By Sarah Brenner Jones
TOMBALL, Texas — New advancements in digital technologies are transforming genealogy research by making it easier, more accessible and increasingly more personal. A case in point is the incorporation of social media features in the recent redesign of FamilySearch.org, a free family history website produced by FamilySearch International. FamilySearch is the world’s largest genealogy organization and a nonprofit sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The website’s new social-media-compatible features include photo and story sharing capabilities, which encourage collaboration between individuals in building family trees and sharing personal and family histories. Utilizing social media platforms to disseminate genealogical data and pictures speeds up the research process while encouraging real time family connections.
Judy Frazier, director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Center in Tomball, said, “The new Photo and Stories feature adds a fresh dimension to typical genealogy research. When I investigated a new photo of one of my ancestors posted online at FamilySearch.org, I discovered three stories I had never heard.” Excited by the discovery, she quickly copied them over into her personal files. “These new stories invigorated my desire to upload my own collection of family photos and mementos,” said Frazier.
Also new to FamilySearch.org is Family Tree, a simple, online application where users begin with their own personal information, building outwards through searchable records of 900 million existing entries to create and expand their family tree. Alongside Family Tree, the new Photos and Stories application allows for photos and stories to be uploaded and tagged, allotting up to 5,000 photos per user. These images and text can then be shared through social media sites and can be made available to other FamilySearch users.
“FamilySearch.org is a great tool for collaboration with others who may be working on the same family lines,” said Jeff Kirk, a Northwest Houston resident who used the new application to find a photo of the two-room house where his mother grew up. The image had been posted by a distant relative who located Kirk through the FamilySearch website.
While FamilySearch boasts LiveHelp, a service providing product help, research assistance by phone and web chat 24/7, there is also face-to-face help available locally. FamilySearch has 4,600 facilities in 126 countries where anyone can access genealogical records and receive personal assistance with their family history. These facilities include the world-famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which houses the largest collection of genealogical information in the world. In addition, there are smaller Family History Centers that are usually found inside Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, including one in Tomball serving the Cypress, Waller and Tomball areas.
Family History Centers are free, open to the public, staffed by knowledgeable volunteers and offer both beginners and experienced researchers the tools and resources they need to learn about their ancestors. At the Tomball location, visitors can receive training in how to use the latest FamilySearch online resources, as well as gain free access to subscription genealogical websites. For a small fee, patrons can also access the vast circulating collection of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which includes 2.5 million microfilms from over 100 countries.
The Tomball Family History Center is located at 12310 New Hampton Drive, Tomball, Texas. Hours of operation are Tuesday, 9-1; Wednesday 6-9; Thursday 9-1; Saturday 9-1; and by appointment. Contact Judy Frazier at 281-635-0325 or at Tx_Tomball@ldsmail.net for more information.