FamilySearch recently released a pedigree view for Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource Files. So what do I think? (I’ll warn my friends at FamilySearch that now is a good time to don your thick skins.)
I confess I was a genealogy geek several years before I got out of primary school. In those pre-copy machine, pre-typing skills days I spent a lot of time hand copying family group sheets and pedigree charts from my parents.
Here is what one of them looked like (less the last inch).
This was one of the few pre-printed forms offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. It has full information on four generations: a birth and death date and place for each individual and a marriage date for each couple. The chart links by name and sheet number to the 5th generation. And it has the name of the principal person’s spouse. The consistent line spacing provided more than typewriter efficiency. The rigid binary layout made it easy, at a glance, to distinguish paternal and maternal ascendancy lines. One knew right where to look to see the mother’s father’s mother.
The chart is precisely optimized for ascendancy research.
With my background, I have a tremendous affinity to this chart. Prejudice regarding its form runs deeply in my veins. Giving an unbiased review of the current incarnation will be more than difficult.
Here is the pedigree from the now defunct, classic FamilySearch.
The classic FamilySearch.org pedigree chart was obviously designed by someone schooled in genealogy (or at least in its clerical aspect). It contained identical information to the printed form in virtually the same layout. Building on the strength of technology, it replaced the link to the 5th generation with a clickable link and it added a clickable link to the family group sheet of each couple. Thankfully, it had enough space for full, unabbreviated place names.
Finally, the information for the entire pedigree and associated family groups could be downloaded—with a single click—for further analysis. (Like some of you, I was bitten more than once by wholesale merging of the information. But I digress…)
Here is the new pedigree view for Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File:
It doesn’t include marriage information (except for the principal). It doesn’t contain place information for the 3rd generation. The mother is not positioned to line up with her parents, making quick interpretation less intuitive. The clearest deficiency is the lack of a 4th ancestral generation. After all, ancestry is the point of a pedigree, isn’t it?
It does contain the principal’s children, albeit without full information. It includes all the principal’s wives with a mechanism to choose which wife and children to highlight. This combines the utility of pedigree and family group charts. And it makes it easier to navigate for descendancy research. (Do you remember on classic how painful it was to navigate down the pedigree one generation?)
Above all, this is an improvement over not having a pedigree view at all.
So, what do I think about this pedigree design?
Ancestry File and Pedigree Resource File are not purposed to facilitate new research, but to communicate genealogical conclusions. This makes good charting capabilities and information transfer of prime importance.
Perhaps I am not representative of the genealogical community at large and newer genealogists are not prejudiced by old designs. Perhaps this page was never intended to serve as a pedigree chart, but as a navigation aid. Perhaps better charts are still to come. Perhaps scarce resources are better allocated to improving other aspects of FamilySearch.org.
Regardless, I feel this is a tremendous navigational improvement, a slight presentational improvement, but a tremendously wanting pedigree solution.
What do you think?
(Please leave a comment rather than replying to my e-mail.)