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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sychronization revisited -- New FamilySearch

One of the major challenges in working with New FamilySearch is the duplication of information caused by the combination of the underlying databases. Anyone whose family has been involved in genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) will have several copies of their family pedigree in the combined record. I have written about this situation in the past, when RootsMagic 4 and Ancestral Quest were introduced.

My initial reaction to Ancestral Quest was very positive. The program showed great promise in getting some control over the huge duplication issue. The duplication problem was lessened somewhat when FamilySearch increased the number of possible combinations to 150. But some of my ancestors still had hundreds of duplicates, way over the limit.

My first impression of RootMagic 4 was not quite so positive, but the most recent upgrade was very impressive and seemed to put RootsMagic out in front of the feature race (if there is one).

Both programs were a distinctly positive step towards avoiding duplication but the problem is quite complex. New FamilySearch is supposed to provide a way for LDS Church members to avoid duplication in submitting the names of individuals for their Temple Ordinances. However, the existence of multiple copies of individuals in the database adds to rather than eliminates the possibility of duplication of ordinance work. The instructions with New FamilySearch encourage users to combine duplicates, however, that is a tedious and rather difficult process and, in my experience, most users have no idea how to combine individuals or even that it is necessary.

The clear advantage of both RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest over using New FamilySearch directly, is the fact that they both search for duplicate individuals and combine them in a more simple and direct fashion than can be done through the New FamilySearch interface (or even the Family Tree interface). For this reason alone, I am strongly urging all of those using New FamilySearch to use either (or both) of the programs rather than relying on the New FamilySearch program alone to find duplicates.

In comparing the two programs, RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest, there are immediately some differences. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. It appears, at this point, that Ancestral Quest is better at searching for an finding duplicate individuals. In some instances, where there are a number of children in a family, for example, RootsMagic will fail to find all of the family members until the individuals are searched, making it appear that family members are missing from New FamilySearch. In this situation, the first reaction is to add the missing family members to New FamilySearch, causing even more duplication. However, if the missing family members are searched for individually by RootsMagic and combined with their own duplicates in New FamilySearch, they suddenly appear in the RootsMagic family search list of children.

It is likely that both of these programs will have issues, especially as New FamilySearch continues to evolve and change. The rule set down by FamilySearch in their documentation is extremely important:

Generally, LDS pioneer ancestors already have had their ordinance work completed. They either received the ordinances while they were living, or their descendants have performed the ordinances on their behalf. Because many early pioneers have a large number of descendants who have submitted family history work to the Church:

  • It is not uncommon to find large amounts of duplicate information about these individuals in the new FamilySearch Web site.
  • This may prompt a patron to want to match and combine much of the duplicate information for each pioneer ancestor.
  • A limit on the number of records that can be combined has been set in the system to reduce the impact on system performance.

If a member has a pioneer ancestor containing a large amount of information in the new FamilySearch Web site:

  • Only combine duplicate information until you find his or her ordinance dates.
  • When you find the ordinance information, stop combining.

Over time, changes to the new FamilySearch Web site will be made that will improve the way the information about these pioneer ancestors is accessed and displayed.

Both RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest are valuable tools that should be a consideration for anyone spending time in New FamilySearch.

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