Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Required Reading for FamilySearch

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Hi,

I have been following your comments on NFS as well as Ancestry.com, the new Family Tree etc. and I would like to know what you really think about it all. 

It seems to me that Ancestry has really hit on something good with the ability to use it in conjunction with Family Tree Maker.  It is now very easy to look up someone on Ancestry, find the census, certificates etc. and then almost with a push of a button transfer all of that along with the connection to a personal computer.  Almost without much effort, the sources are transferred to your computer and the documentation is there.

FamilySearch on the other hand, has taken us on a merry ride.  We have been all over NFS, which has now been abandoned, so to speak.  Many of us have spent hours and hours putting stuff into NFS, only to have someone change it, or even worse, to have NFS do some kind of computer matching which demolishes everything that has been done.

Now, we have Family Trees, and I tell you, I just don't have the heart to learn and get started on it, because of the time commitment and because I don't know that they will stay with it.  And, it is not now as good as Ancestry.

So, what is the future?  Is FamilySearch ever going to have the ability that Ancestry already has to save things to a personal account for each person, and then download that to a personal computer?  Where are we going?

I really would like to know what you think about where everything is going.

Signed,
Suzanne Johnston

Dear Suzanne,

Wow. You hit some issues squarely on the head. I think your letter should be required reading for every decision maker at FamilySearch. Let me walk through your points.

I have been following your comments on NFS as well as Ancestry, the new Family Tree, etc. and I would like to know what you really think about it all.

What do I think? You’ve really said it better than I can, but let me pontificate. I apologize to coworkers up front. I’m going to accentuate the negative here, but I work with exceptional people who are addressing these issues as fast as they can. OK. Brace yourselves…

It seems to me that Ancestry has really hit on something good with the ability to use it in conjunction with Family Tree Maker.

Good news here. It is possible to use New Family Tree (NFS) in conjunction with almost every tree except Family Tree Maker. A list of products is available online.

It is now very easy to lookup someone on Ancestry, find the census, certificates etc. and then almost with a push of a button transfer all of that along with the connection to a personal computer.

Partly good news here. It is possible to lookup a record on FamilySearch.org and then attach it to a person in Family Tree. Unfortunately it is not possible to initiate the operation from inside the tree, which would save you from retyping all the information known about a person. And it is not “almost with a push of a button.” FamilySearch requires first putting the source into the Source Box, then switching to Family Tree, then attaching the source.

Almost without effort, the sources are transferred to your computer and the documentation is there.

FamilySearch is focused mostly on getting Family Tree to the public. To paraphrase what you said about Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, when it comes to syncing NFS or Family Tree to desktop programs, the sources are not transferred to your computer and documents from FamilySearch Record Collections are not copied there.

FamilySearch on the other hand, has taken us on a merry ride. We have been all over NFS, which has now been abandoned, so to speak. Many of us have spent hours and hours putting stuff into NFS, only to have someone change it… Now, we have Family Tree, and I tell you, I just don't have the heart to learn and get started on it, because of the time commitment and because I don't know that they will stay with it.

This reminds be of a quote I’ve seen from a former executive director of FamilySearch. I don’t remember the wording, but he essentially complained that FamilySearch repeatedly requires Church members redo clerical work they’ve already done. This decreases the amount of time they have to do new submissions. Family Tree even provides a notification feature to inform you that you should revisit work you’ve already done.

Is FamilySearch ever going to have the ability that Ancestry already has to save things to a personal account for each person, and then download that to a personal computer?

It’s hard to say when FamilySearch will support record download to a persons in a desktop tree. I wouldn’t look for it in this decade.

While I support the concept of a single, shared tree, I don’t think Family Tree is it. I don’t think it is going to converge on a best state. I don’t hear people with lots of ancestors already in the tree saying information about their ancestors is improving. I constantly hear people saying their corrections revert to chaos. I think…

(We now pause for an important announcement.)

So, what is the future? Where are we going?

It’s funny you should ask. That is the topic of my luncheon presentation at the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society to be held in Las Vegas, 8-11 May 2013. It is audience participation. Bring your ideas and we will have lots of fun. It’s a great reason to attend the conference. (Oh, yeah, you can also learn tons of stuff at the real lectures.)

(We now return to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.)

..cept I don’t know if he has said anything about it publicly. While the tree works well for new contributors with no shared ancestry, I think the pressure is definitely towards personal trees.

6 comments:

  1. Regarding the convenience of downloading individual records from Ancestry to FTM, this is a mixed blessing. Having it fill in the fields, download the image, and source it is very handy. The transcriptions aren't always correct, though, and the source format is a bit strange. Also, Ancestry does not always transcribe every field, so you still need to do manual entry. It's more work but once you get past the beginner phase of genealogy you are better off entering the information yourself. I speak as one who download tons of records from Ancestry and am now having to review entries and clean them up.

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  2. "I don’t hear people with lots of ancestors already in the tree saying information about their ancestors is improving. I constantly hear people saying their corrections revert to chaos."

    People who's information about their ancestors is improving tend to have less to complain about and most of us, unfortunately, don't spend a lot of time harping on the things we're happy about.

    So, while I'm not saying that FamilyTree is perfect (not by a long-shot) I am saying that there were people complaining just as loudly about NOT being able to correct information in NFS and there are people who complain just as loudly about the incorrect information being perpetuated by the individual family trees on ancestry.com.

    For those who use FamilyTree Maker, I'm very happy that you've found a genealogical software that fits. I've attempted FamilyTree Maker several times over the years (various versions) and I don't like it. It just doesn't fit me. I'm sure that the software I use wouldn't fit many others out there (and, no, it's not PAF).

    However, it appears, if I'm reading this correctly, what we all want is Ancestry.com for free?

    And, before you ask, no, I'm not a newcomer to family history research, I've been involved in documenting and researching my family lines for nearly 30 years. No, I don't work for FamilySearch. Yes, I do have an ancestry.com account. Yes, I do use them both. (actually I'm using FamilySearch -and FamilyTree- now more than I ever did in the past because it has improved so very much and continues to do so). And, while I'm not exactly "over the hill" agewise, I'm not in the "technology generation" either -- just ask anyone who's ever tried to reach me on my cell phone (which isn't charged up most of the time) -- especially if they are sending me a text message.

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  3. My comment started to run on so much I decided to make it a post to my blog: http://enduringlegacygenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/01/ancestry-insider-required-reading-for.html

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  4. The reading of data by both FS and Ancestry is horrific. Then, people pick up incorrect "transcriptions", place in a family tree, and someone else picks it up. So, how the data gets transferred is so inconsequential if it is clearly incorrect.

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  5. Dear Ancestry Insider,

    Would you please look at postings on https://getsatisfaction.com/familysearch/topics/family_tree_merging_and_hidden_records_contained_within_nfs_combined_records and then reply on your blog about the issue of revealing "Hidden Others" in Family Tree?

    I've been unable to find a way to send you a post directly.

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  6. There are 2 Family Trees. One that church members see with ordinances and one that non members see. The non members side does not show ordinances done to their family by church members. Unless you become a member of the church you will never see the ordinances done to your family. The key is how you sign on and establish an account. Even after the church published a policy letter telling members of the church to stop. It continues to this date. So non members of the church are treated as second class citizens. I think that all the church wanted to do was collect as many names as possible with the hopes of linking to all of them. I use other sites that are more reliable and free. If I could I would delete all I have posted. My sources are missing and people go in an alter my data even after I had sources.

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