Elder Allan F. Packer and I recently met with Family History Department employees and missionaries in our annual department business meeting to share some of the great successes we’ve experienced this past year. We also had several Family History Department leaders give a peek into some of the exciting new developments that will be coming in 2014. We’re excited to give you, our users, a preview of what’s ahead for FamilySearch.
The following are some of the highlights from each presenter:
President Ross Workman, mission president of the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Mission, started out our meeting by encouraging everyone to move forward in our efforts to make our tools and services better in order to help people more easily find their ancestors. He said that there is much work to do but too few family history missionaries and volunteers to do it. He encouraged us to speak to our friends and our family to encourage anyone who can to seriously consider volunteering or serving a family history mission.
Don Anderson, director of Patron and Partner Services, shared how working with partners will help to move the work forward. Don shared:
- Records are best when used: Sharing FamilySearch’s record collection with partners allows more people to discover their ancestors. The more our records get used, the more ancestors will be discovered.
- The more we share, the more others share with us: By sharing our records with partners, the partners have agreed to share their records and other experiences with FamilySearch, which will ultimately help more people discover their families.
- The family tree is key: When people discover their families, we want to be sure that those discoveries are captured in the FamilySearch Family Tree. FamilySearch is working and will continue to work with partners to connect partner experiences to the Family Tree, making it even easier for people to discover their families.
Look for more information about the work FamilySearch is doing with partners in the coming weeks.
Don also introduced the discovery center concept—an entirely new approach to family history centers where patrons will experience some fun and moving family history experiences. These centers are in the planning stage. Look for more information about these centers next year.
Steve Rockwood, director of Worldwide Support Services, reminded us that the Family History department is working with incredible international diversity. This brings some unique challenges as we try to provide products, tools, and services in as many languages as possible. We are working hard to make it possible for as many of our FamilySearch users to have FamilySearch available in a language they are comfortable with.
Steve introduced the latest Family History Department tool that invites people to get involved in this work through the use of stories. He announced the simultaneous English-international language release of the My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together booklet in 25 languages.
Rod DeGiulio, director of Indexing, explained the indexing initiatives. After showing a touching video which gives a quick overview of the concept of indexing, he pointed out that (1) indexing makes more records available to the public for searching; (2) indexing records helps attract and engage beginners; and (3) we need a lot more indexes, which means we need a lot more indexers.
DeGiulio said that in 2014, the existing indexing system will be replaced with a new indexing platform. This new platform will attract more indexers and will improve the quality and accuracy of indexes.
Craig Miller, director of Product Development, introduced and demonstrated a new mobile app that allows users to use FamilySearch from the convenience of their own mobile device. This mobile app will be available in 2014. To see a video demonstration of how this app works, click here.
Craig concluded by explaining that in an eight-year period, new FamilySearch received about 56 thousand new sources. Since the introduction of Family Tree earlier this year, there have been more than 6,400,000 new sources added.
Elder Allen Packer concluded the meeting by sharing experiences from his visits to wards and stakes throughout the world. During some of his stake conferences, he challenged attendees to write a memory of an ancestor they knew and then write down on a sheet of paper their feelings about the experience. His conclusion: People are touched and moved by recounting the stories of their ancestors and living family members.
I felt that those who attended our meeting this year came away feeling that their work is making a real difference. There was also a measurable sense of excitement for all the great things we will be working on in the coming year.
I want to thank everyone for all their help and their dedication to this great work. We couldn’t do it without you.