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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remaining issues with FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part One

An Introduction to the Issues
In a recent blog post revealed some of the remaining issues with their Family Tree program as they try to finalize the separation of the program from its predecessor, (NFS). Those issues assumed that access to NFS will terminate in 2015 and the NFS program will be “decommissioned.” This is now projected to occur in 2016.

Why is the transfer of the database from NFS to Family Tree taking years to complete? The answer is apparently extremely complicated. A brief review is necessary.

NFS was first announced back in 2005. For a summary of its history see this blog post by the Ancestry Insider. Subsequently, the program was introduced in stages. NFS was seeded with data from five major databases: the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, part of the International Genealogical Index, membership and Temple records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The challenge of dealing with this massive data set involved multiple duplicated records and a lack of sources. There were problems with the NFS program from the time of its release that arose as a result of the multiple duplicates and the inability of the program to resolve those duplicates.

NFS was replaced by Family Tree in 2012 with the introduction of replacement program at the RootsTech Conference that year. It didn't take very long to discover that there were serious problems with Family Tree. Very few of these problems related to the program itself, so much as they did the data. It turned out that the FamilySearch Family Tree was using the same database that had been used by NFS. It has taken me almost three years to realize that this was a good thing and that, in the end, it will result in a much more useful database altogether.

During the past two or so years, the Family Tree program itself has been evolving rapidly, however the obvious problems with the database have just barely begun to be addressed. It turns out that there were several very severe and not very apparent problems that only surfaced as FamilySearch began to transfer the entire data set from NFS to Family Tree. As time passed, the apparent user problems with NFS continued to be an issue with the users. In addition, there were several perceptual problems relating to the nature of the program which is based on a wiki from the Wikimedia Foundation.  As I have said in previous blog posts, the program is not the problem, it is the solution to the problem. Some of the user related issues are derived from the structure of a wiki program and the users' unfamiliarity with how and why a wiki program works. These wiki issues will become very much less prominent as time passes as people become more familiar with the program.

But many of the frustrations encountered by the Family Tree users relate directly to the process of converting the mountain of data from NFS to Family Tree. Although some progress has been made, the recent list of remaining issues cited in the blog post from FamilySearch, illustrates that there is a long way to go before the program is fully functional for some or perhaps all, of its users. Here are the remaining issues as outlined by FamilySearch:
  • Merging of gateway ancestors and other famous people (also known as IOUSs)
  • Highlighting and fixing other data issues, such as: individuals who are married before they are born, child older than a parent, child who is a spouse of a parent or grandparent, and such.
  • Ability for users to edit the gender of an ancestor.
  • Ability to see current spouse’s line by default.
In the next installment of this particular series, I will comment on my perception of each of these remaining issues. Stay tuned. 


  1. It seems to me that there is another problem that hasn't been mentioned. In those listings where separate people were combined together into one PID in new FamilySearch, the temple data is often no longer correct. What is the FamilySearch team doing about that?

    1. I will get to that issue also. It is on my list. Thanks for the comment.