What is FamilySearch? Are they a professional company, a nonprofit organization composed of amateurs, or a church?

The answer is: None of the above. FamilySearch.org is a website for the Family History Library, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family History Library is open to all, regardless of religion, race, sex, or age. It is not a professional company, any more than any other library in the world is a professional company. Every library holds and offers books, publications, computer databases, and collections that are both filled with useful and valuable information, and yet are also filled with errors, falsehoods, and inadequacies. Its website, FamilySearch is an Internet genealogy resource service to help people worldwide access the FHL’s vast collection. It is a website, not a church and not a professional company. The organization FamilySearch represents, (FHL), is full of professionals, i.e. librarians, educators, microfilm and digitization specialists, editors, publishers, public relations directors, professional genealogists, and the list goes on and on. FamilySearch is a forum where these FHL professionals are able to share their immense skills and services, mostly for free, with a mostly uneducated, inexperienced public. Is FamilySearch a nonprofit organization composed of amateurs? No, it is just a website.

The IGI and Ancestral Files, which have been spoken of as though they were FamilySearch, are databases of information submitted by patrons of the Family History Library. The majority of the information in these collections has been provided and generated by amateurs, as has long been the tradition in genealogy. They are now presented online by FHL to assist patrons of the Library who see the value in these decades’ old databases that are built upon nearly 150 years of collected memories and record searching and extraction by patrons. Those patrons have come from all walks of life, countries, religions, backgrounds and experience in genealogy. This is as it should be in any library, whose purpose is providing resources for research and study. Neither FamilySearch, nor the Family History Library profess that these patron-supplied database collections are composed of documented and accurate information by qualified practitioners in a standardized profession of genealogy research services; only that patrons of the library have provided the information contained therein. As researchers dedicated to accuracy and integrity, do we therefore, reject the use of the Family History Library or its website, FamilySearch, or indeed all libraries because their holdings contain such unverified or inaccurate materials? FamilySearch bears no responsibility for accuracy or for correction of these submissions. What it does do, is recognize the weaknesses and failings of earlier record keeping systems, and constantly strive to improve and correct the processes for gathering, storing, and sharing data with a genealogy hungry world – free. I for one, with a nearly 40 year-long career in “climbing the family tree professionally since 1969” am very grateful for those who came before me and shared what they knew. And for the Family History Library for making this valuable resource available to me and other interested researchers.

James W. Petty, AG®, CGSM, B.A. (History), B.S. (Genealogy)
Ancestors are the People of History. Do you know who yours are?
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