Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Richard G. Scott: Some of the Finest at RootsTech

Elder Richard G. Scott addresses family history consultants during RootsTech “We have some of the finest organizations on earth represented and handling various aspects of this conference,” said Elder Richard G. Scott at RootsTech. “We feel honored to be part of that.” Scott is a high ranking leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(Presumably, Scott is Jay Verkler’s boss’s boss, according to publicly available information.

While Verkler is the president and CEO of FamilySearch, his position at FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is managing director of the Family History Department.1

The managing director reports to the executive director, Elder Richard J. Maynes.2

Presumably, Maynes reports to Scott, since Scott is the apostle that directs the Church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council.3

But I digress…)

Panelists were (from the left) Verkler, Scott, Rencher, Miller, and Love Scott spoke at a devotional for Church family history consultants held during RootsTech. Unfortunately, I was moderating another session at the same time and was unable to attend. Here are some things I’ve gleaned from others:

  • The session used a question and answer format. Elder Scott led a panel with Jay Verkler (CEO), David Rencher (CGO), Craig Miller (product management), and Ransom Love (strategic relationships). Jim Greene, a marketing manager at FamilySearch, gathered questions.
  • I spoke to one attendee who was disappointed that the session, billed as a devotional, was more secular than religious. Perhaps next year organizers can set expectations better.
  • Question topics included “technical improvements on FamilySearch, getting priesthood leaders involved in family history, and involving young adults.”3
  • The new FamilySearch Family Tree will be improved this year, hopefully making it ready for the general public, according to James Tanner. The changes make the tree more evidence based, with sources attached and the ability to fix wrong information.4
  • It may be ready for release near the end of the year, according to Paul Walworth on FHCNET.6
  • Tanner also reported that FamilySearch was asked about Personal Ancestral File (PAF). FamilySearch will not improve PAF. Instead, they are working on the new FamilySearch Family Tree. Tanner put it more succinctly: “The answer essentially confirms the demise of PAF.”4
  • FamilySearch is working on an updated standard to replace GEDCOM, said Tanner.4 Coincidentally, at the same time I was hearing the same message in the “Genealogical Data Standards” session. More on that later…
  • FamilySearch will attempt to improve the rate at which digitized books are published online, said Tanner.4
  • Providing Ancestry.com Library Edition access in family history centers is a test according to Shanna Jones on FHCNET. Users may not be able to use Ancestry.com at times because the number of simultaneous users is limited. After several months FamilySearch will evaluate the results.
  • Elisa Scharton asks a question in Richard G. Scott's session Questions were also accepted from the audience. One came from Mormon Mommy Blogger, Elisa Scharton. Elisa, it was great to meet you!

James Tanner captured the answers to these questions on his blog:

  • What will happen to Family History Centers outside the Wasatch Front?
  • Explain the new Ancestry.com deal?
  • What is the balance between involving everyone and being genealogically sound?
  • Problems in library in Alexandria, Egypt?
  • What about duplication?
  • Is Personal Ancestral File going to talk to New FamilySearch?
  • Is it OK to have a Millenium File?
  • How can I inspire and motivate my Priesthood Leaders?
  • How do we get people to come to the classes?
  • GEDCOM standard issues?
  • What about access to New FamilySearch to those who are not Church members?
  • How do we get Young Single Adults interested in family history?
  • Will this meeting be online?
  • How has the use of the Internet affected the storage of records in the Granite Mountain Vault?
  • Is there anyway we can have New FamilySearch without clicking on so many arrows?
  • What new technology will have the most impact on family history in the near future?
  • What about documentation in New FamilySearch for place names at the historical time?
  • What about on demand digitization of microfilm?
  • Duplication of work on New FamilySearch?

To see his answers, read “RootsTech—Devotional with Elder Richard G. Scott.” Thanks, James!


     1.  [Jay Verkler,] “Jay Verkler,” profile, LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jay-verkler/27/40a/bb4 : accessed 14 February 2011); also see conference programs where he has spoken, such as NGS 2010 and RootsTech 2011.
     2.  “Elder Richard J. Maynes,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, website (www.lds.org : accessed 14 February 2011), Menu > The Church > Organization > General Authorities; and Gordon Clarke, “Bay Area FH Conference : May 18, 2010,” PDF file, Silicon Valley Computer Genealogy Group (www.svpafug.org : accessed 14 February 2011), Free Downloads > FamilySearch Presentations, pp. 4-5.
     3.  “Family History Work Vital, Prophets and Apostles Say,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, website (www.lds.org : accessed 14 February 2011), Menu > Study > Prophets & Apostles Speak Today > Unto All the World.
     4.  James Tanner, “New Developments at FamilySearch,” Genealogy’s Star (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com : dated 13 February 2011, accessed 14 February 2011).
     5.  Shanna Jones, “Ancestry.com: "Institutional" or "Library Edition"?” message in FHCNET group, Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FHCNET : 13 February 2011, 7:20 pm).
     6.  Paul Walworth, “Nfs Problems,” message in FHCNET group, Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FHCNET : 13 February 2011, 1:41 pm).


  1. Insider,

    Thanks for another informative post on the conference, including more info on the Ancestry deal.

    I browsed Tanner's blog which you refer to, and here is one excerpt:
    "Question: What is the balance between involving everyone and being genealogically sound? David Rencher. FamilySearch is trying to change the entire way that people in the Church do family history. They are not going in the direction of the academic genealogists."

    What exactly does Mr. Rencher mean by this? Does he mean not NGSQ type of proof articles, which are also required to prove many complicated and indirect cases even if not for teaching as in the quarterly? Does he mean going to more of a lineage society "abbreviated" proof list without all the footnotes and long proof arguments?

    Since Mr. Rencher is a Certified Genealogist (C.G. -service mark of the Board for certification of Genealogists), does he believe it important to work to insure that the FS Conclusion Tree adhere to the standards of the BCG Standards Manual?

    I don't mean to be critical in advance of knowing all the facts, but I am curious as to what he meant by that statement and whether you can shed any light on it.

  2. Mike F,

    I contacted David for clarification. This is what he said:

    We want and highly desire sound genealogical conclusions in our systems – period. Apply whatever standard you choose, whether it be BCG or some other standard, we want quality work and content. However, the rules for submitting names for temple ordinances favor performing that work sooner rather than later. To that end, there may be instances where we make a mistake or misidentify the correct genealogical identifiers of an individual because every conceivable record has not been examined. Enthusiasm to engage more people in the work favors early successes rather than unduly prolonging the research over an extended period of time. The open edit model of the pedigree system allows us to correct those errors, correct any errors that may have occurred in conjunction with the temple ordinances and move forward. The system should accommodate the needs of both audiences and the quality of the identifiers and the linkages should both improve and stand the test of time.

    -- The Insider

  3. The devotional session was disgusting. Because of men like Richard Scott, I am embarrassed to be LDS.
    He insulted all religions by 'blessing' them with his wish that they convert to Mormonism.
    A little more tolerance and understanding towards others wouldn't be wrong....

  4. Insider,

    Thanks for the quick answer straight from the source. Though I belong to a different church, Mr. Rencher's comments make logical sense re temple work, the same as with duplication vs. nothing. However in the comments Mr. Tanner passed on, Mr. Rencher referred to changing the way "people" conduct genealogy, rather than only LDS members, which I took to mean a desire to change the way non-LDS do genealogy in light of the FS tree being opened to the general public later this year.

    While Mr. Rencher thinks both camps may be able to use the system, I suspect that many serious non-LDS genealogists will pass. While the Conclusion Tree is a definite improvement over unsourced junk trees found on Ancestry and elsewhere on the web, it still is too simplistic for linkages past the time vital records cover. More than that however, it may actually prove detrimental because by allowing good citations and a conclusionary ability, it will allow people to more easily source unverified and badly done printed sources and genealogies. Thus it will give the illusion of being better than it is, and thus similar to the "best" Ancestry or RW WC tree that does have citations to printed sources and not just online trees, but with little to no reference to original sources.

    To those aware of BCG standards, Mr. Rencher's comments reference the principle of exhaustive search, and that not quite being done. But I fear that worse than that, the "research" of many who use FS trees will not contain anything past a literature search plus census records.

    Since it is obviously important to the LDS Church that non-members participate, else they would not be rolling out the tree to the public, the question is what incentive do that they think that serious "academic" genealogists who are not LDS members, will have to dispute a large number of facts and conclusions with those who are not committed to higher standards? When I say not committed, I don't necessarily mean that hobbyist genealogists reject standards, but rather than they consciously choose not to educate themselves further because getting bogged down in original records ordered from the FHL would take the fun out of playing with trees online, or require them to challenge family traditions.



    I doubt you are LDS, but even if you are, what do you expect? It was a church run conference, by a church that believes it is the only true church, and not an ecumenical meeting, even though it was open to the public. You probably know what to expect in Rome, so you should know what to expect in Salt Lake City.

  5. This session was a profoundly personal and spiritual experience for me. At first I wondered why we would not be hearing more from Elder Scott, but it turned out to be wonderful to have a variety of perspectives presented. Some of the best ideas came from audience members. Elder Scott's words were more precious because there were fewer of them. Thanks to my bishop I was able to share my experience with my ward council the next day. I came for help to fulfill my calling as a family history consultant and I was rewarded with lots of ideas and inspiration. RootsTech was a blessing to me on many levels and this session was the spiritual level.

  6. Thanks for the shout out!

    As an outsider, or non-genealogist, I found this conference very interesting and enlightening. Frankly, I wouldn't recognize a GEDCOM from a DEATHCOM.

    The fact that I enjoyed myself and actually came away from it not only having learned something, but interested in DOING something about it signifies that the conference was a success!

    As to the comment about Elder Scott-- It was a religious blessing. The Pope gives blessings to those in his presence all the time-- whether Catholic or not and you don't see people freaking out about that. There was never any reference made to be "blessed to join the Mormon Church."


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