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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beta Test of FamilySeach's Family Tree

In writing this post, please understand that I have not been given any "confidential" information by anyone associated with FamilySearch. If the information is not entirely correct it is due to my own observations and conclusions, not those of FamilySearch. It is my firm rule never to breach a confidence. If I am told information about any subject, even in casual conversations, that I believe to be privileged or of limited distribution, I will not repeat that information until it is made public. On the other hand, if I am able to learn information from "public" sources that I have not been told about in private conversations, then I feel free to report my findings.

I do understand the need to have "private" or "confidential" beta tests of new products. In most cases this is due to the intense competition between commercial vendors. Participants in these types of beta tests are usually obligated to sign a legally binding non-disclosure agreement. Since FamilySearch is not a commercial vendor and since the FamilySearch products are not in competition with any other products in the marketplace, I would assume that the confidentiality of the Beta test of a new product is maintained to avoid unreasonable expectations on the part of potential users for features that may not work as originally expected. Otherwise, I further suspect that the "confidentiality" is merely a reflection of the overall computer industry and serves no real practical purpose.

FamilySearch is in the process of inviting about 1000 people to participate in a Beta test of a limited implementation of the Family Tree program, a replacement for what is now called New FamilySearch. Some of this information was passed along to me from commentators but there is an online acknowledgement of the new Beta test in the Feedback section of the program. The statement is in the Community/Products/Family Tree (Beta) section and says:
Family Tree is currently available to a limited Beta test audience. It is a service that allows you to work with the community to build a common family pedigree.
There is a small image showing a pedigree outline, apparently a screen shot of the program. If you try to click on the link to Family Tree, you will get a screen saying "You are not authorized to view this page." 

It is my understanding that the Beta test invitations may be already going out to the community at large. I believe that the participants have been chosen somewhat randomly and will receive an email invitation. I suspect they could pass that invitation along to someone else if they chose to do so. If you have an invitation, when you login to, you will have an extra menu item called "Family Tree" that will allow you view the new program.

In reality, the existence of developments of a new version of New FamilySearch is not new news. There is a widely circulated document called, "The Case for Moving to "Our Tree" A FamilySearch White Paper" dated April 2011 that lays out the entire plan for modifying New FamilySearch into a source oriented, user editable format. Underlying the discussion is an assumption that the evolving New FamilySearch product or Family Tree, will become more wiki-like and less like the existing New FamilySearch program.

It is difficult to assess how much cross-program feedback there is in FamilySearch. It sometimes appears to me that the various sections, such as those working on the FamilySearch Research Wiki, those working on the FamilySearch Forums, those working on Indexing and so forth, have very little interaction and in fact no almost nothing about other sections' operations, goals or even their products.

I have not entirely given up on the present version of New FamilySearch, but I can say that I have been looking for viable alternatives to archive my own information online and that my search, so far, has not included New FamilySearch. I certainly hope that Family Tree becomes a viable online alternative for collaboration and maintaining a realistic family history database.


  1. James,

    good catch here. It sounds interesting. Do you have a link to the April 2011 white paper?

  2. This is encouraging. Thanks. I did a post like this in March, but I didn't have any official news of a beta. I got some screen shots though. Like you said, the only reason I can think of why they don't do a press release is so they don't get our hopes up.

  3. White Paper:

  4. any further news on this? Any screenshots? is it nicer? is it an end all? (my real question is...does it have any way to add like stories about people etc.)