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Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mandatory Reading for all those using FamilySearch Family Tree

Sometimes I feel blind, deaf and dumb (even more than I am normally). This last week was the National Genealogical Society Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although Las Vegas is only a few hours away, we had prior commitments that prevented attendance at the conference. I did miss several important announcements and, of course, the opportunity to talk to people from around the world. But most of all, I felt out-of-touch i.e. deaf and dumb. Sometimes reading the blog posts is a good substitute and I thank Randy Seaver and The Ancestry Insider among many others for their contributions to keeping me informed.

Today The Ancestry Insider published what in the news industry would be considered a scoop. The blog post is entitled, "#NGS2013 - Futures for FamilySearch Family Tree." This post should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to work with FamilySearch.org's Family Tree, if only for the reason that it gives hope and a very weak light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, I can't let this gem of a post go by without comments. I fully realize that I am not responding directly to what Ron Tanner of FamilySearch may have said, but to what The Ancestry Insider has written, but I trust that the reporting was fair and accurate because of the source.

Understand that my progress in doing any additional meaningful work at all with FamilySearch Family Tree ends at about four generations or so up my pedigree. At that point, virtually every ancestor has multiple submissions that put them into the category of Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUSs). This essentially means that there are still multiple pedigrees (attached to multiple individuals) out there that cannot be resolved by merging. This issue is addressed in the blog post by the AI, as follows:
Family Tree is currently in a transition phase with synchronization occurring between Family Tree and NFS. “Today, if a combine is not allowed in NFS, then we are not allowing a merge in Family Tree,” said Tanner. “Once we can separate the two, then you’ll be able to do the merge.”
This statement has been made several times in the past, but it is reassuring to have it said again. For me, and many, many other users of the program, it is the deal maker or breaker. Either get it fixed or the program doesn't work at all. I answer questions about this issue multiple times a day when I am working with patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. The latest 10 May 2013 version of the Family Tree manual, Using the FamilySearch Family Tree A Reference Guide (10 May 2013) LDS Version states as follows at page 146, about merging:

You cannot merge records in the following situations:
• The gender on one record is male, and the other is female.
• One record indicates the person is alive; the other is deceased.
• Both records come from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints.
• One of the records came from new.familysearch.org, where it has been combined
with too many other records.
• The duplicate record has already been deleted due to another merge.
• One of the records has restrictions that would prevent it from being changed.
Apparently, there is no solution to this problem from the standpoint of the user. We just have to wait until the problem is resolved by FamilySearch.

Some of the other developments coming in FamilySearch Family Tree are nice but not deal breakers. For example:

  • Printable family group sheets and pedigree charts
  • Taking a photograph and making a source out of it
  • Notes and copied notes from New.FamilySearch.org
  • Sources from New.FamilySearch.org

All of these have been discussed at one time or another in both public and private.  The second item above, the ability to take a photograph and make it a source, may refer to adding your own documents as sources? That is speculation on my part.

The AI also mentions the ability to "match records in historical collections to ancestors in the tree." This would be a huge development and hopefully similar to what is being done now by MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com with their family trees. Perhaps an agreement with one or the other is in the offing to implement this feature?

There is quite a bit about preventing or solving "revert wars." The AI uses the term "toggle war." As a long time user of the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki, I see this as a potential problem, but not as one that occurs very often. There are already a number of features built into Family Tree that discourage this type of behavior. I wonder if any revert wars have already been reported to FamilySearch? The solution, as outlined in the post, is simple; lock the program to the participants.

Attaching records to an entire family would be a huge timesaver. Of course, there are other items mentioned but there is no timetable for their implementation and some of the features may simply be on a wish list. But it is nice to get a peek at the future, even through my deafness and dumbness.

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