One of my first articles on this blog was about the free Family Search website in October and since then they’ve made a lot of changes to the NewFamilySearch site, so it’s time for an update.

You need to register to log on the “New Family Search” site, but you can still use the original web site without having to sign on.

On the New Family Search you can “watch” individuals in your family tree and receive an e-mail notification when the information changes. For instance, if someone changes the individual summary or if someone starts a new discussion by adding a comment to an existing discussion you’ll receive an email notification of the changes.  Also,  If someone combines an individual that you’re watching with another record or separates a record from an individual, the notification email will give you a list of the changes.

There’s a sliver of light in the door for the 100 year rule. You can reserve ordinances  for someone born in the last 95 years, but the system now asks whether you are the closest living relative, or have permission from the closest living relative to perform research. Here’s a list of what is considered to be a close relative:

  • An undivorced spouse
  • An adult child
  • A parent
  • A brother or sister

At first glance this might seem restrictive but it’s really a big improvement on what we usually encounter during the course of research. Verbal approval is acceptable and the fact that the closest relative rules isn’t an unreasonable request.

The size limit for discussions has also increased from 1000 characters (500 characters for Japanese, Chinese and Korean) to 4,000 characters (2000 characters for Japanese, Chinese and Korean).

There are also corrections and additions to the User Guide.

Another big improvement is the “Browse by Country” A-Z wiki search. You can find a lot of information on those pages and, to keep this post simple, I’ll focus on a couple of items in the topics section of two countries before pointing you to the website.

If you click on the United States you’ll find 42 topics to explore. The American Indian Genealogy section is a great learning experience and would be especially useful for students researching information for papers. The African American section is another gem.

In the wiki page for Scotland you can learn how to locate, use, and analyze Scottish records of genealogical value. There’s a lot of information in this section and you can click on the map for the country you want to research.

Keep in mind that the wiki pages are “works in progress” and their content will continue to grow. As with all wiki pages, users contribute information and, although they’re probably accurate, for facts that are pertinent to your family search you might want to validate them.

The growth of the New Family Search site is impressive and, in my opinion, the database developers have a new and innovative approach to the way you find information. Unlike many other sites you don’t get lost in the system and constantly need to retrace your search path.

Here’s the link to

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