When FamilySearch announced last year that Latter-day Saints would be able to receive free access to three major genealogy websites, there was a collective gasp across the genealogical community-at-large. Subscriptions to Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, and MyHeritage.com can total up to about $900 a year. At the upper extreme, this represents about $13.5 billion in free genealogy resources for more than 15 million Church members.
LDS access to “partner sites,” as FamilySearch calls them, rolled out in phases through last November. So, how is this fresh engagement in family history affecting our lives?
The number of members taking advantage of these new site memberships has surpassed the initial goals and expectations of the staff at FamilySearch. “Our initial goal was that 200,000 members would take advantage of these site memberships,” says Thom Reed at FamilySearch. “Quite frankly, our expectations were exceeded.”
He reports: “About 240,000 members have activated LDS accounts to at least one of the three sites. At least half have joined more than one. To have nearly a quarter million members using these accounts is fantastic.”
Numbers don’t tell the full story, though. Members are also connecting with their roots in new and exciting ways. They are talking more about the past with relatives. Many are finding old photos and documents online. Some are submitting temple ordinance work and even performing it themselves.
These new family historians don’t fit the stereotype of the “retiree genealogist.” In fact, many are busy young adults and even youth who are finding that online tools make it possible for them to do family history 15 or 30 minutes at a time—on lunch breaks, while waiting for dinner to cook, or while relaxing for a few minutes before bed.
Here are stories of three such Latter-day Saints who are connecting to their roots in surprising ways thanks to these new resources.
This article originally appeared in the May/June Issue of LDS Living Magazine. Read more by picking up your copy in any Deseret Book store or on deseretbook.com.
Angela’s Story: A Convert’s Conversion to Family History
Angela Maldonado is a US Navy veteran who joined the Church 16 years ago. Since then, she has lived far from her Indiana-based family. Then last year, her family moved much closer to her home. So she and her children began visiting her family often.
“I haven’t had the closest relationship with my dad since leaving for the military,” she explains. “I let the physical distance get in the way. But recently, we talked a lot about the past, and I found out a lot of things. He had a tricky relationship with his own dad. After that, I saw my dad in a different way. I saw that he’s always loved me the best that he knew how.”
Maldonado has found that these visits have helped her understand not only her relationship with close relatives but those from a past she once considered distant. “All I really knew was that my great-grandfather came to the United States from Poland and that he changed his name to sound more American,” she says. “He thought it would help him find work. His name was Jozef Andrzejewski, but to America he was Joseph Enders.”
Recently, Maldonado met an elderly relative who was excited that someone was taking an interest in their history. “No one has been able to further the research on that family,” she says. This aunt gave her copies of Joseph’s naturalization paperwork and death certificate. “These have the correct spelling of his name, which has allowed me to extend the family tree back to his grandfather in Poland.”
When Maldonado signed up for LDS access at Ancestry.com last fall, she immediately began finding more family names. “Every time I got on, a new leaf would pop up [showing possible ancestor information]. There is so much there!” she exclaims.