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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A current assessment of New FamilySearch

It has been some time since I reviewed the status of New FamilySearch. It has now been since February, 2011 that FamilySearch announced the incorporation of public users, outside the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The most recent announcement, albeit unofficial, was quoted by The Ancestry Insider in his post on FamilySearch Plans for Attaching Sources to New FamilySearch. I am afraid my response to this announcement was less than enthusiastic. Other that the discussion at RootsTech during the Devotional with Elder Richard G. Scott, there has been little about the program in the Blogs or from FamilySearch itself.

I note that the home page has changed to eliminate a link to What's New. That link has moved to the links available after signing into the program. Also, the link on the home page to the website goes directly to the updated site, leaving the users to find the older site, if they can.

So, where are we with program. First of all, I work with people every week with a broad spectrum of experience and sophistication with both genealogy and computers. New FamilySearch serves its basic function very well. I is a marvelous tool for the new or nearly new genealogist to start recording their information online. In addition, New FamilySearch by and large does what it is supposed to do to allow the members of the LDS Church to submit their family names for Temple ordinance work. The program gets high marks for simplicity, usability and convenience.

There are, of course, limitations in the scope of the present program. One of the avowed goals of the program was to avoid duplication of ordinance submissions. From my perspective, the program has a very limited impact and only mixed success in this regard. There are still people "harvesting" the green arrows and failing to either look for duplicates when the duplicates are obvious. People are also submitting duplicate files and names without checking to see if their submissions are already in the file. So far I haven't seen any reduction in obvious duplicates. However, overall, there may be some impact which is not apparent. I do know of a few people who have mined out the green arrows and have stopped doing duplicate ordinance work.

Is New FamilySearch progressing towards becoming a valuable resource for either storing genealogical information or research into family lines? Again, my personal experience would be that it is neither no better nor no worse than any other online family tree program such as's Family Trees or

Have any of the problems with the database caused by the original duplication of files been resolved? No. Is there yet a workable way for users to correct blatantly inaccurate information? No. Is there a sensible and usable way to source individual events or facts? No. Is there a way to incorporate media items in the database? No.

Will any of these limitations be resolved in the future? Maybe. But for now, it appears that the program will remain in the status quo for some extended period of time. Will I continue to have people complain to me about the inaccurate and incorrect information in the database. Decidedly yes. Is that a problem? Not really. I think the program is mostly doing what it was intended to do and I am purely guessing, but I would think that revamping the program to help out people like me with 10 to 15 generations or more of family lines, is not a very high priority any more.


  1. When I trained users recently on NewFamilySearch, I emphasized the main goal for the site: preparing names for temple submission (and reduce duplication of names submitted). For that reason alone, NewFamilySearch will be around for a long time, because it has been an excellent tool to quickly complete that work. It is also an excellent tool for collaborating with cousins who "care" (operative word) about getting the information right.

    If you keep those things in mind, NewFamilySearch will always have a place in this world-wide genealogy community.

  2. James, your sensible perspective should be required reading for those who have hoped or even believed NewFamilySearch had potential for being The Place For Accurate Genealogy. It is, however, both notable and very fortunate for genealogical researchers that LDS is providing other resources that greatly counterbalance the drawbacks of the tree site.