Thursday, June 11, 2009

Other Employee Bloggers at FamilySearch

Long time readers may remember my “Don’t get hit by the train” series about The Cluetrain Manifesto and employee bloggers. In the last article of the series, “Employees: Don't Get Hit by the Train — Part 4,” I listed the blogs I knew about by employees of and FamilySearch. In the 20 months since that article, I’ve come across a few more.

Reformed(?) Hacker

Reformed(?) Hacker is about technology, not genealogy. According to, site owner Lynn Monson is a “software engineer and architect at” Monson describes himself as “Lead Architect, Unified System, LDS church.” In his most recent post, “Fielded search vs unstructured text,” mentions he’s having problems convincing product managers that Google’s single-box search form is inferior to the typical genealogy website search form, with boxes for given name, surname, birth date, etc.

According to Monson,

To date, I have not been able to convince the PM folks. They simply retort that “google does it, why can’t we?”. The numerous examples I respond with — demonstrating that google, in fact, does *not* do it properly — have been unconvincing. In addition, I happen to know, from a trusted source, that Google receives numerous complaints from genealogists over the behavior of their search engine on genealogical sources. The whole endeavor is going to come to a head soon. I need to find ways to convince them.

Yikes! That’s scary! It’s especially scary because New FamilySearch and Record Search Pilot already have anemic search forms. They only allow a single life event! You can’t specify both a birth place and a marriage year, as one might learn from a census. Perish the thought that they’re going to get worse! Don’t product managers monitor the market? Surely they saw the uproar over at when New Search eliminated some fields from search forms.

Lynn, make them put Google to the test. Take a record site that Google has indexed and compare the search results using the site’s fielded search vs. a Google search with the “site:” qualifier restricting Google.

I have an ancestor named Paris Raymond. Google is especially fond of people with the given name Raymond. His hometown is Lincoln. Google is especially fond of a president by that name. His wife’s hometown is Paris, New York. When you have both Paris and New York in the same search, Google is absolutely certain you’re talking about major world cities. When it comes to my ancestors, Google blows chunks. (Can FamilySearch employees say that without offending one or more readers? I guess I’ll find out.)

And eBay? An absolute nightmare. I’d like to be notified if the family Bible ever came up for auction, but the flood of false positives wakes me up at night in cold chills.

Hispanic Genealogy

Hispanic Genealogy is another blog written by a FamilySearch employee named “Lynn.” Lynn Turner’s user profile says,

I graduated from BYU in Family History and Genealogy in 2004. My areas of expertise include Spain and Latin American. Currently I work for FamilySearch as a Record Specialist. I hope you enjoy the blog!

Turner is an accredited genealogist. He previously worked as a Reference Consultant. He has taught Computers and Technology in Family History at BYU conferences and presented at genealogy conferences in the U.S., Spain, and Colombia.

Even though he’s a top-notch co-worker, I’ve never read his blog. Why? It’s in Spanish!

Tomorrow, a couple more blogs. Stay tuned…


  1. Before anyone gets too excited let's be very clear, FamilySearch Product Managers have not suggested that Google is good at searching genealogical data. They have correctly (in my opinion) understood that Google has trained the masses to use a single field for search. The logic then follows that if (and only if) the engineering challenges of using a single field search for genealogy could be 'trained' to provide similar or better quality of search results as the current search templates do, then those that are new to genealogy may more quickly be productive if they are able to use their current search paradigm and the system is intelligent enough to adapt it to the domain of genealogy.

  2. The secret is out if the Ancestry Insider is mentioning my blog :) Hope you find my blog useful, interesting, and informative...get ready for a Hispanic genealogy explosion on the internet over the next couple of years - don't say I didn't warn you!


  3. Dear Dan,

    You're my favorite! Thank you for talking sense into the issue (and me).

    Look for more of my thoughts on this issue next week.

    -- The Ancestry Insider

  4. But how can we ordinary people know how well the Google search process works? If we don't find anything, was it because the search was ineffective, or is it because there was nothing out there on the internet to be found?

  5. Dear Lynn,

    You're my favorite! Buena suerte!! Esta chevere!!

    -- La Ascendencia Colaborador

  6. If anyone uses's search, then they understand the frustrating nature of a search with only one field. So much data, but almost no way to find anything.


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