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Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

That’s the day when access to FamilySearch is going to change.

Up until tomorrow, users who aren’t signed in have been able to see some records, some indexes and more.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, that will change.

FamilySearch sign-inTo access anything on FamilySearch, starting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, all of us — The Legal Genealogist included — are going to have to sign in with a free FamilySearch account.

Did I mention that this is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13, 2017?

Yeah. Really. Tomorrow. Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

We’ve been told about this by FamilySearch1 and I’ve written about it here,2 explaining it more than once.3

And yes, it’s really going to happen.

For the most part, this is a small inconvenience — a minor price to pay for major-league access to free records. As I’ve noted, creating an account on FamilySearch is easy and 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.

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.

Why is this happening? In large part, because FamilySearch is moving from a microfilm world to a digital world. 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Library, waiting for it to arrive at a Family History Center or affiliate library, and then accessing it on often outdated equipment, we’re now going to be accessing more and more records digitally — and more and more of them without ever leaving our homes and our own computers.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.

And this is the part of the process that isn’t without some major inconvenience — and frustration — for users right now. Because records that we used to be able to see, online, at 3 a.m., in our bunny slippers, are now not accessible online from home at all. To view these records, we’re told, we have to go to a Family History Center (FHC) or affiliated library or view them at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Now this isn’t any different in terms of convenience from ordering the microfilm to be delivered to an FHC or affiliated library (and you can find those locations here). But, for some key records, it’s a big difference from online access just a few weeks or months ago.

We’re told that some of this is temporary while permissions are ironed out with the original records repositories that allowed the microfilming in the first place. But some of it is likely to be permanent: not all records custodians are going to agree to allow their records to be available online to anyone.

So… be prepared for change — and some big changes — in access at FamilySearch.

And be prepared, tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, to have to sign in to see anything at FamilySearch at all.


  1. FamilySearch Free Sign-in Offers Greater Subscriber Experiences and Benefits,” FamilySearch blog, posted 16 Nov 2017 ( : accessed 11 Dec 2017).
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “The price of access,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 17 Nov 2017 ( : accessed 11 Dec 2017).
  3. See ibid., “The end of microfilm,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 29 June 2017.
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