Select Page

Logging in is on its way

Like any good red-blooded American genealogist, The Legal Genealogist is a big fan of free.

Free records!

Free online services!


And nobody, but nobody, does free better than FamilySearch.

The mega-database research website is — in its own words — “a nonprofit family history organization dedicated to connecting families across generations.”1

Boasting “the largest collection of genealogical and historical records in the world,” and noting that it is a “service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the website explains:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the primary benefactor for FamilySearch services. Our commitment to helping people connect with their ancestors is rooted in our beliefs—that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue beyond this life.


We hold that all family members—those living, those past, and those future—share an enduring bond that reaches across the generations. To us this means that families are forever, and an important part of acting on this belief is doing family history.


FamilySearch, historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, which was founded in 1894, is dedicated to preserving the records of the family of mankind. Our purpose is simple—help people connect with their ancestors through easy access to historical records.


We gladly join and partner with others who share this vision. We pioneered industry standards for gathering, imaging, indexing, and preserving records. Advances in technology and the emergence of our digital world now provide an opportunity for us to share these resources with the world.2

And it does it all — free.

So many of the records I use every day to write this blog — including many Tennessee records that I’ll be using tomorrow in talks to the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society — come to me, free, from FamilySearch.

And now, it’s asking us to do one little thing to make its job of providing us with this free records access a little easier.

It’s asking us to sign in.

Cue in the screams and the hollers and the “but we’ve never had to do this before” wails.


I know.

Genealogists may like free, but we also hate it when things change.

And yeah, I know, this is a bit of an inconvenience.

Certainly no more of one than when we sign in on all those sites that we pay for, of course, and I did mention that word “free,” didn’t I?

And here’s where I do the “yeah I have a law degree” thing and tell you to trust me.

You really can trust me on this one: it’s a very very very small inconvenience. With a very very very big pay-off.


Creating an account on FamilySearch is easy and — yes — free.

You don’t need to give the website a ton of personal information to get the account. Name, username, a password you select, an email address or phone number in case you lose your password and need to get back into your account, a little bit of demographic data (male or female, country of residence, birthdate and whether you’re a Church member, since Church members have different needs from the website than heathens like me), a security captcha code to make sure you’re not a robot and your agreement to the terms and conditions and privacy policies of the website, and you’re in.

If you’re worried about privacy, don’t be. FamilySearch offers a rock solid guarantee that it won’t use your information for anything other than giving you access to the website, unless you specifically and personally authorize it. Nobody’s going to sell your info to a third party; nobody’s going to come knocking on your door.

So… why the account and why log in?

There are two basic forces driving this.

First and foremost, FamilySearch is moving from a microfilm world to a digital world. It told us about that months ago.3 Instead of ordering a roll of microfilm from the Family History Library, waiting for it to arrive at a Family History Center or affiliate library, and then accessing it on often outdated equipment, we’re now going to be accessing more and more records digitally — and more and more of them without ever leaving our homes and our own computers.

But to be able to present many of those records to us with that kind of ease, FamilySearch needs to be accountable to its records partners — the towns and counties and states and their agencies that made the records available for filming in the first place. Many of those records partners want to know that the data is being offered in a safe and secure online environment.

The second reason is because there’s more that can be made available on a personalized basis if you use some of the other features of the website and log in first: “This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.”4

Now from my standpoint, getting access to more records is the big pay-off: anything that lets me see that set of Tennessee death records at 3 a.m. in my bunny slippers sitting at home at my own computer is fine by me. For someone else, it may be a more personalized entry to the Family Tree or some of the mobile apps or dynamic help.

But for all of us, the two-minute process of creating an account (if you’re slow) and the additional nanosecond it takes to sign in (yes, you can save your username and password) is a small price to pay for what we can’t get anywhere else.

And oh …

Did I mention free?

Yeah. That too.

All for the “price” of signing in.


  1. About FamilySearch,” ( : accessed 16 Nov 2017).
  2. Ibid.
  3. See Judy G. Russell, “The end of microfilm,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 29 June 2017 ( : accessed 16 Nov 2017).
  4. FamilySearch Free Sign-in Offers Greater Subscriber Experiences and Benefits,” FamilySearch blog, posted 16 Nov 2017 ( : accessed 16 Nov 2017).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email