Friday, March 13, 2009

Some answers to newFamilySearch Questions

One of the really neat things about genealogy blogging is that it provokes almost instant responses from knowledgeable people. Such is the case with my post yesterday LDS NewFamilySearch Questions. Michael Booth and Miles Meyer were kind to respond with comments to my post. Lee Drew emailed me with some information and links. Miles emailed me with more information. Jimmy Zimmerman sent me a tweet saying FamilySearch employees would love to answer my questions but Genea-Musings is blocked on their computers (I wonder why?).

After writing my post yesterday, I spent all of the morning and some of the afternoon watching the videos on the Mastering Family History site. These are very informative and helpful in understanding what is available at newFamilySearch. Michael Booth said, in his comment, that the videos are pretty accurate.

I also searched for more presentations and articles about newFamilySearch and quickly found Miles Meyer's web site at Miles has an excellent article on his site - An Introduction to New FamilySearch. This has screen views of the Individual person's information - it looks like it includes Individual vital record Details, Individual Map, Individual Timeline, Parents and Siblings, Spouses and Children, LDS Ordinances, Possible Duplicates, Individual Notes, and Combined records. Miles told me in email that "... 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."

Lee Drew's email provided a link to the GarysTurn Picasa Web albums with several nFS presentations online. Lee also indicated that the Life Browser and Pedigree Viewer applications, that I mentioned yesterday, are not currently included in new FamilySearch. Lee noted that something like LifeBrowser would require substantial storage, processing and bandwidth to implement.

I followed one of the Ancestry Insider's tweet links today and found Alan Mann's articles archive, which includes Family Search: What's New and What's Coming from October 2008. Alan's annotated pipeline picture is excellent - there is so much that goes into bringing records from paper to your computer screen. The article notes that "... Life Browser, may be years away from being in production."

In my earlier post, I expressed my admiration for the LifeBrowser concept, and that I really liked the integration of individual details, record images, photographs, timeline, map, biography, etc. into a wiki-type page. Unfortunately, it appears that LifeBrowser is not currently implemented in newFamilySearch.

Michael made the comment that "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."

Lee put it into perspective with his comment that "... After all, FamilySearch resources are free and are supported out of church coffers. It costs a lot to support an application like Life Browser especially when users like you and I populate it with wild enthusiasm. I'm sure the church will never charge for any of their FamilySearch resources other than fees similar to those associated with renting a film, etc. We can see how they are teaming with governments, churches, commercial entities and the public to mitigate the costs of bring so many records to us .... the users ..... and don't we love it! "

I hope that this summary of what I've found out about new FamilySearch is interesting and useful to you. I know that I have just scratched the surface in this summary, and I am a real FamilySearch outsider, but I know that I have a better understanding of the effort and the product as it currently stands. My thanks to Michael, Miles, Lee, Gary and Alan for sharing their thoughts with me and/or for putting educational material on the Internet for all of us.

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