From time to time, I get emails from some of you asking why FamilySearch is going through so much change. I’ve thought a lot about that question and know from personal experience that sometimes change can be difficult. This is especially true with the tools and services that are so dependent on technology. It can be very difficult for those of us who didn’t grow up using the tools of technology to keep up with this ever-evolving revolution.
At FamilySearch, one of the biggest challenges we face is balancing the human cost of change with the opportunities that exist to help our patrons access the greatest number of historical records as easily and as quickly as possible—and still keep our services available to the public at no cost. This is no small challenge that we deal with every day.
But there are also deeper reasons for change. It has been said that every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. FamilySearch was enabling the efforts of some members but not touching the lives of all Church members.
Therefore, the First Presidency has asked FamilySearch to make six changes to better enable family history efforts for more Church members. The changes you are now seeing and will continue to see over the next few weeks, months and even years are all in the context of those six broader changes.
One of those changes is to make the online experience of FamilySearch—including the website—more engaging for a wider variety of members. That change is what you are seeing now.
We can assure you that ALL of the updates we are making and will make to FamilySearch.org are in effort to align with this direction from the Brethren.
Additionally, we are also presented with some astounding opportunities to make the process of gathering, preserving and accessing the world’s records so much easier than it was only a few years ago. I remember very well what it was like to do family history research only 25 years ago. To get the information you needed for an ancestor often required a person to send away a stamped letter to a clerk or minister with a check for several dollars for a single certificate. We had to wait a week or two—sometimes longer—to get a response. That process was repeated over and over again. Doing family history research was a slow, drawn out process and was often very expensive. But because of the changes that have taken place, people can now have access to literally billions of records and can do it from the comfort of their home. They can literally search through all these records in a matter of minutes. It is a remarkable time to be a family historian.
Yes, FamilySearch is making a lot of changes, and we will continue to do so because we want to give you the best of what we have to offer. We never change for the sake of change. Every change we make is carefully reviewed to determine if it will provide the greatest service to our patrons. It will be considered only if it increases the ease and efficiency of finding and organizing one’s family history. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to do your family history. It’s that simple.
We know that the only constant is that things constantly change; so, to keep up with new technology, an increased user base, and volumes of records, we have worked hard providing patrons with some excellent resources:
- Before we make a change, we often ask hundreds of volunteer FamilySearch patrons to test a new process or a new product. These are everyday patrons like you who are very good at telling us what works and what doesn’t work. These folks are very good at helping us work off the rough edges before we introduce a change to the general public.
- We have several newsletters and a FamilySearch blog to help announce changes and provide details of what those changes mean. These announcement provide useful information and links to online training.
- FamilySearch has dozens of professionally trained instructional developers who create hundreds of excellent videos, online classes, printable paper products and other products to help you learn everything you need to know to get the most out of your FamilySearch experience.
- We also have an extensive networks of thousands of support people who provide one-on-one help where needed. Many of them are volunteers located throughout the world to help people in their local areas.
- Anyone using FamilySearch can visit the online help center and discover an amazing selection of useful classes, videos, and other help.
- A volunteer named Leland Moon has created dozens of quick-easy-to-use videos to help demonstrate many popular FamilySearch features. Each video is only a few minutes long and is easy to follow.
Yes, FamilySearch is changing, and it will continue to change. Our intent is that each change will make it easier for you to find a record, a photograph, or a story that helps you find your ancestors. If we can do that, and align with the inspired direction of our leaders, then we will be happy with the changes we bring about—and be confident you’ll be pleased, too.