’re seeking is the easy searchability of online historical records containing that ancestor’s details. FamilySearch has introduced an exciting new online volunteer experience—Get Involved—coupled with state-of-the-art handwriting recognition artificial intelligence, that promise to make billions more historical records more freely discoverable online—in a fraction of the current time.

In 2021, FamilySearch announced it had successfully completed the digitization of its millions of rolls of microfilm (See Microfilm Digitization Completed). Those digital images contain the names of billions of individuals—our ancestors—from archives all over the globe. Digital images are great, but it still takes time to scroll through them in search of ancestors. And if the original records are handwritten, or in different languages, your challenge intensifies.

This is where Get Involved, FamilySearch’s new online volunteer experience, and FamilySearch’s new handwriting recognition artificial intelligence, change the future of family discovery.

Participate Now

What Is FamilySearch Get Involved?

“What if online volunteers could conveniently participate in just a few minutes using their mobile phones or laptop? What if the records they help make more discoverable online were relevant to their personal family history? What if they could see how their contributions facilitated personal discoveries for others? Those are some of the unique benefits from the new Get Involved online volunteer tool. Volunteers can now help contribute to the success of others, and make personal family history discoveries,” said Ian James, a FamilySearch product manager.

FamilySearch’s online volunteers have indexed 2 billion names from records since 2007—an amazing feat! Historical records that are handwritten, not in a volunteer’s native language, or not already set in a form like a US Census page, are more tedious for volunteers to index and are good candidates for the new Get Involved feature.

How does FamilySearch’s Get Involved and handwriting recognition artificial intelligence work?

That’s the genius and marvel of FamilySearch’s latest technology. FamilySearch’s new artificial intelligence can now scan handwritten genealogical documents—millions of them, quickly, and generate an index of the names and other information from those digitized documents. The index is far from perfect—but it’s impressive. Perfecting that machine index is where the Get Involved online volunteers come in.

FamilySearch’s new Get Involved experience is a hybrid web tool and mobile app. The handwriting recognition artificial intelligence is smart enough to know when it is not sure about something in its transcription—for example, a name spelling on a birth certificate. It marks these instances. Then online volunteers, using Get Involved, simply look at images of handwritten names the computer isn’t sure about, and helps correct them. Volunteers can conveniently spend just a few minutes to review an image and offer edits, or a few seconds to review one name. All work gets saved immediately, and it makes a difference quickly. And the interface is super easy to use.

Watch How Get Involved Works

Volunteers can also select records of personal interest to them—like those that may include their ancestors—increasing the likelihood of finding an ancestor in the records they are helping refine. Future versions of Get Involved will send invitations to a FamilySearch patron or volunteer when it feels it has found a document with information about your ancestor and needs you to double check its findings.

The result is FamilySearch, with Get Involved online volunteers, can now index a lot more records, in expanding languages, quicker.

Making a Difference. Creating More Personal Discoveries.

In 2021, the handwriting artificial intelligence was able to complete over 100 million records in a pilot test that helped FamilySearch reach a milestone of over 10 billion free, searchable names from historical records online. Get Involved volunteers are now refining those indexes. With the help of these new tools and volunteers worldwide, FamilySearch expects to reach the 11 billion milestone in 2022. That means more personal family discoveries than ever before.

“We’ve been implementing our new records access technologies in Spanish-speaking countries for the past year. We were able to index in one year what would have otherwise taken us a hundred years to do with previous technology. We are excited to unveil it at RootsTech 2022 along with our expansion plans,” said John Alexander, a FamilySearch product manager for the emerging technology.

Alexander said that the current indexing tool will continue to focus on types of records not suitable for the handwriting recognition artificial intelligence technology. Volunteers will have the option to participate using whichever experience best suits their needs and interests.

How Do I Participate with FamilySearch Get Involved?

The first projects volunteers will be able to help refine will be the US Wills and Deeds—a collection rich in genealogical information from almost all 50 states. On April 1, the much-anticipated 1950 US Census will be available for volunteers to take on through Get Involved. Projects are now available in Spanish (174 million church baptismal records) from 22 Latin American countries. And Italian and Portuguese opportunities will follow later this year.

Online volunteers can participate and make a difference now at


An Introduction to FamilySearch Get Involved (RootsTech 2022)

How-to Edit Records through FamilySearch Get Involved (RootsTech 2022)

Participa (How Get Involved Works—Spanish Demo)

Get Involved and Reviewing the 1950 US Census

FamilySearch Get Involved. How AI amplifies family history indexing.


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