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Friday, December 4, 2009

Changes to New FamilySearch

Technically, New FamilySearch is still in the Beta Test stage of its development, even though the program has been available to a limited number of users for over two years. In a Help Center release of December 4, 2009, the latest Beta Test version is designated the "new FamilySearch .99 beta." I would guess from this designation that a "final" release version is imminent, but given the long introduction time of the program, imminent may mean some considerable time yet. Recently, there has been a Beta test for a number of significant changes to the program. A second Beta test is scheduled for the first part of December.

From the long list of "Known issues" with the program, (available at Document ID: 107570 in the New Help Center for those with access), it appears that there is still a considerable amount of work to be done on the program before it is fully functional based on their own criteria. Some of the most significant changes are being made to the interface, implementing the Family Tree program features now on labs.familysearch.org.

I realize that all of the discussion is academic to those outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) who still do not have access to the program, but I would guess that access is not too far off and when even more people are involved, the issues the program has presently will be magnified.

One note from the Beta test is an increase in the individual record size to accommodate more combined records. Hopefully this change will be implemented soon because it is apparent that there are still many unresolved and uncombined duplicate individuals in the overall database. In addition, there is an interesting statement in the December 2009 changes list at Document (1008595) in the Help Center. It says: "Note: When the system says that an ordinance is “Ready,” it does not necessarily mean that you can or should perform the ordinances. The ordinances might be done. The system will help you check for duplicate records later. You also need to make sure that you are following Church policies. For example, you should not perform ordinances for people who are not in your family line. You should obtain permission from the closest living relative before performing ordinances for someone who was born in the last 95 years. " It is nice to see this statement since we have been saying this locally for many months now.

Over all the changes being made to the program appear very positive. Those using the program on a regular basis have noticed that there have been some significant changes made to the actual online program which have not been announced or documented in the official update page located on the log in page of the program. By the way, the most current update page is from August 2009 and even if you cannot sign into the program, you can read about the progress of the changes through this update notice.

As of December 2, 2009 the restated goals of New FamilySearch is as follows:
The new FamilySearch Web site has three main goals:
Reduce the duplication of ordinances and research.
Simplify the process of preparing a name for ordinance work.
Provide a way for families to work together to find, organize, and link their ancestors into families.
There is an extremely good overview of the whole FamilySearch issues and programs in a Blog post by the Ancestry Insider called Digitized Records Not Just for Mormons.

From Document 1008595 of the New FamilySearch Help Center there is a long explanation of the new features of the program as of December 2009. This list has yet to be published on the startup page. To find the list you need to search for "latest version new familysearch" or something similar in the Help Center.

New FamilySearch is an ongoing dynamic project and will continue to change. Most of the anticipated updates are very positive and helpful.

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