Thursday, March 12, 2009

LDS NewFamilySearch questions

Like many of you, I've been monitoring the blog posts of several genea-bloggers like Renee Zamora, The Ancestry Insider, Dan Lawyer, FamilySearch Labs, Fran Jensen and Janet Hovorka (and there may be others!) about the progress of newFamilySearch. Frankly, I'm anxious to test it and use it. But I'm not an LDS church member and therefore have to wait awhile. In the meantime, LDS members in Las Vegas, Idaho and Utah are waiting patiently (?) to use it also.

There are several questions that I would love to have answered:

1) What will it look like? What will it include? Fortunately, there are several demonstrations at Family Search Labs - see the Standard Finder, Pedigree Viewer, the Life Browser, and the FamilySearch Alpha web page. The Family Tree page is not available to people like me without a username and password. If newFamilySearch looks like what's on the publicly available pages shown, then it will likely be a wiki format for each person with a life sketch, events, timeline, photographs, record images, maps of event locations with standard localities and GPS coordinates, a discussion board, etc. I can see all of those features on the Life Browser (click on Deodat Brewster). Frankly, I like this setup much better than any other genealogy wiki I've seen. It is logical, has bells and whistles, and looks like it's fairly easy to use.

2) How will it work? I don't recall seeing how it will work in an online demonstration or presentation. If there is, I would appreciate knowing about it. I found some information today at http://www.masteringfamilyhistory.com/ which has 18 videos that appear to be training modules on New FamilySearch, Personal Ancestral File, Genealogical Research and Other Videos. The first one on Using newFamilySearch provides an overview of how nFS works, how to register, step-by-step instructions for correcting existing family trees on the system, etc. Are these videos obsolete, or are they currently being used to train LDS members and represent what nFS will work?

3) When will it be available for non-church members to use and browse? Janet Hovorka has a post today about her discussion of this question on her post Report from the FamilySearch Developers conference. Some good, Some bad on The Chart Chick blog. My guess of the short answer to the question is "not soon!" They have to iron out the problems with the databases first, then roll it out to the rest of their membership in the States and then overseas.

4) Will non-LDS church members be able to add content to newFamilySearch? In the long run, this is really the question I have. I would love to be able to add my ancestral and one-name study databases, because quite a bit of my records are for people not in the LDS Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource Files. If I was able to do this, I would probably have to combine many of my persons with existing persons in nFS (mostly in the IGI). My guess is the answer to this question is "Don't hold your breath!"

Patience would seem to be the watchword for all of us, LDS and non-LDS alike.

This is a massive project just to put all of the IGI, Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File into a new format, combine the duplicates using some rational system, and then the means for persons to upload new information, all the while making it compatible with a number of genealogy software programs and applications. Stay tuned...and watch the LDS-related genealogy blogs I mentioned.

3 comments:

Michael Booth said...

Randy,

I'm don't work for FamilySearch so don't take my answers as official but I have worked with it and seen enough presentations on it to comment on it.

#1 - What will it look like? What will it include?

This is evolving. The FamilySearch Labs is a place where they can present ideas that they're working on and get feedback on it. Some of the things you see there may likely find their way into the actual system.

#2 - How will it work?

Those video tutorials are pretty accurate. There have been some minor tweaks and interface changes but the ideas and concepts shown in those videos still apply.

#3 - When will it be available for non-church members to use and browse?

Your guess of "not soon" is probably a good one. I live in one of the areas that still doesn't have access to it and we've been patiently(?) waiting for it for several years now.

When you think of sheer amount of information that is contained in the database and the number of people that will want to access it, you can see why they're worried about "scalability"- the ability for the system to handle so many users accessing so much data.

The good news is that the system isn't just some pipe-dream. It exists and it works (with some bugs still). It's just a question of getting the software and hardware to catch up to the pent-up demand for it.

#4 - Will non-LDS church members be able to add content to new FamilySearch?

Absolutely. Genealogy is about making connections and it would make no sense to limit who can or cannot make these connections. When will this happen? See #3.

MilesMeyer said...

Hey there Randy. I have been providing feedback to some of the developers since 2007 when we first started beta testing the nFS. The videos you talked about are fairly accurate for what is currently known as nFS. I also have a lesson plan with screenshots on my website (http://milesmeyer.googlepages.com)but those are a couple versions ago so there are some new bells and whistles that I have not included.

However, nFS is being replaced by FamilyTree Browser which is more graphically oriented. The Life Browser components from FamilySearch Labs are not yet included in FamilyTree but some of the Pedigree Viewer components are. This interface acts like folders and makes it easier to combine and separate records by just dragging and dropping records into folders.

It will be awhile before Utah is added to the file and then it will be even longer for the public to be added. But one great thing is the number of languages that the program will be available in.

Hope this helps.

Miles

Geolover said...

I have been following your and others' comments on NewFamilySearch, wondering where its modelers plan to place it in the present inundation of Trees based on (to put it simply) no evidence.

You say "This is a massive project just to put all of the IGI, Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File into a new format, combine the duplicates using some rational system, and then the means for persons to upload new information, all the while making it compatible with a number of genealogy software programs and applications."

You do not mention what I think is the key component: evidence as to relationships. This is where TGN's *seemingly* similar effort, OneWorldTree is quite useless.

The IGI and Pedigree Resource Files, by and large, are baseless assertions except in the relatively scarce instances where they are *accurate* and complete transcripts of actual vital records, or a skilled genealogist's conclusions based on stated evidence with the reasoning given. Well the evidence and reasoning is usually not there. The transcripts of baptismal records omit the names of the sponsors! Typographical and other errors abound.

In the writings about this project (I cannot view the videos), where is the commitment to filter the source material by whether there is evidence for the assertions as to relationships?

Just as a minor tiny ferinstance, a 1960s-1970s writer did much to promulgate an erroneous maiden name and parentage for one of my ancestors. She just did not do the basic research. As in a vast number of cases, that did not stop her from writing what she lifted from a book (saying it was 'proven'), and did not stop many others from copying her publication. To this day that erroneous material is in the IGI several times over, despite steady campaigning on my part, over about 20 years now, and by a couple of others, to put the correct information out there.

There is no way for the researching genealogist to issue corrections to the IGI. Or even to the erroneous transcripts on the Family Search Labs site. One can simply add to the mass of data by publication sent to LDS, as one can add to the TGN trees' database but not make corrections.

Does it make sense to compile and 'publish' a hugely erroneous group of data to the internet, with the hope that someday a vast number of corrections will be incorporated by interested researchers?

Since some accurate material has crept into the IGI, and there is conflicting data side-by-side, how will the creators of NewFamilySearch deal with the conflicts?