Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is the Status of the FamilySearch Family Tree?

In Beta Test of FamilySearch's Family Tree, James Tanner (write of the excellent Genealogy's Star blog), highlighted a FamilySearch White Paper titled "The Case for Moving to 'Our Tree'" from April, 2011.  The FamilySearch Family Tree is, of course, the website, where all of the LDS Church Membership, Temple Ordinance, Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File and other genealogy data resides in a large interconnected family tree, rife with duplicate persons, duplicate facts, limited documented sources, and a relatively complicated interface. 

I had missed this white paper, "The Case for Moving to 'Our Tree,'" so I asked James if he had a link to it, and he helped me find it at

There are several interesting quotes from this seven page document:

"We have not yet met the goal of reducing duplicate research, which requires an accurate, source-based family tree whose data endures longer than any of the researchers who contribute to it. "


"The genealogical information from the Pedigree Resource File, Ancestral File, Church membership records, and Church temple records will not automatically become conclusions, as they are now. Instead, they will be large resources of "opinion" data that you can search and use to create conclusions.

"To allow a community of interested researchers to identify, record, and maintain an accurate set of conclusions in the family tree, the family tree feature will be modified to:
• Remove features that prevent you from correcting other contributors’ data.
• Add new collaboration, monitoring, and roll-back features to help control this more open environment."

The White Paper describes the Goals, the Challenges, and the stated Solution to turn the current tree structure, which is a conglomeration of "My Trees" interconnected, into an "Our Tree" system that relies upon documented sources and researcher collaboration to drive to source-centric conclusions about persons, facts and life histories. 

I encourage interested genealogists to read the whole White Paper.

This all sounds like it will work as well as an interconnected tree can work, once the existing data structure is "fixed" and an "Our Tree" data structure has been developed and implemented as described in the White Paper. That's a big task, and not one that will happen overnight.  James Tanner's post notes that there is a "FamilySearch Family Tree Beta Test" in progress, which is really good news. 

I know, there are persons who say that open, interconnected, family trees will never provide sufficiently accurate source-centric data, so that it is a "one-stop" center for persons in historical records, but I think that is the "vision."  If anyone can do this, I think FamilySearch can.

 I look forward to adding information about my ancestral families to the FamilySearch Family Tree when it becomes the "Our Tree" system described in the White Paper. 

We will just have to wait until the "Our Tree" FamilySearch Family Tree is released.  Will it be limited to LDS members at first, and then opened to the public later?  My recollection is that, back in February 2011 at the RootsTech Conference, FamilySearch said that the Family Tree might be available to the public in late 2011.  We are in the fourth quarter of 2011 now - is the release of this tree imminent?  Or will it be released to LDS members, or to the public, at the next RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City in February, 2012?  Or will it be released later in 2012?  This inquiring mind can hardly wait!

I've written extensively about the FamilySearch Family Tree in these earlier posts:

FamilySearch Blogger Day - FamilySearch Family Tree (25 October 2010)
FamilySearch Family Tree Update (21 January 2011)
More on the FamilySearch Family Tree Update (23 January 2011)
New FamilySearch Family Tree Compendium (12 May 2011 to 14 June 2011).

Disclosure:  I am not an employee of FamilySearch, am not an LDS Church member, and have no "inside information" about the FamilySearch Family Tree.  I was invited to use the site back in April and reported on it during my investigations.  I have shared what I have been told about it from my own investigations in my blog.


Geolover said...

Note that the word "evidence" does not occur in the White Paper, although there is much referring to "sources."

Jay said...

Thank you so much for this posting. I like the white paper, but more importantly, you led me to two of James Tanner's blogs, Genealogy's Star, and Tech Tips. For some reason I had never subscribed to them, so for me they are a great find.