Being Dragged through the Mud . . . and Loving It!

FamilySearch indexing just hit a major milestone. Sometime in the last month or so, the number of searchable names on FamilySearch.org surpassed the 2.5 billion mark. And the majority of those names are there because you and others like you took the time to index them.

To put that number in perspective, let’s look back at what once was and also look forward to what may be.

Picture this: It’s 1999, and familysearch.org has just gone online. The new genealogy site is so popular that it’s quickly overwhelmed. What’s got everyone so excited? The chance to search a hundred million or so names.

That sounded like a lot at the time, but it was a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the amount of names out there that were (and still are) not searchable online.

Now, fast-forward to 2006. FamilySearch indexing has just been introduced. By this time, familysearch.org has managed to publish hundreds of millions more searchable names—a feat due largely to volunteer manual name extraction efforts by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But when FamilySearch indexing came along, it made it possible for anyone to get involved in preserving genealogical records from the comfort of their own homes—and the speed of publication accelerated even faster.

Now it’s 2012, just six years later, and the number of searchable names has multiplied many times over. A growth curve that steep would make any Wall Street tycoon salivate. But it only makes the FamilySearch organization more determined to reach for the next milestone. Here’s why.

Sometime around 2006, FamilySearch also dramatically improved its ability to scan and convert microfilmed records into digital images. Plus, it redoubled its efforts to capture new digital images from original archived records. More than 185 camera crews are now at work throughout the world, capturing images six days a week. What does this mean? It means FamilySearch now creates an average of 10 new digital images every second of every day and publishes them on familysearch.org within a matter of days. So, doing the math, if each image contains a rough average of 8-10 names, that adds up to . . . well . . . Well, it adds up to a whole lot of indexing still left to do and the size of the task is increasing.

Can you see where this is going? It’s like one of those tugs-of-war you see on the Internet where 50 or more men compete against one elephant. If you add enough people, then eventually you can overpower the beast, but until then, the elephant pretty much does what it wants.

Someday we may subdue our own “beast,” and with every new indexer and arbitrator we get that much closer. But for now we’re all sort of being symbolically dragged through the mud. That might sound bad, but truthfully, it’s all good, clean fun—and it’s making a huge difference for millions of people.

So stay tuned for the next major milestone. It could be 5 billion searchable names. Or maybe, for you, it could be that the one ancestor that has eluded you for so long finally shows up in a search. Either way, it’s going to be monumental, and you’ll have yourself and the rest of the FamilySearch indexing family to thank for making it happen!

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