FamilySearch Pilot Tool

Index Records With the FamilySearch Pilot Tool

Have you ever searched for a historical record on FamilySearch only to discover that they haven’t been indexed? Are you patiently waiting for the day when that record set will finally make it to an official indexing project? This is where the FamilySearch Pilot Tool can come in handy. This is a little known tool that was quietly released in 2016 without much fanfare. I will take you through some situations where it can be useful.

In an earlier post I talked about finding elusive ancestors in FamilySearch records. I provided some strategies for expanding your search and even looking on another genealogy website. I used the example of my Great-Grandma Crouse (born Zufelt) as a child. Eventually, I was able to find her family in the 1920 census by searching on instead. At this point I was very happy to finally locate the family in the 1920 census. The problem in this example was that the record had been mis-indexed, making it nearly impossible to find.

However, there are hundreds of millions of images that have not yet been indexed. FamilySearch developers created the Pilot Tool as a test to allow individuals and groups to index their own records. Let’s learn how it works.

UPDATE: Pilot Tool Being Discontinued

Literally 1 week after writing this post I received the following communication from FamilySearch:

Dear Volunteer,

Thank you so much for your contributions and support of the FamilySearch Pilot Tool. We have seen remarkable things over the last 24 months and you have been an essential part of it. We want to thank you for all you have done! 2,200 volunteers from 51 Countries ended up contributing and a total of over 700,000 form entries were indexed that contain information for over 2,300,000 individuals. We have several teams hard at work building new tools that will  incorporate many features and feedback that have come from you. We are excited to publish more data to more people faster as a result of these  new technologies.

We have learned a lot from this pilot tool but the time has come to discontinue it. Please be aware that the FamilySearch Pilot tool will no longer be available on April 1, 2017. We encourage all to complete their work by that date. FamilySearch will publish the records indexed using the tool on the FamilySearch website by May 1, 2017.

Thanks for your support,


So, you can keep reading about the Pilot Tool if you wish, but it will no longer work after April 1, 2017. The good news from this report is that they will publish the indexed records by May 1, 2017! So, if you have a particular record set and want to organize a 3 day indexing party…get to work!

Install the FamilySearch Pilot Tool

The FamilySearch Pilot Tool is a Google Chrome browser extension or plugin. This means you must use Google Chrome for it to work. You can install it by opening Chrome and opening the following URL:

The Tool currently supports 16 languages. Among other goals FamilySearch wants to support growing international reach of their records and to minimize the administration required by FamilySearch staff.

Once the extension is installed you will see the FamilySearch tree logo in the upper-right corner of your browser along with any other extensions that have been activated.

Find Image Only Records

Now go to and click on Search from the menu at the top. This will take you to the Search Records page that you are probably familiar with. However, instead of searching for names and dates of an ancestor, use the links on the right to either “Browse by Location” or “Browse all published collections.”

Just for fun, I decide to index some records from the state of Chiapas in Mexico where I served my LDS mission. I get there by clicking on Mexico on the world map under “Research By Location.” When I do that a window pops-up that shows the various groupings (in this case, states) and statistics for each. In Chiapas, for example there are 8 collections with nearly 3 million record images. About 2/3 of the images of have been indexed already, but there are still more than 1 million images that still need to be indexed so others can find them!


I click “Start researching in Chiapas” to be taken the page that lists all the record collections in Chiapas, Mexico. Once you are in the selected location scroll all the way to the bottom. Below all the indexed records you are accustomed to searching is a section called “Image Only Historical Records.” I then chose a record set to view. In my case I chose the “Mexico, Chiapas, Civil Registration, 1861-1990” records. Notice there are 1.5 million images in this record set. That is a lot of browsing! To assist users find the images you are most interested in, the records have been divided in to subsections called “waypoints.”

I chose the city of Tapachula, which is near the Guatemala border. Then I chose “Defunciones 1988-1990” – these are death records. Now I am ready to start using the FamilySearch Pilot Tool.

Configure the FamilySearch Pilot Tool

Once you have found the image you want to begin indexing, simply click the FamilySearch tree logo next to the address bar in your Chrome browser. The first time you do this, it will ask you to configure the tool and display a screen like the one below.

They ask for some simple information including your preferred tool language, name, and email address. They also want to know if you are part of an organized society or group. You can see from the drop-list there is a great number of groups from around the world who have begun using the FamilySearch Pilot Tool since late 2015 when it was introduced. The tool also allows you to set up 3 custom field labels that may be helpful depending on the types of records you are indexing.

Once you are done hit “Save” and a panel will appear to the right of the image like this screen. You are now ready to begin indexing.

Indexing with the FamilySearch Pilot Tool

The tool is pretty easy to use. The “Principal Information” is data about the main individual in the record. You can also add other relatives as well. In the case of the death records I was indexing, I was able to list the father and mother as well. You can index as much or as little information from the record as you want. I would probably also include the birth information that is recorded on the death record, for example.

When you get to the end of one record, be sure to copy and paste the URL of the image you are on before hitting Submit. Once it has been submitted it is saved and you can hit “Reset” to begin indexing the next image in the collection.

Lastly, you can click the “View Submissions” link at the bottom of the tool to see all submissions to the tool. In the example below, I just searched for all the records submitted by me (using my email address).

Full Circle

I decided I
would even use the FamilySearch Pilot Tool to index my great-grandmother’s family in the 1920 census! Now I can find this record easily by looking in my Submission list.

Give the FamilySearch Pilot Tool a try and share your experience in the comments below!

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