SALT LAKE CITY -- It has been only seven years, but the Internet-based FamilySearch indexing program will celebrate the completion of its billionth searchable record in the next couple of weeks.
Indexing is recording information from historical documents to make the information searchable online.
Volunteers actually started indexing names 86 years ago but used much more difficult methods, such as microfilm and hard-copying records, to gain access to information.
The explosion of the Internet has opened doors for genealogists to make the work much easier.
Paul Nauta, public relations specialist over FamilySearch, said billions and billions more records still need to be indexed, but anytime such a large milestone is reached, it is worth mentioning.
"It's worth applauding our online volunteers. The next billion will happen in a much shorter time," Nauta said.
"We're impressed and amazed at what volunteers have accomplished in such a short amount of time," said Mike Judson, manager of Indexing Workforce Development for FamilySearch.
While reaching the billion mark is cause for celebration, Judson said it is also a call for action.
Nauta added, "We are in no way slowing things down."
Doing the indexing work makes it possible for any person to go to an Internet search engine, enter a name of an ancestor and have information come up about that ancestor.
"We want people to be able to do that. We would love for them to not have to think any more than that," Nauta said.
The magic of indexing is that anyone can do it, Nauta noted.
"Someone who is not in good health and bed-ridden, to a business executive on a flight to New York City, can take a half-hour and do some indexing work," he said.
And people don't have to be LDS to do the work, either. Some people enjoy feeling that they have really accomplished something for their fellow man by looking at the records and indexing the names.
"There is a deep sense of satisfaction," Nauta said.
Nauta has heard of families that sit with their various devices and index together. There is a "buddy" option with indexing that allows people to work together if they want to, or they can work alone.
The indexing really exploded when the 1940 census records were released, because there was access that had never been possible before. People loved doing it because the names that were found weren't from so long ago.
The newest project is the U.S. Immigration and Nationalization project, which has also proved to be very interesting.
"We are a nation of immigrants, and we want to know where we came from," Nauta said.
The work is moving fast enough that, at some point, records will be indexed from small villages where people's surnames were created, he said.
"It is the purest form of charity. People are doing for others what they cannot do for themselves."