Friday, January 21, 2011

FamilySearch Family Tree Update

One of the really big news items from the FamilySearch Blogger Day back on 21 October 2010 was the description of the FamilySearch Family Tree (still known as "New FamilySearch" it seems).  I posted about this topic in FamilySearch Blogger Day - FamilySearch Family Tree.  I thought I understood what they were going to do, but was unsure until this week.

During the FamilySearch Bloginar on Tuesday, 18 January, I asked about the progress on the Family Tree and then followed up with an email to FamilySearch.  In my email to FamilySearch, I asked:

"At the Blogger Day, Ron Tanner said they would remove all sources that are in Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File and International Genealogical Index from the new Family Tree. The information in these databases would be kept in separate databases on the FamilySearch website. At the time, I understood the statement to mean they would leave the name, date, and place assertions (from AF, PRF, IGI) in the Family Tree and trust the tree system (discussions, alternate assertions, source citations, etc.) to reach conclusions through a wiki-like environment.  Is this an accurate understanding?  Is it really going to happen?  If so, when can we expect it?" 

I received a response today from Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch, who wrote (and permitted me to share it with my readers):

"It sounds like you have a solid understanding of our plans. 

"FamilySearch is in the process of providing separate databases for the various types of data (IGI, AF, PRF, Etc) that underlie the conclusions in the current Family Tree (new FamilySearch). These databases are being provided in such a way that users can reference them, as well as sources elsewhere on the web, to properly source the conclusions they make in the tree. Once all the source databases are available, we will replace the data in the Family Tree with links back to the original sources in the databases. The goal is to increase the genealogical soundness of the overall system by making referencing of sources central to drawing and documenting ancestral conclusions. 

"The data in Family Tree will also become editable by all registered patrons. Critical to the success of this plan is the provision of key tools that: 1) allow a user to be notified when designated parts of the tree that they care about are changed, 2) allow users to communicate about those changes and share the info they have, 3) and tools allowing rollback of changes deemed incorrect. The goal is to increase genealogical soundness by enabling greater collaboration in a shared tree context.

"Beginning in 2011 you will see many of these integrated tools delivered to users. Some of the data sources and tools are already available and can be accessed at the following locations:  

"Ancestral File is currently searchable at ( The Pedigree Resource File will be added to this search shortly. 

"The extracted IGI is currently searchable as part of the historical records search ( We will be providing a search by IGI batch number in the future. 

"Discussions have already been provided on each person in the tree.  
"Additional functionality needed to achieve our goals will be released as they are available."
My thanks to Robert Kehrer, Paul Nauta and the FamilySearch team for being open and responsive to my question.
My opinion is that when this FamilySearch Family Tree is released to the general public, if it works as described at the Blogger Day and the note above, it will eventually be the largest, most accurate and best sourced family tree available to the genealogical community.  There will be a learning curve for everybody - LDS member and general public alike - but the "cream will rise to the top" pretty quickly once researchers understand and use the wiki environment and the "discussions" to drive to well-sourced conclusions.  I can't wait!
Are you ready to add your genealogical information to the FamilySearch Family Tree?  I wanted to be as ready as possible, which is why I recently tried to eliminate name and date errors from my database, standardized all of my locations, and am working hard to standardize my sources.  I haven't attached any document or photo images to my family tree database, but I will sometime down the road.


Geolover said...

Randy, thank you for this update.

You say, "My opinion is that when this FamilySearch Family Tree is released to the general public, if it works as described at the Blogger Day and the note above, it will eventually be the largest, most accurate and best sourced family tree available to the genealogical community."

Unfortunately the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) and Ancestral File (AF) material is largely lifted from the old, mostly sourceless, Family Group Sheets submitted by LDS members and others. In most cases it is impossible to discover whether there was some underlying evidentiary documentation.

Tree nuclei based on the Extracted Records part of the IGI would be littered with the "same name = same person" problem, depending on how the "make a tree" program was constructed. In any event the Extracted Records are very scattered, the individual databases have many errors and omissions, and often the source-citations for them are very incomplete. One particularly noticeable omission is the names of the baptismal sponsors from those records that originally listed them.

As you are well aware, there is a vast difference between "source" and "evidence." Most material from AF and PRF is not any more evidentiary than the vast majority of trees on and other tree-hosting sites, which are compiled from other trees (cited as sources on, from the old IGI consisting mainly in extracts from Family Group Sheets, and largely uncited books, publications, and web sites.

From user comments thus far, it seems that there is still a problem in the newFamilySearch tree with making evidence-based corrections where the original submitters of genealogical assertions are unknown or deceased. As in other tree sites, there is also a large component of users who do not understand the process of evaluating evidence.

So will this enterprise present an overall improved environment for fact-based genealogy? It is hard to see this as being so right now, but certainly time will tell.

Jay said...

I hope that it will be really accurate, as I am finding it hard to trace certain aspects of my family tree, and hope this will help me with this.