Thursday, July 30, 2009

NFS Rollout News: St. George and Idaho Falls

The general membership in the St. George Utah and Idaho Falls Idaho temple districts will soon be receiving access to New FamilySearch, according to Lance McIntosh yesterday at the BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference. Local leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started receiving notices yesterday. Presumably, these rollouts will take place in groups of stakes over several weeks. It was not clear if one temple would be completed prior to the other, or if each week would include groups of stakes from both temple districts.

Rollout to the St. George Utah temple is significant, as it is the oldest operating temple in the Church today. While the Kirtland (Ohio) and Nauvoo (Illinois) temples preceded St. George, the Kirtland Temple is no longer owned by the Church and the original Nauvoo Temple was demolished after being damaged by arson and tornado.

Rollout to St. George and Idaho Falls is also significant because it will leave just Wasatch Front temples. (See “Temple Districts Using New FamilySearch.”)

While it is possible that St. George or Idaho Falls could all release at once, as Boise did, I think one has to consider the unknown risks introduced by the August NFS release. (See “NFS August 2009 Release.”)

IGI Dies Without Fanfare

This week saw another significant, yet unheralded milestone. On Monday the final two temples feeding data into the venerable International Genealogy Index (IGI) switched to the new recording system used by NFS. I assume no new data will be added to the IGI. At an appropriate, as yet undecided, future date, it will be removed from the FamilySearch.org website.

The IGI is being replaced with two systems, reflecting two of the three sources of the information it contains: genealogy data submitted by members of the Church and data extracted from source records. Genealogy data submitted by members of the Church is now entered by members directly into New FamilySearch. All of the data contained in the IGI that was extracted from source records is being staged for publication on Record Search.

I heartily endorse the separation of the two types of data. Having them combined in the IGI has long caused problems for researchers, violating several genealogical best practices:

  • Evidentiary data (extracted records) should be kept separate from conclusionary data (member submissions).
  • Conclusions (member submitted genealogies) can not be believed without citations to the supporting evidence.
  • It violates the principle of Respect de fonds to mix collections of different origins. Member submissions and extracted records shouldn’t be mixed. And don’t look for one big “IGI Collection” on Record Search; that too would violate the principle. Different sources of data will be divided up into different collections, reflecting FamilySearch’s determination to follow best practices.

Then Why Do I Have Heartburn?

My only heartburn in the death of the IGI concerns the third source of information in the IGI: temple ordinance data for use by members of the Church.

Granted the IGI was not an original source for pre-1969 temple records. But it provided source film and batch numbers. The IGI even allows searching by source, allowing some nice research techniques for those with pioneer ancestors.

For several decades now, temple records have been “born digital.” Since digital copies of digital records can be made with little chance of introducing errors, the IGI has been, essentially, an original source of primary information about temple ordinances. I’m not saying the genealogical information was correct, or properly sourced, or that every ordinance performed was properly recorded. What I’m saying is that if the IGI said an ordinance took place in the last 25+ years, then it took place. Period.

If I were King and cost were no object, I would see that Record Search contained collections that provided evidence of temple ordinances. In addition to fully searchable electronic indexes, for records that were not born digital, the indexes would be linked to images of the transcribed records. Every record would have a source citation. This is not a special case and wouldn’t require special expense. It would be produced just like any other collection on Record Search. Like other Record Search collections whose owners have contracted with FamilySearch to restrict access, and like the Special Collections room at the Family History Library, access to Temple Record collections would be restricted to temple worthy members of the Church. When the day comes that we can link information in NFS to evidence in Record Search, no special work would be required for ordinance information. (An old programming adage is, avoid special cases in order to avoid special bugs.)

FamilySearch, I hope you won’t take away the IGI until there are replacements for all three types of data it contains: conclusionary information supplied by members of the Church, evidentiary information extracted from records, and evidentiary temple ordinance information.

6 comments:

  1. You describe three types of data.

    One is "conclusionary information supplied by members of the Church".

    Surely you mean "...supplied by members of the Church and participating genealogists around the world."?

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  2. John,

    No doubt you are thinking about the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File. The general public made many wonderful contributions to these collections.

    Conclusionary information in the International Genealogical Index is supplied exclusively by members of the Church. This is easily verified by searching for any name in the IGI. Click on any of the results, scroll to the bottom of the page and look under Messages or Sources.

    -- The Insider

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  3. Ooooh, I never thought about what would be missing if the IGI were not available. I like to browse batch numbers to see who else had temple work done at the same time and who performed the work.

    What will I be missing?

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  4. I was concerned at the Family History Expo in St George that some of the people from NFS had never considered the unfathomable loss to the research community if the extracted data were to be taken down from the church website. Those of us who on a daily basis use the Hugh Wallis IGI index to batch numbers and therefore the IGI online as a quick search index would be severely crippled in our efforts. It is a marvelous tool for finding additional children in a family after one has been identified.

    Even the "conclusionary information" from member submissions can be of value as a starting point. It often names a child that might otherwise be missed for which we can then search in reliable source material.

    Please use whatever influence you may have to help the people at FamilySearch.org to recognize the value of the IGI (especially the extracted data) to all of us. This must not be discarded, but made available in some manner on an ongoing basis.

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  5. Dear Just Commenting,

    Not to worry on those two points.

    The conclusionary tree data has already been fully loaded into NFS (although access to the submitters' sources is non-existent). If you don't have personal access, the staff of a local family history center would be happy to assist you in searching this valuable resource.

    And extracted evidentiary data is either already on the Record Search Pilot, or is somewhere in the publication pipeline. I assume FamilySearch is wise enough to leave the IGI up until all its extracted records make their way through the pipeline.

    -- The Insider

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  6. Dear Gran2Boys,

    That's an excellent question. We are at the mercy of the FamilySearch product managers. I've yet to figure out what went wrong with New FamilySearch. There's rumors that it is a stripped-down version of the product manager's vision, emasculated by production delays. There are also rumors that product managers ignore genealogists to some degree because they are thought to make genealogy harder than necessary.

    An early outside tester of New FamilySearch told me recently of the shock using NFS for the first time. Meeting with a group of product managers, this person asked how many were genealogists. Only one raised a hand.

    Record Search has followed the same path.

    Not that I'm saying genealogists are always right. Watch for my report of David Rencher's BYU keynote. Times are changing and genealogists have to keep up.

    Was it Rencher or another speaker that made the point that the Internet is one, eternal beta. FamilySearch is iterating towards better and better solutions. I have faith. Do I have patience?

    -- The Insider

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