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Company: FamilySearch
Industry: Technology
Functional Use Case: Data Store

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization globally, helping people create new personal and family discoveries through access to historical records with a powerful and user-friendly online search experience. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history.

This great pursuit allows FamilySearch and its predecessors to actively gather, preserve, and share genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at or through more than 4,921 family history centers in 129 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Finding New Discoveries Easier Than Ever

The Family Tree application allows users to collaborate, edit, and delete incorrect data thereby preserving discoveries for others with shared ancestral lines. Family Tree offers an intuitive and rich customer experience functionality by allowing users to locate and link records to people in their Family Tree.

FamilySearch also proactively scans for record matches on behalf of its users, helping them make new research discoveries. These record matches are presented to the user using a feature called Record Hints. The hints provide users more information as they search through the large amount of new historic records added weekly to the site from its global records preservation efforts.

Driving Massive User Growth

The Family Tree application is extremely popular and generates significant demand from more than 500,000 customers. Previously, FamilySearch struggled with its prior database technology as it strained to service its customers’ experience expectations.

As the application grew in popularity, FamilySearch realized they had vertically scaled their database technology as far as what was cost-effective. They also found that they could not get beyond 60 million transactions per hour on the Family Tree application, creating a technological headwind for future growth.

Delivering Great Customer Experience

FamilySearch anticipated 10-100x more usage on the site over the next three years and wanted to position themselves to handle this rapid growth. FamilySearch conducted in-depth, head-to-head comparisons between several relational and NoSQL databases including, open-source Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise.

FamilySearch experiences the highest amount of traffic every Sunday, and before their database migration, they would approach their capacity limits every week. Fortunately, FamilySearch made the switch just in time. Within two weeks of going live with Cassandra as the backend, they would have hit the capacity limit of their previous system, giving them the ability to seamlessly deliver the customer experience their users’ demand. They now routinely serve 125 million transactions per hour during peak usage, with plenty of room for future growth.

“We have experienced a tremendous response from customers as the Family Tree application exploded in popularity. However, to give a great customer experience, we needed a more scalable database that could prevent downtime and allow us to deliver even more features for our users,” said Michael Nelson, Software Development Manager at FamilySearch.


Selecting Cassandra put FamilySearch on a solid path for future growth where customers experience faster response times, high availability, and no database downtime. In addition, FamilySearch brought new capabilities to the market.
New applications like Record Hints, which helps users make new research discoveries, were impossible with their previous infrastructure. Since implementation, FamilySearch has been able to focus on building and improving its applications, on its mission to connect families across generations.
“FamilySearch helps our customers search for their ancestors and contribute to their family history,” said Nelson. “Apache Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise provides the scalable data platform we need to expand our offering and continue providing a great experience for our customers.”

Stack Includes: Apache Cassandra, Datastax Enterprise

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