Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An extensive comment on New FamilySearch

My daughter Amy is a world class blogger. Her blog, TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com is a model of genealogical and historical methodology. Here is a comment she made to my last blog post, which I thought was important enough to emphasize by reproducing here. Quoting from Amy:
It might help people to step back and think about why the Church puts so much effort into family history and genealogy work. Some of the basic doctrines and beliefs of the church involve doing proxy ordinances for departed ancestors. The New Testament says, for example, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

Members of the Church have a responsibility to do proxy baptisms and other ordinances in their many beautiful temples. Genealogists, particularly those who have spent time in Salt Lake City, may have seen the Salt Lake Temple and may have taken a tour of the adjacent Visitors Centers and had the purposes of temples explained to them.

The Church has used various systems to organize the proxy work of the temples. Previously, there was a computerized system called Temple Ready. It was complicated and hard to use. Now, the church has new.FamilySearch.org (NFS) which allows members of the church to enter the names of their ancestors, check if the temple work has already been done for them, and submit names to the temples to have the work done.

Besides facilitating the temple work, NFS is also a major source of genealogical information. I use NFS regularly in a project involving the immigration of German members of the Church into Brooklyn, New York, and Utah during the period between World War I and World War II. I can use immigration records elsewhere (usually on Ancestry) to track down the dates of immigration, and I can use NFS to track down the dates when the immigrants joined the Church in Germany.

As has been mentioned in the original post and other posts here and elsewhere, NFS is currently in a developmental stage. There are numerous glitches to be worked out. For instance, all data is currently treated equally and any user can choose which names, dates, and places show up in the main page for any given person, regardless of the user's familiarity with the family lines and actual data on the ancestor.

So, it may sound condescending (although I hope it doesn't!), but if you remember the purpose of NFS, and realize that many technical glitches and conceptual details have been worked out over the past few years and many more are currently being worked out, it may not be quite so frustrating to not yet have access to the program, particularly since you can usually find the very same genealogical information in FamilySearch, Ancestry, and RootsWeb.
Thanks to Amy for a very concise and insightful analysis and commentary. 

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