Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BYU Conference Final Keynote: David Rencher

This article is one in a series of session reports from the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. I tweeted the session live, but I hate to send you to Twitter to read them because they appear there in reverse chronological order. I’ve straightened them out for you here. Additions are shown in italics.

Hats off to David Rencher. It’s rare that a keynote speaker at the BYU Conference submits a handout for the conference syllabus. I am extremely impressed with Rencher, who submitted a handout in time to be printed up with the syllabus.

It is not uncommon for BYU to post transcripts of keynotes presented by leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which they have done this year for Elder John H. Groberg. This page has a link to Elder Groberg’s talk, “Jesus is the Key.” There has been talk suggesting that Rencher’s slides might (underline might) also be posted, probably on the same page.

With no further ado, here’s the first tweets from the 3rd day of the conference.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Alann F Packer, assistant executive director of FamilySearch Elder Alann F. Packer is attending the conference. Assistant Executive Director for the Church family history department. (7:42 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

Packer is saying a few words before the keynote. He is often asked questions about when this or that is coming. Many answers have been given at this conference. (7:43 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

FamilySearch planning takes into account for 88 billion individuals who have already lived and billions more coming. That's why our planning and execution is taking so long. (7:45 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

(Photograph of Elder Alann F. Packer courtesy of the Deseret News.)
David E Rencer, FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer Turned time over to David Rencher, “FamilySearch Tackles the Information Explosion.” (Microphone not working.) From the book Groundswell:

Three trends—people’s desire to connect, new interactive technologies, and online economics—have created a new era. This is the fast-growing phenomenon we call the groundswell. Not only is it here; it’s evolving rapidly—creating an incredible challenge for corporate strategists.” (7:47 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

(Photograph of David E. Rencher courtesy of FamilySearch.)
Product lifecycle: Envision, Plan, Design, Develop, Test, Release, Repeat.

FamilySearch Product Life Cycle 
Many FamilySearch products are nearing the ends of their lifecycles:
- PAF,
compact disc products,
- IGI,
- pedigree resource file (PRF),
- paper publications, (7:50 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
- microfilm,
- UDE [Universal Data Entry is the predecessor to FamilySearch Indexing].

Beginnings of lifecycles:
- book scanning,
- FamilySearch indexing,
- NFS [New FamilySearch],
- wiki,
- Record Search, ...

Jay Verkler observed artificial barriers in FH (7:52 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
Visit http://labs.familysearch.org

PAF 5.2
- from 1997,
- free,
- millions of users,
- 3rd-party products.
Future options:
- NFS only,
- PAF/NFS (7:55 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
- affiliate/NFS. There are benefits to using both off- and online trees.

CD products stopped in 2002. Resources shifted to NFS.
In the syllabus, Rencher said the CD products will be discontinued when the present inventories are exhausted. “The data from these products will eventually be moved to FamilySearch.org and will be available for free,” he said. Some of the products—vital records from Mexico, Scandinavia, and Europe as well as the 1880 U.S. Census and the 1881 British Census—are already available on Record Search.

IGI replaced by Record Search and NFS. (7:57 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
Rencher said, “ultimately, the relevant data in the IGI will be accessible to patrons through FamilySearch’s Record Search and the Family Tree feature. All genealogies shared through PRF will ultimately be searchable through the Family Tree feature.”
PRF still active and growing.

- pubbed in 2002.
- 279,762 titles added since then.
- Use the Internet version. (7:58 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
which “is updated every half hour, so it is the most efficient way to access the catalog information.”
Research Guidance migrating to wiki. Why? Paper pubs outdated before ink dried.

Paper publications are going away. Many “will not be reprinted when current supplies are exhausted. The information will be updated and moved into the FamilySearch Wiki.”

Microfilm at end of lifecycle. (8:00 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
Only Kodak continues to supply film for making copies for FHCs. Price is going up.

Scottish Church Records CD: David Gardner & (8:02 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
volunteers indexed them [parish records of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian)] but Scots won't allow migration to web. “For the immediate future, Scottish Church Records will continue to only be available on the old DOS version of FamilySearch in the family history centers and the Family History Library. The records are also available for a fee on the website Scotland's People.”

Vietnam and Korean War Casualty Files - moving to Record Search. “There are plans to convert this data to the FamilySearch website. These files are lower priority than the vital record and census materials.”

(8:04 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
UDE phased out in coming months. FS Indexing replacing it.

NFS - think of it in terms of temple submissions. Created in tree form to (8:06 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
add identifying information-relationships. David gets no special treatment. His ancestors also have bad data he can't correct. (8:08 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )
Christening Before Birth Christening before birth.

Elder Monte J. Brough said: members [of the Church] spend too much time reorganizing info instead of learning new [because of what FamilySearch has provided to them.] (8:09 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

FamilySearch Wiki can capture tremendous knowledge of all of you. Example of town in Texas physically moved from Limestone county to Hill county. (8:11 AM Jul 30th from TweetChat )

Standards Finder available on Labs.familysearch.org. Ireland has decided anglicized town names will return to Gaeilge/Gaelic.

Record Search Pilot. (8:13 AM Jul 30th from web )
I'm in charge of the order that FamilySearch is digitizing microfilms. Chocolate doughtnuts are accepted. Trying for entire collections. We're adding world (8:15 AM Jul 30th from web )
areas that dot coms are not addressing. IGI extractions were swiss cheese. RS we want complete record sets. Sometimes have (8:17 AM Jul 30th from web )
permission for images, sometimes just index.

FamilySearch Indexing: projected to hit 250M names a year. Easy to volunteer. Easy to index. (8:18 AM Jul 30th from web )
Batches are small.(8:19 AM Jul 30th from web)

Book scanning. Up to 40K+ books online. Scanning projects are underway at Family History Library, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho, ACPL (Allen County Public Library), Houston Public Library(David's sister is a volunteer missionary working there), Mid-Continental Library in Independence, Missouri. “The technology…allows users to do an every word or name search.” Many of these books had no printed index (8:21 AM Jul 30th from web )
Supplement collections of ACPL with BYU.

Support: 3 levels. http://bit.ly/sEGra (8:23 AM Jul 30th from web )
Nice map of support offices. (8:24 AM Jul 30th from web )
Support utilizes community of 300,000 users worldwide. (8:26 AM Jul 30th from web )

Collaboration and Conclusion
Limited resources. We must be strategic. (8:27 AM Jul 30th from web )
1894 GSU founded.
1938 microfilming begins.
1963 film distribution to FHC.
1999 film to public libraries.
1999 FamilySearch.org (8:29 AM Jul 30th from web )
2006 Record Search pilot provides 1st images. (8:30 AM Jul 30th from web )
Many ways of doing genealogy isn't keeping up with the power of technology. (8:31 AM Jul 30th from web )
FamilySearch Strategic Direction:
Collaboration, data mining, data conclusions, user experience. (8:32 AM Jul 30th from web )
FamilySearch Strategic Direction
FamilySearch hasn't gone away. I hope you understand why products are ending lifecycle. (8:33 AM Jul 30th from web)

Remember that tweets are limited to 140 characters. Less the #byugen hashtag, each tweet could not exceed 132 characters. Hence, tweets often use abbreviations, bad grammar, and lack proper punctuation.


  1. Thanks for the tweets ... I'd be really interested in some more info about this quote:

    "Elder Monte J. Brough said: members [of the Church] spend too much time reorganizing info instead of learning new [because of what FamilySearch has provided to them.]"

  2. Insider,

    I have a question that I don't think has been addressed, although perhaps I missed it here or in other posts. This is about microfilm ending its lifecycle. While I can see the reasons for that, and indeed twice this month two state archives have told me that they no longer offer duplication services, what is the plan for replacing microfilm and on what time scale?

    The way I understand FS indexing which I participate in, the indexes will always be free but the images generally hosted by a commercial fee-based company, which is fine (to me at least because I don't expect the LDS church to be an image farm for genealogy past its other enterprises). So when will I not be able to order the court minutes or deed books on microfilm for Any County, AnyState? And what will be the alternative? Will Ancestry, Footnote et al. really be up to hosting such county level records? Or will the FHL image those microfilms and distribute same on DVD or peer-to-peer download at a FHC?

    Also at the end of your post in the part on collaboration, you list 1999 as the year when film goes to public libraries. Does this mean that film can be ordered via interlibrary loan from the FHL to any public library, or only those public libraries that incorporate a FHC somehow? I specifically asked one of those state archives which does lend to public libraries in other states, whether that included FHCs. I was told that the FHL does not loan to them and they don't loan to the FHL. If you want the name of the specific library I will email it to you privately.




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