Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FamilySearch Blogger Day - The Current and Next FamilySearch Site

The last presentation on the FamilySearch Blogger Day (21 October) was Dan Lawyer (Senior Product Manager, FamilySearch Member Needs Division) speaking on "The Next Generation of"

FamilySearch has kept their classic website, but has created the FamilySearch Beta site at with links to many of the projects developed over the past four years (the indexed historical records, the Research Wiki, and much more).  This presentation covered the plans for the near future as they create a new that incorporates the old site and the Beta site. 

Here are the notes I made for myself and my Twitter audience during this presentation (with a time stamp; #FSBlogDay is the Twitter hashtag useful for collecting tweets):

#FSBlogDay Dan Lawyer up on The Next Generation this should be good! 3:31 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: UTGO = Uber-Techno-Genealogist-Ologist - studying genealogists using technology 3:34 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: has maps of Genealogy Workflow - has blogged about this a bit on FamilySearch Labs blog 3:35 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: "Doing Genealogy is Hard" - why? Varied life circumstances; logistic and technical hurdles; not engaging experience 3:37 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: Searches now include wild cards - but site needs search tips on how to search effectively 3:31 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: Search filters on FSBeta include places, categories, year ranges, but after initial search. 3:32 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: "We've tried to get novices to do something on FamilySearch Beta other than Search, and they won't." Interesting 3:35 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: "Getting Started" link on FSBeta - opens with step-by-step videos. Learn tab goes to Wiki, Courses, etc 3:38 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: Pedigree Resource File will be in Family Trees section of FamilySearch Beta 3:40 PM Oct 21st 

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: discussion about Learn tab, Getting Started, other education things. Focus is on beginning, why? 3:46 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: on list of collections, will add date added and updated - want to be able to sort by these dates. Also % complete status 3:47 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay one problem is that FamilySearch may not have ALL records in a category - user needs to know that, Wiki article should have it 3:53 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay discussing links between Historical Record page and Research Wiki page for collection and Wiki page for subject area 3:57 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: last topic - Family History Library Catalog 2.0: big fail first time around. second time better 4:02 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: fix was adding place search - user chooses from list. and category and date range searches. better! 4:03 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: integration of records in FHCs to be put into FHL Catalog in future. 4:05 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: FHL Catalog printing will be fixed - now prints what's on the page. Too much white space. 4:06 PM Oct 21st

#FSBlogDay Lawyer: future catalog will have links to external sites for data, but that's longer term. 4:07 PM Oct 21st

[I don't understand why the time stamps aren't sequential above - there is a jump back at 3:37 PM to 3:31 PM - these are PDT time stamps, by the way - the actual times were one hour later in Salt Lake City.]
The Ancestry Insider has a post titled Genealogist-ologist-ologist today that discusses Dan Lawyer's description of UTGO - the Uber-Techno-Genealogist-Ologist, and more comments about why genealogy is hard.  What is an UTGO?  A technologist specializing in the study of genealogists. 
Here are some of the issues that Dan shared:
1.  "Doing Genealogy is Hard" because of the life circumstances of searchers; residing in one place and searching records from other places; the logistical and technical hurdles that need to be overcome, and it is not an engaging experience for many searchers.  I would add the need to have a logical and inquisitive mind, and the luck of having ancestors that had nuclear families and lived in places that kept records.
2.  Dan mentioned the Genealogy Workflow charts that were on the hallway walls, but he didn't show them in this presentation.  He has blogged about them on the FamilySearch Labs blog, but those posts don't show the detailed workflow.  I wish I had though to photograph them on the walls... I hope FamilySearch publishes them sometime.
3.  The FamilySearch Beta site will evolve into the site with the goals to make it:
  • easier for family and friends to work together on family history and genealogy
  • easier to access, share and preserve artifacts and records of ancestors
  • so that you don't have to be a genealogist to do genealogy
  • genealogically sound so that advanced genealogy will appreciate the way it helps people do research
  • easier to learn how to do research and to provide assistance to researchers.
4.  The FamilySearch Beta programming methodology was designed to provide user feedback early in the development process rather than late in the process - they used FamilySearch Labs for this and encouraging user feedback throughout the process.

5.  The FamilySearch Beta site has enabled search wild cards, exact matches, and search filters for localities, year ranges and record categories.  They have added links to a Research Wiki page for each collection. They have added expansion arrows to the right of each record match that expands to show the indexed information.  An upcoming modification will include the percent completion of collections and the date they were last updated. 

6.  Researchers need to understand that not every possible record is in a specific collection.  The Research Wiki article for the specific collection points this out and links to other Wiki pages for a more complete understanding.

7.  In the next six months, the Beta site should have improved search forms, more search filters, and improved result quality.  The "Getting Started" area will be enhanced, and the Pedigree Resource File data will be added to the Trees collection.

8.  Almost as an after-thought, Dan talked about the FamilySearch [Library] Catalog 2.0 (it was on the agenda, but there was no handout).  He noted that the first addition of the Catalog to the Beta site was a failure because there was no specific place search - the fix was the current dropdown selections for surname, place, etc. and then filters for record types, date range, etc.  Links will be added to the Catalog to record collections in the Historical Records, and, in the future, the Catalog will have links to external sites with digitized collections (e.g.,,, etc.).  [This was, of course, what the ephemeral GenSeek was supposed to be...]  Lastly, Dan noted that the printing of Catalog items would be improved to make better use of paper - there is too much white space if someone prints out the current Catalog page.

This session was information packed and very interesting to me - a user of the FamilySearch records.  I appreciate that FamilySearch makes the effort to develop their site by listening to user feedback - not only LDS church members but non-church users, including genea-bloggers.  While the Search engine capabilities are not as complex and sophisticated as's, they are much better now than they were on the classic site and on the Record Search Pilot site.  My guess is that they will continue to add bells and whistles, but they are trying to keep it fairly simple for beginning researchers.  The Catalog changes make sense and should be extremely useful when links to records and external sites are added.

Disclosure: I am not an employee, contractor or affiliate of FamilySearch. FamilySearch paid my way to this Bloggers Day in Salt Lake City, including airfare, hotel, some meals and incidental expenses. I am trying to be as objective as possible. I really appreciate FamilySearch's efforts to inform the genealogy community about their products and capabilities.

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