Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coming Soon to a FamilySearch.org Near You

100_1384 1000px During the 2011 BYU Family History Conference, Robert Kehrer, senior product manager for FamilySearch, spoke of features coming to FamilySearch.org. There were too many to verbositize.

  • There are many improvements planned for the new Family History Library Catalog. I talk about these in tomorrow’s article, “The FHLC is No More.”
  • Kehrer said that hopefully by the end of the year you’ll be able to connect source documents from FamilySearch.org to the new FamilySearch Tree.
  • Making corrections to indexing errors is one of the top requests Kehrer receives. He said it takes a lot of development to make this possible. “We’re just beginning to spec out the system,” he said. Lots of works still needs to be done so we should not start looking for this feature until 2012. There will be pedigree chart and family group views of Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.
  • In the near future we’ll be able to upload to the pedigree resource file. It will be possible to compare a submission to the New FamilySearch Tree and move new information from the submission into the FamilySearch Tree.
  • Hopefully by the end of the year you’ll be able to search individual collections using any or all of the indexed fields. Also coming is the ability to search groups of collections such as can be done today for Civil War collections. (See “Enlist Now the War is Over.”)
  • The New FamilySearch Tree (NFS) will be brought in to become a part of the www.FamilySearch.org website.
  • Audience members complained that FamilySearch.org is not organized clearly and it is hard to navigate. They pointed out how clear and easy navigation is on http://new.FamilySearch.org. “That is something our user testing has identified,” said Kehrer. “We are working to remedy that.” Someone else complained that when you are there, there is no indication that you are in the wiki. I hope that is part of the fix.
  • The current image viewer uses the Flash browser plugin. Flash has many problems so FamilySearch is replacing it in coming months with a new viewer that works entirely in HTML, the standard used by browsers. This means it will work on mobile devices like smart phones, iPads, and iPhones. (Kehrer asked how many people used the thumbnail in the lower-right. It will be difficult to implement, so he considering releasing the new viewer before the thumbnail is available.)
  • Kehrer said that record filters are very powerful but too “clicky.” It will be redesigned so it is easier to use.
  • FamilySearch is working on documentation on par with what is available for the New FamilySearch Tree that explains how to use the FamilySearch.org website.
  • Historical books, currently stored on a BYU website will be moved and made searchable on the FamilySearch website.
  • Search results, currently stacked, will be laid out in columns. “I believe the most refined filter is the human eye,” said Kehrer. Additional control is being added to search matching. You can specify matching against exact results, results that are close, and results that match what you specified but the record lacks some of the information you specified.
  • Kehrer is interested in finding better ways of specifying locations. Boundaries change and events occur in adjacent jurisdictions. He’s toying around with maps.

Coverage Information

He is also looking to a distant future when each collection will have coverage information. He showed an example, but warned it hasn’t really been designed. Here’s my stab at what it might look like:

Alabama Death Records

1908-1935: Available Online (Search Records or Browse Images)
     1,858,819 Records, 504,847 Images

     Publication History:
     18 Aug 2010: Initial 1,038,919 Records & 305,975 Images
     23 Nov 2010: Added   200,142 Records & 101,525 Images
     04 Feb 2011: Added   645,365 Records & 497,186 Images

1935-1970: Available on FHL Microfilm (See Catalog or Order Microfilm)
     About 2,000,000 Records

     Currently Being Indexed (Help Index)

1970-Present: Individual Records Available from the State (See Instructions)
     Alabama Center for Health Statistics
     P.O. Box 5625
     Montgomery, Alabama  36103-5625
     http://adph.org/vitalrecords
     (Order online from 3rd party vendor)

I’m sorry; did I just drool? Hurry, Robert, hurry!

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the summary.

    For the collection coverage, I really want to know if the collection is complete or not. Tell me if there is more images or indexing coming at a later date.

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  2. Dear Insider,

    Thanks for this excellent information.

    When it comes to "clicky", I have a hard time imagining anything more clicky than the new FamilySearch Tree. I love nFST, and recently added another 800 people to it. But in its present form, data entry is tedious approaching the point of impracticality. It almost has to be done by GEDCOM, but that can introduce its own set of problems.

    i.e. Adding a single person may involve over a dozen mouse clicks, as each name, date, and place needs to be confirmed by a mouse click ... even to the point of confirming the confirmation. If I input the birth, confirmation, marriage, death, and burial of an individual, it can be more clicks than that. If the system finds potential duplicates it can add another dozen or so clicks. And that it just for one individual! Can data entry be streamlined without losing its functionality?

    I realize that you are not the person designing the user interface, but maybe that person follows your postings and the comments. (hope) (hope)

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  3. Randy is absolutely right re completeness. If we look in a collection for someone and don't find them - what does it mean? If the collection is complete (and well described), perhaps a lot. If the collection isn't complete - well.... it maybe 90% likely they weren't there, or it maybe pretty meaningless if only 10% of the stuff is there. Until the collection is defined to be 100% complete, a nil return is MEANINGLESS.

    Take the Cheshire Parish Registers. Some time ago, the Wiki said this was 95% complete on the parish registers themselves, 89% complete on the Bishops' Transcripts (contemporary copies that can fill in gaps when the PRs were later lost or damaged).

    95% of what? Entries? Churches? Films? Registers? (I've got sick of feeding this back to them so I'm glad they're perhaps listening a bit).

    __If__ the indexers are completing the stuff film by film, then I think a list of films completed is the minimum we need to see. (It would be nicer to see a list of films-to-do, but I can use the catalogue, so it's not urgent)

    Either way round, whether it's in the Wiki or as part of the app, we need some sort of list of what's loaded. The ideal list for each collection will probably vary - it might be films, it might be registers, it might be entries or years of entries.

    Just list something that's relevant for the collection...

    And please don't tell me the raw data's not there. This thing is being managed and numbers are the basic stuff of management.

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  4. Thanks for sharing all of this information. These will be exciting and helpful additions. I think the FamilySearch people will just continue to improve the site, probably eventually accomplishing all aspects of the requests from previous commenters to this post. I hope they made comments directly to FamilySearch which, I believe, is very interested in making the site easy for us to use and as helpful as possible.

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  5. I agree with Randy's and brucefuimus' comments about the coverage of FS collections.

    To maintain the integrity of our research documentation, particularly when we get NIL results at FamilySearch.org, we need to know more details about the contents of each collection. (Some information is available on the Wiki, but it is insufficient.)

    If the data/images are from FHL films, which film numbers? If it comes from a partner archive, what is the catalog number? Are these items indexed in whole or in part? Without this information, we cannot know in adequate detail what records we've already searched and what we still need to search.

    Now, for my other wish ...

    I hope FS Indexing will get to the point where if I need to search a film that isn't indexed yet, I can index parts of it while I'm researching. I'm glad we have so many projects from which to choose in FSI, but I still wish I could index as I research.

    I'm also intrigued by the teaser for today's article about the FHLC. Wondering what's in store...

    Waiting for all these exciting enhancements to FS is harder than waiting for Christmas when I was a kid!

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  6. Some of what you had in the second half could work well already on the FamilySearch Records area on the FamilySearch Wiki. Here's the project page, Dorothy Horan is the project manager for the WikiProject.

    https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/FamilySearch_Wiki:WikiProject_FamilySearch_Records

    Oftentimes a page is created for a project at or slightly before it goes to the indexing people, and becomes the collection page when the project is completed by the indexers.

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