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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Developments at FamilySearch

As Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching." You can also learn a lot by listening carefully at the recently ended RootsTech Conference, both to what was said and what wasn't said. One of the big questions out there in the genealogical community is the future of the database. Representatives of FamilySearch made several references to the future of the program. From the questions answer at the Devotional which was conducted as a question and answer session, on the last day of the Conference, it appears that there are going to be major adjustments made to the program over the next year which will hopefully end up with New FamilySearch being made available to the general public.

I recall three areas of improvement to the program: movement towards an evidence based system by incorporating improved sourcing, adding the ability to edit the existing information, and addressing the issue of multiple copies of individuals by adding the ability to chose a specific ancestor and suppress incorrect lineages. All of these areas of improvement would be extensively welcomed in the genealogy community.

FamilySearch made a modest statement about the future of the website when it introduced the portion of the site. The announcement went practically unnoticed by the Bloggers who were the only ones present when FamilySearch's representative mentioned the new site. But the site has now appeared in link on the bottom of a page on and is prominently featured in the FamilySearch Labs website. This new site is definitely evolving with several major changes, such as the name of the site, within the past few days.

In answer to a specific question about Personal Ancestral File (PAF), the FamilySearch representative affirmed that there would be no further development of the program. He also indicated that FamilySearch was committed to sticking with a browser based interface. Although the significance of this statement may have been lost on the vast majority of those in attendance, the significance is that PAF is definitely not web-based. So the answer essentially confirms the demise of PAF.

Another issue raised in the discussion was whether or not FamilySearch would be updating the GEDCOM standard, last updated in 1995. The surprising answer was that the present standard is being evaluated and that FamilySearch would be moving ahead to update the standard. There has been almost nothing said about updating the standard for many years by FamilySearch, but there is a private movement to do just that called the Build a Better GEDCOM.

One representative also indicated that there was an effort going forward to make more digitized family and local history books available at a greater rate than is presently occurring. It appears that there is no link on the updated website to the so-called Family History Archives on the BYU University website. The Family History Archives site appears to have been abandoned since the item counter hasn't been updated for many months. I do know that scanning is going forward, at least at the level of the Family History Centers because volunteers at the Mesa Regional Family History Center continue to scan books. But I also know that the scans are not being put online because I had a book scanned almost a year ago and it has still not been made available online. Other FamilySearch representatives  indicated that there definitely was a problem in getting all this information online, but that the situation should clear up and images be available online.

Among other projects shown at the Convention was a test program to use individual flatbed scanners to provide images into the pipeline for use in the Historical Records Collections or in separately available online repositories.

There seems to be a lot going on and it takes some work and talking to different people you can get sort-of a fragmented view. So hopefully I am not too far off with some of these projects and projections.

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