Mormons offer family records online

Long-known for its genealogy records, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today officially launched a Web site featuring a genealogy database of more than 400 million names.

The Mormon Church's FamilySearch site debuted today after a month and a half of testing. The site provides free access to the church's genealogy database, making it one of the largest family history research sites on the Internet. Ancestry.com, for example, lists some 240 million names; it also charges fees to access its database.

At FamilySearch, you can narrow your search by entering the name of a relative as well as the names of his or her parents. The site searches through the Mormon Church's online database as well as thousands of other genealogical Web sites. The results are listed together for easy review. The external sites are prequalified by the church for their quality and content.

"This is the first time we've put our family history data online," Otterson says. Previously, the church's genealogy resources were available on CD-ROM or from any of its 3600 Family History Centres located around the world.

The database is not confined to members of the Mormon Church, Otterson notes.

"We've been forerunners of family history research for a century or more and have always believed in making our records available to the public as well as to church members," Otterson says.

The FamilySearch site is financed by the church. While access to its resources is free now, the church has not decided how long that will be the case, according to Otterson.

The site has already received more than 250,000 hits during its testing phase, putting it on track to be one of the Web's most popular sites, Otterson adds.

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