1 billion - bThe billionaires club is an exclusive one, with very few people ever getting anywhere near it. But I’m pleased to say that FamilySearch has just progressed to the billionaire’s club. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking in terms of dollar value here, but rather about the number of records they have put online.

This week has seen FamilySearch reach this important milestone when it uploaded its one billionth digital image online. We can’t even fathom (or visualise) just how much 1 billion records is. Or even the work involved in getting all 1 billion records from an archive, to being digitised, to being online for us all to use. Afterall it takes multiple people to even get even one record online, let alone a billion.

To give a good perspective on the scale of this, I found James Tanner’s post on his “Rejoice, and be Exceedingly Glad” blog …

“If each of the billion records consisted of a page of text approximately 8 1/2 x 11, laid end to end, they would stretch roughly 189,000 miles [approx. 304,000km for my Aussie readers] of paper. Think about it every single one of those one billion records has had to be handled by a person and scanned or photographed into the collections on FamilySearch.org. If you looked at each record for 1 second, it would take you approximately 277,777 hours to look at the records or almost 32 years. Good luck in trying.

One billion is a really large number but the significance of this is that progress is being made every day in digitizing the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in the Granite Vault and other records being digitized by missionaries are also contributing to this huge number of images. A billion records also means billions of names of people that lived and died (or are still living).”

So to say it is a huge achievement, YES it really is. And just have a look at this table below to see how quickly FamilySearch have achieved it. Seven years, that’s all it took .. but  Rod DeGiulio, director of FamilySearch records, predicts the next billion images could be published in just 3-5 years.

chart:  Deseret News

chart: Deseret News

Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager says “It brings the historical records with their family history on it from some remote archive in the world to their Web-enabled device, home living room, or however they access the Internet. What this amazing initiative is doing is bringing the otherwise unknown and hidden historic records of the world from over 10,000 archives, in 100 countries to your fingertips in the convenience of your home. These are records that would otherwise never see the light of day and are limited to only those who can afford to travel to the archive, wherever it may be located, and that’s if they even have permission to enter the archive. This increases access to people with or without time or financial means.”

FamilySearch and its predecessors began preserving records for genealogical purposes in 1938 using microfilm. Copies of the film were then shared among a global network of more than 4,600 FamilySearch centers. Amid numerous natural disasters and calamities around the world, FamilySearch has felt an urgency to protect historic records from damage and loss, Nauta said. FamilySearch estimates publishing about 200 million images of historic records online each year, an average of roughly 500,000 per day.

When asked how valuable these records might be, Nauta described the experience of seeing a person at a computer, weeping tears of joy upon discovering something about an ancestor. Then he asked this question … “If you could see a high-definition digital document of your great-great grandparents that witnesses to some vital event in their lives … what price would you be willing to pay?” Nauta said. “I would say the experience is priceless. When a person makes that surreal connection with an ancestor, they become more real than a name on a family tree. The good news is you are now getting access to those precious records and the images are available online for free. You can’t put a price tag on it.”

I think every one of us who research, feel the same way when you strike “genealogy gold”, the feeling of seeing your ancestors name in an index, or even better on an original document is simply indescribable.

For more about FamilySearch’s record collection, and a little behind the scenes tour of the all important Granite Mountain Vault, have a look at the video below, it’ll give you more of an insight into the company.

So CONGRATULATIONS to FamilySearch, not to mention all the volunteers who help out as well. FamilySearch really is the number 1 website for genealogy!