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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Individual Records for Each Individual in

A recent post from The Ancestry Insider entitled "A Whirlwind Tour of FamilySearch Resources," talks about the newer features of's Record Search. In my last post, I showed how these new features work to expedite the attachment of sources to an individual's Details Page. With the new features, attaching sources has become nearly automated. Just as importantly, information on the Details Page is used to make the search, giving a much more expeditious method of searching.

In the above article there are two quotes from a presentation by Ben Baker of FamilySearch at the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy that intrigued me. The first quote is as follows:
  • Baker was asked how to edit a source for reuse; a marriage record might name six people and shouldn’t it be possible to adapt a source for reuse? There is no way to do this.
It was apparent from this question that people don’t understand that the results of FamilySearch’s Record Search is not records. It is people.
The next quote was even more interesting:
This record mentions four people. Should you save this record to your source box and attach it to all four? No. Notice the title. What we are actually looking at is the Alson E Abernathy detail page. This page should be linked only to Alson.
Like one of the commentators to the post, I was not sure I was reading this correctly. I always thought I was looking for sources for people. Especially since I already had the people. Did he really say that you had to customize each and every source record to the person for whom it was attached, thereby creating duplicate source records for each individual? The comment made by Ben Baker explained the position, here are the relevant portions of the comment:
Thank you Ancestry Insider for doing a good job of explaining how to attach sources to multiple people in a record. He is correct that you are really linking a specific person in the tree to a specific person in a record. Just editing the heading will not accomplish the same thing. While I agree it can currently be tedious, the power that this will soon bring is great. For example, we'll be able to point out when a person in a record is not in the tree yet (i.e. everyone in the family is there except for one child that was missed before). Record hints for people in a record not yet linked will also soon be available. This way of linking will also provide the ability to create features such as "show me all of the John Does in Place XYZ that are not already linked to someone in the tree" and a host of other new features (including many yet un-imagined) that will greatly aid people in finding their families.
So in order to facilitate the programmers, we are going to individually duplicate a search for a uniquely named record (even all the same record) for each member of the family. In other words, if my ancestors' family had 17 children, plus five wives and the father, that would be a total of 23 separate records, all identical except for the link and the title. Even though I have a master copy of the record in my Source Box showing the entire family, rather than simply attach that record to each family member from the Source Box, as is presently possible, I am supposed to do a separate search for the same record for each of the 23 separate individuals. I'm sorry, but I was under the impression that FamilySearch was working towards allowing a record to be attached to an entire family at one time (saving 23 separate attachments or in this case, 23 separate searches for the same record) not the opposite.

Surely, I must be missing something here. This smacks of the same problem I have with the so-called standardized place names that do not accurately reflect the name of the place at the time the event occurred. I have always felt that using standardized place names was merely a way to help the programmers with their search engines. (That is a different topic which I will likely come back to in the the not-too-distant future) So what if I simply decide not to add any more source records to FamilySearch Family Tree? How will that help with some un-imagined program feature?

So, is the conclusion from FamilySearch is that if we already have the names of our ancestors it is a waste of time to add sources, since I am looking for people and not sources? Is this true even when most of the information about my ancestors has been sent through the mixer by my relatives? Sources are only useful when you are trying to extend your line? Otherwise, don't bother. Is this the conclusion?

Well, I went back through the procedures slowly to see how this all might work, giving the programmers the benefit of the doubt. Here is the issue, yes, when I search for a record for one individual, all of the other members of the family come up as hyperlinks, but there is a flaw in the procedure. For example, if I look for the husband in a U.S. Census record the wife has a hyperlink. But the wife's name is her married name and FamilySearch (as it should be) has the wife cataloged with her maiden name. So even if you click on the hyperlink, the name will not come up properly and you still have to go back and look up each person individually.

Then, when I continue with a child in the family, I find that there is a duplicate name for the child. When I try to merge the duplicates, I get an error message telling me the person cannot be merged at this time. Hmm.

This may sound confusing because it is.

I am going to play around with this a little bit more and see if there is something I am missing. Meanwhile, I am sure that my readers will tell me if I am.


  1. I enjoyed your post (as always). It seems programs are not judged as good when they work in a simply way. I love improvements, but I don't care for just a different way that oftentimes complicates a procedure and/or the end result. I jokingly said once that my career goal was to go to Washington and write regulations about things I knew nothing about. I often wonder if the programmers understand genealogy. I think sources are only reliable when I can judge their origins and sometimes contact the people responsible for the information input.

  2. As far as you have taken it, you are not missing a thing. The programmers have a dream for this system that is a closed one -- wanting an extremely limited indexed-records list to be a catalog for an extremely limited sector of persons in the FS-FamilyTree.

    Another flaw in the search-from-tree design besides the maiden-name problem (affecting only 50% of the population where the maiden names are known at all) is that also-known-as names are not also searched. So even where one has entered the a/k/a for a mistakenly transcribed/indexed marriage record or Census entry, the search-from-tree function will not come up with the mistaken index page unless you specifically change the search parameter and repeat the search.

    The site is already one of the slowest-loading on the planet. As this material becomes more strangely integrated, unfortunately I anticipate it will get even slower.

  3. I agree that it is confusing. The programers seem the most confused of all.

    I think the problem is the idea of attaching sources to people. In reality research starts with the record, from which we extract information about people, which we then attach to some known people.

  4. They are slowly moving toward the system that has been using a long time. Go to and find a record. You will see a second attach to tree function. That beta function attaches to everyone that is on that source, but it attaches each person's indexed data page just like the programmers tell us is the goal. When that is released we will be able to link the right data to the right person on a census for example. Each person has a different age, marital status etc. eventually, FamilySearch will allow pushing this data into the tree during the linking process. Think It sounds more confusing the way these programmers put it, but it is really the same exact thing has had for years. I'm thankful for the foresight of the programmers in making a system that is forward compatible with features like pushing records data for each household member from the census to the tree.

  5. Why won't they make the old family search available for purchase.