If you think you’ve already mined the massive FamilySearch Web site for all its answers to your family history puzzles, think again. Recent improvements at FamilySearch <www.familysearch.org> have been fast and furious. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has added dozens of countries’ International Genealogical Index data, so you can search for relatives from Acadia to Zimbabwe, specifying the state, province or region in some cases. Major additions include Scandinavia and continental Europe.
Valuable search refinements include the ability to search for a specific event (such as birth or marriage) in a precise year, any year or a range of up to 50 years. These improvements are even more significant than they seem at first blush: Say you’ve got an ancestor with a pretty common name or a name that’s been spelled or misspelled numerous ways over the decades — for example, Andreas Schumacher (or was it Andrew Schuchmacher?), born in Germany. The odds of finding information on the person you want without slogging through dozens of other files improve exponentially when you can specify the ancestor was from Germany’s Baden region and look for all births, christenings, marriages and deaths involving men of that name from 1780 to 1820.
And now it’s easy to download a GEDCOM file from the site if the data resides in the church’s Ancestral File or the International Genealogical Index. You can easily import GEDCOM files — a universal data-exchange format — into most genealogy software programs, saving yourself hours of typing (not to mention typos).
The site’s collaboration lists — by surname or other specific topic — continue to grow, topping 88,000 by year’s end. But there’s still no way to view past entries, limiting the concept’s usefulness.