FamilySearch International recently observed the 120th anniversary of the formation of its forerunner, the Genealogical Society of Utah. FamilySearch is the largest worldwide Internet genealogy service in the world.

The Genealogical Society of Utah was formed in 1894 under the direction of President Wilford Woodruff to help Church members—then largely immigrants from Europe and the British Isles concentrated in Utah—to seek out their ancestors and preserve their family trees for future generations.

Today, the vast collection of historical records and family history services are available for free to anyone at, at Family History Centers worldwide, and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Here’s a quick overview of the history. For more details, read the article “FamilySearch Celebrates 120 Years.”

  • During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the society pioneered the use of microfilm to preserve and provide access to the world’s genealogical records.
  • In 1963, the society completed the Granite Mountain Records Vault for long-term storage of microfilmed records. More than 2.4 million rolls of film from more than 120 countries and principalities are stored there today.
  • In 1984, the society pioneered one of the first desktop genealogy management software programs, Personal Ancestral File. It also developed GEDCOM, a software code for sharing genealogical data.
  • In 1999, it launched the free website, which is available today in 10 languages.
  • In 2007, FamilySearch began crowd-sourcing family history by creating a website where volunteers could index records to make them searchable. Over 1 billion records have been indexed in just 7 years.
  • In 2013, they introduced Family Tree and Memories, which let you build, preserve, and share your family trees, photos, stories, and historical documents collaboratively.
  • Today, FamilySearch is used by tens of millions of people to build, preserve, share, and research their family histories and records.


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