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

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Features added to FamilySearch Family Tree

Steve Anderson of FamilySearch posted a blog entitled, "What's New on FamilySearch -- March 2015." Most of these new features have not be previously announced publicly. Some have been around long enough for current users to notice and comment on but others have passed unnoticed. In two recent presentations from FamilySearch representatives, they both stated that FamilySearch is making updates to the website three times a day. Most of the current changes are explained in the opening statement of the post:
Each month, FamilySearch publishes a list of new changes and updates to the FamilySearch website. This list includes changes to Family Tree as well as other parts of FamilySearch. In some cases, these changes will also be published as individual articles where the needs to do so exists.
The bulk of the current changes seem to be to the memories feature. Here is the list provided by the post:
  • More consistent website and mobile experiences
  • An improved Report Abuse process
  • Support for images up to 15 MB and in TIF and BMP formats
  • A new read-only Memories system
  • The link colors, Save buttons, and menu system are consistent for all the Memory types (photos, stories, documents, and audio) and the rest of the site
  • The time stamp is easier to read (the time now displays with a HH:MM time in the local time zone)
  • The Comment section is consistent for all memory types (photos, documents, stories, and audio)
  • Report Abuse was changed so that it is the same on all memory types and on Family Tree (and it captures all pertinent user feedback)
Here are the other, more general changes included in the March 2015 list:
  • An Improved Report Abuse Process
  • Support for Images up to 15 MB and in TIF and BMP Formats
  • The Memories system now allows you to upload images up to 15 MB (the previous limit was 5 MB). You may also use two additional file types: TIF and BMP.
I have no idea what some of these changes are. For example, "A new read-only Memories system?" The explanation is interesting. It says the following:
A New Read-Only Memories System
In the past, during a system outage, you could not access the Memories content. A new read-only Memories system has been created so that if there is a planned or unplanned system outage, you will still be able to view the Memories content.
I don't understand how I am supposed to be able to view the Memories content if FamilySearch has a "system outage?" If their system is down, how do I see anything? I can only guess that they put the Memories section on a backup system that they hope does not go down at the same time as the main system.

I applaud the inclusion of TIFF images in the Photos section. Now I won't have to convert so many of my photos. The file size increase also helps with getting better quality online images.

In the body of the post there are several other changes not in the two lists. The biggest change is the inclusion of a link on an individual's Detail page that shows the user's relationship to the ancestor. This is really helpful for those of us who get lost in the Family Tree. It should also tell users whether or not they are really related to anyone in the Family Tree.

There is also a new procedure for changing a person's status from deceased to living. Here is the explanation:
Changing a Person’s Record in Family Tree from Deceased to Living 
Changing a person’s record in Family Tree from deceased to living is now easier. 
Occasionally a living ancestor in Family Tree is listed incorrectly as deceased. You had to report the problem, and it had to be corrected by a system administrator. Now, if you added the person to Family Tree, and no other user has changed the person’s information, you can change the person’s record from deceased to living. 
Important: If someone else added the person to Family Tree or another user has changed information, you will still need to report the problem to our support staff so that a system administrator can correct it.
Actually, this post misses the major change to the FamilySearch Family Tree interface that is taking place in stages. It also doesn't mention the changes to the lists, but that may have occurred in February or before. There is no real way to tell when a change takes place unless you are one of the very first to notice it and even then you may just have not used that part of the program for a while.


  1. James, you say "I don't understand how I am supposed to be able to view the Memories content if FamilySearch has a 'system outage?'"

    You will have noticed that the Memories section is a slowly-improving independent program group, attached to Family Tree via a rather cumbersome tagging system.

    Part of the contract for writing this module may well include housing it on a group of servers different from the hired servers operating the rest of (or parts of) the site programs. So if one set of hired servers suffers a power outage in, say, Virginia, another group elsewhere may not suffer the same conditions. They don't come right out and explain what sets of servers are hired and where they are located.

  2. Also, most titled memories go straight to Google, which will remain up when FS goes down.