In 1938 FamilySearch, then known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, began microfilming family history records, including birth, death, marriage, census, immigration and military service records.
The collection eventually grew to more than 2.4 million rolls.
FamilySearch began digitising the records in 1998.
The project was originally expected to take 50 years to complete, but advances in technology have shortened the timespan by 30 years.
Now, the entire collection, consisting of records of 11.5 billion individuals from over 200 countries and principalities, has been digitised and can be viewed online.
Some of the records have been transcribed and are searchable by name, while others can only be browsed. The full collection can only be accessed on the website by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which runs FamilySearch. All the records can be viewed at a FamilySearch Family History Centre or FamilySearch Affiliate Library.
“We hope that all those who contributed to this milestone in the last 80 years feel a sense of humble accomplishment today,” said Steve Rockwood, the CEO of FamilySearch International.
“And we hope the millions of individuals who will discover, gather, and connect generation upon generation of their family members for years to come because of these efforts will have a deep sense of gratitude for the many unheralded contributors who made those discoveries possible.”
FamilySearch said it would continue to digitise new family history records through its digital camera operations and partnerships, and would begin digitising the 335,000 microfiches in its collections.
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine