Saturday, February 19, 2011

New tools for cleaning up data from New FamilySearch?

New.FamilySearch.org seemed to stay quietly in the background during the entire RootsTech Conference. You would've had to have been listening quite closely to detect more than passing mentions of the program. The program was during the Devotional with Elder Richard G. Scott which included a question-and-answer session. Craig Miller of FamilySearch was very particular that future developments in New FamilySearch would include the ability to edit information and to mark preferential family lines.

Presently, the program has no way of marking data which is questionable. This is especially true since the discontinuance of the dispute function. If you disagree with the entries accuracy you can begin a new discussion under the Discussion tab, but there is really nothing in the program that allows you to make changes or to indicate that the information is incorrect unless someone happens to read your discussion. There is also no external notification that a discussion has been started.

In the meantime, while we wait for the changes to come to New FamilySearch, any movement towards recognizing inaccurate, incomplete, or misplaced data would be much appreciated by some of the user (probably not those who don't recognize the problems).

In the meantime, a glimmer of relief came from an entirely different direction. Another class at RootsTech on updates from Legacy Family Tree by Goeff Rasmussen, caused me to take the time to check out the new update to Legacy Family Tree, which is even newer that the last new update that I wrote about. This post like the last one focuses on the update to the interface between New FamilySearch and Legacy Family  Tree.

Legacy introduced the initial part of their interface with New FamilySearch last year and the updates this year show that they spent time looking at the other implementations of the interface and learned from their competitors. One of the first things that I noticed, having worked with the other programs, is that Legacy keeps a copy of your login and password so that you do not have to  keep entering the information over and over again. This may be a small point, but it avoids an annoying problem common with the other synchronization programs. It is my understanding, that the New FamilySearch program requires the re-entering of the login and password in order to preserve the security of the program. Legacy apparently keeps the record of the login and password locally in order to avoid the security risk but also avoids the repetitious re-entering of the information.

Legacy has added an evaluation function that is not as yet available in any of the other programs. Questionable data in the New FamilySearch program is marked or flagged in Legacy. Holding your mouse cursor over the flag gives you a brief explanation of what might be wrong with the data. Although the other programs that have developed synchronization to New FamilySearch show the duplications in the data, all of the duplications are shown with the same confidence level.

I found some of the flagged exceptions show in Legacy to be trivial. But the important point made is that there are real issues with some of the data in New FamilySearch and for the first time a program is attempting to alert an unsophisticated user to a problem. Even with these flags or markers, there are still major issues with the New FamilySearch data not identified or marked by Legacy. For example, New FamilySearch has six different christening dates for my Great-grandfather. The issue isn't the dates, it is the fact that in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which my Great-grandfather was a member, does not have an ordinance or function which could be called a "Christening." The Church does have an ordinance called Baby Blessing, but this is definitely not the same thing as a christening. This inappropriate data comes from the unfortunate fact that the original, now old, Personal Ancestral File program had a space for entering the christening data for every person and some people felt compelled to fill the empty space with a date and place without knowing what they were doing.

I certainly hope progress is made during the coming year towards correcting the data in New FamilySearch and I will be ready to report any and all changes.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    You may be interested to know that Ancestral Quest, FamilyInsight, and RootsMagic all added saved logins several months ago, even before Legacy 7.5 was released. This feature wasn't there before due to restrictions from FamilySearch itself. When FamilySearch gave the go-ahead, all the software products added it.

    I certainly share your desire for cleaner data in the FamilySearch Family Tree. While there has been a lot of progress made on cleaning up duplicate individuals, I hate looking at an ancestor and seeing all these duplicate copies of names and events with only slight variations in dates and spellings, with many obvious errors.

    I am giddy for the day that FamilySearch adopts the promised "wiki-style" editing and we can actually DO something about these mistakes instead of just look at them helplessly.

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