SALT LAKE CITY -- Excitement over changes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' website for genealogical research seems to grow exponentially, almost as fast as the site itself grows.
At present, the public is able to access the latest version of the site even though it clearly is in the formative stages and hasn't been formally launched.
The newest version, beta.familysearch.org, is up and running for the public, even though it carries the "beta" name, usually reserved for a test site on the Internet.
"Every 30 days, we are doing a pretty significant update," said Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs for Family Search. "We're getting ready for our official launch the first of next year."
Nauta said almost weekly major announcements are made on the site about new offerings.
Nauta said the site has something for everyone, from the newest beginners, who can learn from tutorials, to seasoned experts, who virtually live to do genealogy.
"We've got novices to power researchers that live on the site," he said.
Such genealogy experts as those he refers to as "power researchers" can have a lot of fun with all the new offerings, Nauta said.
"They are going to be maniacs combing through all the new collections we have online."
The changes to familysearch.org keep coming at an exponential rate as volunteers assist with digitizing efforts and new technology comes forward to help in efforts to make records now on film available electronically as well.
In September, in one week alone, 5 million records were added to the site, Nauta said. In the past 18 months, officials have added more than 450 collections of data.
"We've created a digital film reader," Nauta said. "Visitors can browse images, much like perusing microfilm."
And future changes to family history research appear to be coming at an even faster rate.
"We have nearly 200 camera teams in 45 countries on any given day, and they are going to start digitizing in the field," Nauta said.
"What used to take 18 months to do before now, will soon take only a few days," he said.
Also new to the site are a host of new classes, from beginning courses to research methods for obtaining records in particular countries and how to read handwriting from a particular era.
Each course takes from about 20 minutes to one hour to complete, he said.
Research principles and tools are good places to start, he said.
"You see a video of the presenter, a PowerPoint and any handouts that go with the course," he said.
There's an area simply titled "Get Started."
There's also an improved forum with a continually growing amount of information posted online.
"It's dynamic," Nauta said. "We've got thousands of new articles we are adding weekly. People with know-how are creating content about genealogical records worldwide."
In a newly improved forum, visitors may post research questions and have them answered.
"Volunteers will come around and answer your question for you," Nauta said. "It's kind of like having access to family history experts 24/7."
The site also is the home of a volunteer initiative to create free indexes online.
Nauta encourages site visitors of all ages to volunteer to help with this effort by selecting the indexing tab.
"Youth are great indexers," Nauta said. "They can be really great volunteers."
The manager is hoping people will catch on to the spirit of genealogy present in the new site and will start doing their genealogy with the same enthusiasm they find there.
"It's really a tremendous time to be involved in genealogy."