SALT LAKE CITY The Mormon church is stepping up its efforts to assist genealogists by sending teams around the world to photograph important documents.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors the nonprofit family history organization FamilySearch, which plans to post 320 million microfilm images online this year, KSL radio reported.
About 200 teams are visiting churches and archives in 45 countries, and photographing birth, death, church and immigration records, as well as wills.
The images then are sent to Salt Lake City and made available to the public at no charge on FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch boasts the largest collection of family history records in the world.
We enable people to make searches for family history, said Olaf Zander, operations manager for FamilySearch.
Carole Keith of Sparks, Nev., who is researching her family history, said she recently was able to track down two hometowns of her German ancestors from new records on its database.
Ive found it invaluable. Its helped me verify some of my German ancestry and where they came from, she said. You cant pick up and take a trip to Germany. The fact that these people are looking up information and documenting it and adding it to their database is a godsend.
The church first must obtain permission before filming documents, which is easier is some countries than others. But it continues to add more camera teams in Europe and elsewhere.
Genealogy is a fast-growing pastime in the U.S., with between 18 million and 23 million Americans taking part.