I mentioned Monday that FamilySearch has a dubious past when it comes to sources. Fortunately, FamilySearch’s current product managers get it.
- One major design goal of Family Tree is source-centricity.
- Citations have been added to records.
- Source Box has been added to Family Tree.
- Family Tree sources can be linked to records.
I’m an incrementalist, so I’m happy with this constant stream of improvements. Kudos to FamilySearch.
It has not always been so. Consider FamilySearch’s historical disregard for sources:
- Early Family group sheets: had no space for citations.
- Four generation program: family group sheets had miniscule space for citations.
- Individual and marriage entry forms: The source information listed on these forms was discarded when these forms were keyed into the Community Contributed IGI.
- The Parish and Vital Records List (PVRL): published on fiche, listed all the sources in the Community Indexed IGI. This information has been discarded.
- Early PAF: contained no structured citation support. Citations had to be typed into the notes.
- GEDCOM: doesn’t support transfer of structured citations without loss. (Maybe Randy Seaver can leave a comment with a link to the tests he ran.) Even though most of today’s family tree products support citations for dozens of source types, FamilySearch has gone years without adding support to the GEDCOM standard.
- Ancestral File: source information was discarded from patron submissions.
- TempleReady: no longer required sources for temple submissions. Worse, any source information present was discarded.
- Record collections: are published without coverage information. Records from multiple archives are stuck together into single collections and the source citations don’t identify the archives that particular records come from. Volume names are no where to be found. Images are displayed on screen and saved to disk without citations. Records are copied to the clipboard without citations. (Fortunately, enough information is given to get back to the online record.) Images are printed without citations. (Fortunately, enough information is given to get back to the online images, though not the offline originals.)
- new FamilySearch Tree (NFS): source lists do not use standard citation formats. If you’ve ever viewed an NFS source list report you can see the illegible consequences. Family Tree doesn’t support source list reports at all.
- NFS and Family Tree: do not require sources, even though the tree is intended for collaboration. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, NFS and Family Tree do not cite sources for information about temple work, presenting this all-important information without proof.
- Family Tree: doesn’t have the structured citation entry that desktop programs have.
And Suzanne’s complaint from Monday’s mailbox:
- NFS and Family Tree: do not support the transfer of sources to and from desktop programs.
Much still needs to be done. Some of these past mistakes will take years to overcome. Some are uncorrectable. Here’s hoping FamilySearch will never revert to its historical behavior because “genealogy without sources is mythology.”1
1 It is more than a little ironic that I don’t know the source for that quote.