Thursday, May 23, 2013

#NGS2013 – The Future of Family History—According to You!

What fix or feature do you wish or FamilySearch would provide?
What fix or feature do you wish or FamilySearch
would provide?
At the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society, some guy did a luncheon presentation titled, “The Future of Family History—According to You!” As part of the presentation he asked audience members, “If you could see or FamilySearch fix just one thing during the next year, what would it be?” Hopefully representatives of both organizations were present taking notes. But just in case, I offer these brief notes taken by a kind attendee.
  • Stability—keep the website the same; don’t keep changing it.
  • Return search results in the same century specified.
  • Bring back Old Search on the Library Edition.
  • NEVER get rid of old search.
  • I’d like to be able to download search results.
  • Fix others’ bad trees.
  • Fix automatic-logout.
  • The ability to split a tree on Ancestry
  • Exact search: It would be nice if it was.
  • Put a big red X on bad trees
  • Computer won’t upload a tree until you’ve documented it.
  • On it would be nice to be able to go back to where you were after you’ve followed a set of links.
  • For Old Search: visual indications that you’ve already looked at certain lists or parts of it
  • Ancestry—record only once
  • Shakey leaves: documentation problems, temporary tree
  • FamilySearch: get to the catalog with one-click

We also did more long-term wish list. Here are just a few of those:

  • Map pop-up with surrounding counties
  • do a Family Tree—Wikipedia model
  • Tag cloud of FamilySearch Pod
  • Map s as existed at time of event
  • Citations written out the way they should be—in the various programs
  • Film numbers and lists of all family history centers and libraries where they are at

There was lots more. It was impossible to capture it all.

What about you? Do you have a fix you’d like to see in the next year or a feature you’d like to see in the next five? Leave a comment at


  1. More than anything I would like Ancestry and FamilySearch to have common gedcom files and printable pages!

  2. I would really like FamilySearch to stop giving totally irrelevant results, like other countries when I've specified one UK county, census when I've specified christenings. If I wanted these I'd leave that field blank.

  3. I agree with Unknown. My comment was going to be: included with your second bullet "Return search results in the same century specified" should also include same country and year range specified.

  4. desperately needs to repair their recently corrupted database indexes which are now being used to introduce user-submitted, "alternate data" junk into their purportedly document-based citations.

    This is a genealogical travesty that the community at large has yet to pick up on or address.

  5. Ancestry.Com - my number one peeve. Would like to see ancestry use correct event tags. They make almost everything "Residence" - census records - draft cards - U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, etc. This is very misleading. Would like a way to make a mass change to these event types that would syn to Family Tree Maker.

  6. I agree with Kathleen about the correct event tags ... including the ability to change a tag and leave all links, sources, etc. untouched.

    We also need the ability to transfer an entire tree intact to another user. I have started many trees for others, but there is no way to transfer the ownership when they become interested enough to take on the research themselves.

  7. Publicly viewable family history programs should not allow entry of an ancestor without a source. If someone is going to share their research or personal knowledge, they should be required to document it.

  8. I agree with Dad but perhaps not go so far as require it but to strongly encourage it - like sending nagging reminders until it is done. There is so much potentially useful information on both Ancestry and Family Search that is actually useless unless supported by source information.

  9. Quit the business, if you can't simplify the process enough for older people to use. Most amateur genealogists are older. Start catering to them instead of the younger crowd. Once you get it right, don't change it! It urks me when I ask specifically to search a certain year, place, and name, and 1,000 different years, places, and names turn up. You can do better than that, FamilySearch! And Ancestry,...don't accept undocumented, poorly researched trees! Please! And....ALL THE ABOVE.

    1. That's my main issue with ancestry.oh and with family search.

  10. My biggest wish is that the cost of researching stopped going up by the manipulation of the information that is online simply by splitting information into as many pieces as the experts can devise, and therefore a consumer is being made to pay three or four times for the same information, that it was possible to obtain 4/5 years ago on the same family history sites by asking just 1 question. I may not be making myself very clear, but I am sure that you know what I mean.
    I am an O.A.P. on a basic pension and all that I wish to do is to research my own family the best way that I can, but this new habit of splitting information into as many parts as is possible, is driving people like me away from family history.
    I have to say that the biggest culprit is my own L.F.H.S. who have been able to buy up Parish records from within the county and therefore prevent non members access to this source of information. If you want to gain access you have to pay to get what is after all free information from Parish records.

    1. I totally agree! Besides paying for a membership to I have purchased subscriptions of other sites to increase the potential to find additional information, only to find these other sources are actually owned by, just under a different name. In these case, I have cancelled those other memberships, such as Newspapers not under the name of Ancestry because it comes across as misleading.

      Also why charge a fee to those who help to index records on AC. Many people who are on fixed incomes have a difficult time paying such a high monthly fee to access these records. It is understandable there needs to be some kind of fee, but I think charges way too much especially when you consider how many subscribers they have. But the older individuals are now at a point in their lives where they can spend the time, but huge costs sway some people away from their services.

      As far as Familysearch I really enjoy their site but in your own tree it needs to be simpler to make corrections. For instance I have had people added to my tree with the completely wrong sir names that were triggered by immigration. Someone was addred to my tree as my sister who was not my sister. It took me months to get that wrong name removed. But I really apprecitate the number of records and free access. Some of the new features are great, but now it has become very difficult to locate information.

  11. one thing I would like to see is a separate tab for sources (not on the same one with facts). It's tedious and cumbersome to try to enter sources when you first have to click on the "facts and sources" tab and by default it comes up with "facts and events" so you have to click on "source citations". Once you do that the "add a fact" button changes to "add a source citation" where you finally get to add your citation. Does it have to be so convoluted? Perhaps that's why so many people don't bother to put sources in that don't automatically pop up from Ancestry. I've seen all kinds of ways people try to add their sources- from uploading documents that get listed as a pdf "story" to scanned images that aren't attached as sources to anything, etc.
    Make source citations a simple one-click button and you may get trees with better sources citations.

  12. I have another comment about the idea that information should not be allowed unless it's properly sourced. I'm not a newbie- I've been doing research for over 45 years now. I'm always grateful for any little bits of information others put out there- sourced or not. To me they are breadcrumb trails... places and time periods for me to check to see if I can find the evidence I need. I think breadcrumbs are much better than nothing to work with.
    I think everyone/anyone doing research needs to understand that anything out there without sources is "mythology" and needs to be supported with evidence- BUT people putting stuff out there- the family stories, etc are a good starting point for research. I think we should welcome all tidbits, knowing we need to back it up with our own research to prove or disprove that information.

    1. "I think everyone/anyone doing research needs to understand that anything out there without sources is "mythology" and needs to be supported with evidence..."

      This is precisely the problem that has now self-inflicted upon its databases. They are now offering user-submitted "alternate data" as a legitimate "option" when creating purportedly document-based citations. It is a frightening abrogation of genealogical citation principles and doesn't bode well for the integrity of ACOM "citations" from this point forward.

    2. ACOM didn't have much credibility to begin with. To present a database of vital records and then note that the information comes from a wildly assorted list of places, including family group sheets ... how is this accurate documentation? Family group sheets? Many are simply unsourced sheets of information copied from other unsorced sheets. Since the one record a researcher has found may be from a parish register, or an actual vital records repository, or someone's fantasy FGS, the record's credibility/validity is ruined. [My favorite was the group sheet that began with Adam & Eve. Lazy fool didn't even bother to source the earliest information as "Holy Bible."]

  13. I have and Family Tree Maker sync'd and I'd love to be able to tell the hints to ignore specific trees. I know some are really corrupt, some are old linked ones of mine that I had to abandon when my hard drive crashed, some were my students' trees and now they all show up with "hints" for me and I have no way of turning these specific trees off, even if they have been removed from

  14. I have another comment, agreeing with a previous one. Most of our society members are probably over 50, and we all need to attract younger members. However! Please stop spending all the resources on apps for mobile devices instead of making computer-based research more user-friendly!

  15. Here was my first post (operator error). I wish FamilySearch would go back to pedigree charts as they were a couple of years ago - all the info in one box per person, with relationship clearly indicated, and most of all - easily printable! I have hundreds of pages of pedigrees from those years saved as PDFs - invaluable information. Some of the family trees were downloadable as a GEDCOM. Many of the information pages on individuals had source and/or contributor data. While the new records on FamilySearch are great to have, the family tree stuff is awful. And the unsourced trees - which can be changed by anyone - are going to lead a lot of newbies down the garden path to some very erroneous family history.

  16. Yes. I got a hint for a marriage in the Drouin records. I'd love to be able to save documents that are more than one page in the viewer to the person for which I received the hint. For instance, I'm just found in the Drouin records, the record of a marriage for one of my ancestors. However it starts on one page and ends on the next. But, when you click to see page 2 and click to Save, it does not give you the option to save it to the person. Your only option is to save the 2nd page to your computer. Then, of course, I would need to upload it to Ancestry and attach it as the 2nd page of the record. All I want to do is save it to the same person I just saved page 1 to. What would be so hard about that? Thanks for letting me vent.

  17. Make all F.S. search engine "hits"--

    1) Chronological and then alpha-arranged

    2) Make ALL--
    - baptisms/births "hits" exactly that -- baptisms/births "hits". NO mix bag of hits with marriage or burials/deaths (or at LEAST make separating them optional!)
    - marriage "hits" exactly that -- marriage "hits". NO mix bag of hits with baptisms/births or death/burials/deaths (or at LEAST make them optional!)
    - Make ALL Death/burials as ALL deaths or burials - NO mix bag of entries with marriage or birth/baptisms (or at LEAST make them optional!)

  18. I got a kick out of this request: "Stability—keep the website the same; don’t keep changing it".

    Expecting web developers to keep a web site the same is like expecting roosters to stop crowing in the morning. Anyone who has been involved in computer programming of any kind knows there are always improvements to be made. The desire to implement these improvements is irresistible to web developers. That many, perhaps most, users are happy with the unimproved site is irrelevant as is the frustration of users who have to relearn how to use the site in its "improved" form.

  19. Ancestry needs to fix its indexes. Example, my ancestor Christofer Zanshone was indexed as Shrimpton Zankoth. (and the handwriting wasn't that hard to decipher) Especially the 1940 census. It's so bad I don't even bother to try using it any more; thank goodness for the FS index.

  20. I would consider cancelling all blogs. They leak too much sensitive information.

  21. FamilySearch's Family Tree ABSOLUTELY NEEDS a better ability FOR ANY USER to separate a person back into the different individuals they were before being merged into one (often done by FamilySearch). The currently available cut/delete is insufficient.

    I've seen so many persons in just one of my lines who should never have been combined to begin with that it makes me want to cry. It would take me months (years) to attempt to correct them and I still wouldn't get the A and B back to their original state (as individuals they really are) after being merged into one "frankenstein" person. (Often even more than two individuals are incorrectly merged into one person. And/Or the same wife/children are added as another wife/children to the same person.)

    We need a better UNDO so we can work on adding/sourcing the tree instead of correcting mistakes that should not have been made in the first place. Just because a name matches does not mean it is the same person -- you have to do research to gain knowledge and make an educated decision, not play a name game because "it must be combined so do it now."

    I was inspired by James Tanner's RootsTech presentation to start working with FamilyTree but gave it up -- I'd rather do genealogy than untangle the knotted ball of twine I found.

    Apparently, from what I understand at present my only option is to call/email help and hope the person I get connected to knows how to do what apparently can still be done by them in "new family search" and wait for it to get applied to Family Tree. I haven't tried it yet it seems like it will take longer for me to explain it than it would if I could do it myself.

  22. I would like to see Family Search provide some insight on the philosophy on how the designers see Family Tree being used and where they are going/what additional changes they are planning. I thought I understood, but heard somebody who supposedly is "in-the-know" outline the intentions which are 180 degrees from what I thought. A wonderful product is provided with no directions and then when it gets all messed up like New.FamilySearch, the designers wonder why.
    For example: 1) I thought the photo upload was only for photos; the "in-the-know" person said it is also for documents -- although they didn't say how to tag the documents to the events or family relationships. 2) I thought we should add sources to provide evidence of events and family relationships and so state in the reason for adding the sources; the "in-the-know" person said that it is not necessary to tag sources or provide a reason for adding a source from FamilySearch because the information is intrinsic to the source.
    Both of these situations and other information provided seems counter-intuitive to the design of the product and it isn't clear how this information is known. When asked about the lack of information to users, the "in-the-know" person agreed that that is a problem, but didn't indicate that a change to this practice had sufficient priority to warrant any resources.

  23. I recently contacted FamilySearch re FamilyTree. I wanted my view to be static according to the information I have uploaded. Sure, I'm interested in knowing others' potential matches and in having the opportunity to merge when I find credible (documented) information.

    However, I don't want it done "for me" by FamilySearch or individuals. I want to be able to decide the validity of changes. So, when I go searching "Nancy Ann Amanda McGill" in my own tree, I can locate her. According to her will, her name was Nancy Amanda McGill (nee). "Ann" was a nickname. Others (FamilySearch?) have renamed her simply "Amanda McGill", which is perhaps how people referred to her, but my name refers to her legal name.


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