Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map

Conflicts prevented me from attending two sessions at the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy that looked like they would be very good. After the fact, I heard that they were. I have been able to obtain slides for these two presentations, so I would like to report to you what I can glean from the slides. Be careful, I run the risk of misinterpretation. Also, because the presentations were about the quickly changing website, things may have changed since the conference.

Ron Tanner talks at RootsTech 2013Ron Tanner presented a session titled, “FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map.” Tanner is a product manager for the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, FamilySearch) where he leads a team doing research and design of Family Tree and companion products. He has a master’s degree in Computer Science from BYU and has previously worked as a product manager and engineer at Novell, Citrix, and Bell Laboratories.

Tanner’s slides don’t always differentiate between newly released features and soon-to-come features, many of which will have been released since his presentation. Forgive me if I speak incorrectly about a feature.

Family Tree has a Helper Function which allows one person to log in as another person, but without the helped person needing to disclose his password. I think changes to the tree are attributed to the helper on behalf of the person helped. To help a user who is a member of the Church requires the person’s full name, birth date, and a PIN number set by that person. This information is drawn from the Church’s membership record. To help a user who is not a member requires the person’s username and PIN.

One day you will be able to associate a source with a photograph rather than a URL. Pick an image you have already uploaded, or upload a new one. That photo becomes part of the source.

On day FamilySearch will migrate sources entered by users into new FamilySearch (NFS). Information from the several NFS source fields will be combined into the Family Tree citation field. The sources will be displayed with the world icon.

One day there will be a new section in the person page that will contain notes. Notes consist of a title and a text field. Once that is in place, FamilySearch can migrate NFS sources to Family Tree. They will take the individual’s notes, not those associated with individual facts. And they will take relationship notes and put them in the notes section on the couple relationships.

To impede incorrect merges, FamilySearch will add a message stating that merge is a complex process and urging users to please take the time to carefully review and choose which information should be kept.

FamilySearch will add the ability to set the preferred spouse and parents for display in pedigrees. In the Family Members of the person page, each alternate will contain a checkbox for choosing that person.

FamilySearch is adding mechanisms to impede incorrect deletion of people through increased warnings and a checklist. The warning Tanner showed stated, “It is recommended that you delete people only if you added a person by mistake or if the person never existed.” (Too bad it doesn’t recommend Merge as an alternative.) The messages next urge the user to read through the reasons the person was previously deleted and restored. Next users are presented the number of relationships that will be deleted (and presumably links to explore them) and asks if it is relationships that need to be deleted instead of the person. The user is next warned that deleting this person will delete sources, discussions, and notes; and users are given a count of each. Finally, the user is asked to provide a reason statement and fill out a short checklist:

  • I have read the other reason statements above.
  • I have reviewed the couple and child-parent relationships for this person.
  • I have included a reason statement why I feel this person should be deleted.

One day there will be a Report Abuse button in the tools section on the Person Page. FamilySearch will allow you to pick a type of abuse from a list, or to specify your own. This will cause a support case to be sent to administrators for review.

FamilySearch’s goal is to get users off of NFS and moved over to Family Tree by the end of the year. At that time NFS will become a read-only system. Users will be able to log on and view information, but not make changes.

This will be followed with the support of living persons in the tree that can have sources, photos, and stories.

FamilySearch is adding a box on the right-hand side of the person page that lists the top few matching records from Historical Records, along with a link to list them all. When you click on one, it will go right to the record where you can review it and attach it to the tree if it matches. If you click the link to see them all, you will have the capability to attach records directly or mark records as not matching.

A significant portion of the persons in NFS was originally created from extracted IGI records. These same records are available in a historical records collection. In Family Tree FamilySearch will automatically create a source for each one, referencing the record in its historical records collection.

Hopefully, sometime in the next year, FamilySearch will decommission NFS and stop synchronizing information between NFS and Family Tree. This link between the two is causing many of the problems that you see in Family Tree, including merging of some persons not being allowed, relationships coming back into Family Tree, alternate names re-appearing, inability to change genders, and inability to see membership and all temple records.

FamilySearch would like to add a set of quality indicators, such as

  • Birth (christening) after death
  • Death after burial
  • Person died young (under 8) and has spouse
  • Birth before mother/father
  • Birth (christening) before mother/father was 12
  • Birth (christening) after mother died
  • Death (Burial) before marriage date
  • Marriage date before persons are 12 years old
  • Direct relationship between people that weren't alive at the same time

He would like to add some way to impede changes to a person that is in good shape so that unskilled users don’t mess it up. This could be done by metrics, both automatic and community contributed. These might be done by checking the number of sources or a community indicator that the sources and conclusions are accurate.

FamilySearch would like to provide a mechanism for families to work together, giving each other permission to view living persons.

And there are many more things they would like to do:

  • Support for fixing bad NFS combines (I understand support can no longer do this)
  • Internal messaging system
  • Genealogical proof statements
  • Audio and video
  • Warring detection
  • Sharing ordinances
  • Bequeathing reservations
  • Google search of ancestors

So there you have it, Ron Tanner’s road map for the future of FamilySearch Family Tree—at least to the degree that I understand it from his slides.

1 comment:

  1. I have a correction about the Family Tree Helper Function. I was not at the BYU Conference so I don't know what Bro Tanner actually said but I have signed on as a Helper for a number of people so I know how it works. I don't always know if the people I am trying to help are members or not but it does not matter. The process is the same for both. All a Helper needs is the person's Contact Name and Helper Number which are found by the person going to their Settings under their name where they are signed in to Family Tree. I usually try to talk the person through fixing their own problem but if I did make a change in Family Tree it would show as if they did it. In addition, any sources the Helper saves go to the person's Source Box. This is a very handy tool for helping others who are computer literate enough to understand how to find their Settings and the information there.


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