Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Family Tree Futures

Ron TannerAt a presentation a couple of weekends ago Ron Tanner, product manager for FamilySearch Family Tree, released additional information about the future of Family Tree. A kind reader shared his notes with me.

Presently, Family Tree uses a different search algorithm than Record Search. This makes it harder to locate people in the tree. Within the next few weeks Family Tree will begin using the same search algorithm as Record Search.

Because NFS is kept in sync with Family Tree, it is not possible to merge two people in Family Tree if that would create an IOUS in NFS. (An IOUS, Individual of unusual size, is an NFS person that contains more than 250 combined records.) Once synchronization between the two systems is broken, then it will be possible to merge such duplicate individuals.

While combining is no longer possible using NFS, the same operation is still possible via third party software. However, Ron recommended not using third party software to combine people for a while. Because of the synchronization, all the Family Tree data can be changed and FamilySearch identified as the contributor. This occurs because NFS picks the summary values following a combine and the summary values are copied over to Family Tree. Family Tree sources and reasons given for conclusions could influence your decision to combine, but are not currently available via third party software. And the Not-a-Match feature of Family Tree does not block third party combines. The third party software will soon be able to do a Family Tree merge rather than an NFS combine, after which these issues will go away.

FamilySearch has a photo upload feature in beta that should be available shortly. Ron tells me that by the end of March it will be possible to take a photo of a document, upload it, and put it in a source.

Finally, there is something in the works to allow users to share information to work together on living genealogies, but it is too preliminary to give information on. Ron would love feedback if people want this.

Family Tree Update

Last week in the FamilySearch blog, David Green talked about several imminent Family Tree features. Expect these in the next couple of weeks. Below I’m semi-quoting from the article:

  • The Helper Feature available in New FamilySearch will be available for Family Tree.
  • It will be possible to restore a deleted person.
  • Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be able to request ordinances from the person page.
  • Users will be able to view and review a list of individuals designated as Not a Match.
  • Match merge will allow users to switch records back and forth from the left and right side of the page. (While Family Tree is sharing data with there will be some requirements for some persons to be on the left side and will not be switchable.)
  • If a merge fails, specific error messages will appear providing information on why the merge could not complete the merge and what to do.
  • Family Tree will allow users to print family group records and pedigree charts in PDF format.

Finally, access to will be discontinued in the near future.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Fixing Errors in Other Databases

In response to my article “ Fixes 1850 Errors,” reader Jim asked if Ancestry might be nudged to fix errors in the 1830 census also. I asked spokesperson, Matthew Deighton, if other fixes were in the works.

Deighton said that Ancestry regularly reworks “existing collections to increase the breadth of the collection, fix errors in keying, and update the usability and ease of search.” Ancestry reworked 150 databases in 2012, most of which were online for eight years or more. “We need to make a nice balance between digitizing and indexing collections never seen before and improving the current collections,” he said.

Deighton provided a list of some collection improvements, which I quote:

  • 1891 England Census – Update with some pages and over 30,000 records that had been missed. Fixed some spelling errors in place names that were causing parishes to be in the wrong counties. Also fixed similar spelling issues in birthplaces.
  • 1861 England Census – Updated with some pages and several hundred records that had been missed, corrected spelling of some parishes, for instance East Mousley and West Mousley in Surrey to East Molesey and West Moulsey respectively.
  • California, Death Index, 1940-1997 – added over 1.5 million records. Removed SS numbers to be in compliance with most recent privacy policies
  • 1920 US Census – fixed on location where pages were out of order on film, but we ordered them to be more readable online and fix some issues with family grouping that was a result of the out of order family members. Fixed some other  back end issues with the relationship field to improve family groupings. This collection will be reviewed again in 2013 to see if any major updates need to be made.
  • 1900 US Census – addressed complaints reported by members, fixing about 2 dozen instances of spelling issues with place names or towns assigned to the wrong county, correcting place information for thousands of records.  Adjusted about 3 places where the records were not linking to the image correctly and opened up additional fields like gender, marital status, years married, etc. for user contributed corrections to be made. No new records were added. This collection will be reviewed again in 2013 to see what else might be done.
  • 1830 US Census – In Mar 2012 fixed about 6 locations where images and records on those images were assigned to the wrong town or county. One outstanding error that was missed is scheduled to be fixed Jan 24, 2013. [I received this message prior to the 24th. --AI] Fixed some misspellings in the names that were resulting in profane words. [Doesn’t that make you curious?]
  • 1800 US Census – added about 1,500 records that were from images that had been missed. Fixed 6 instances where records were listed under the incorrect location or county correction thousands of records. Included instances where 3 different townships were on an image but all records had been attributed to a single location.

I saw when I was at Ancestry that errors were queued up for fixing. However, there are a number of reasons why your individual errors don’t appear to get fixed. It isn’t feasible to make such corrections immediately. Some collections are lightly used and don’t warrant expensive rework. Some errors are not escalated by customer service reps who may not understand records enough to confidently declare to superiors that errors exist.

Ancestry is extending its new, cool census interface to new censuses, so they’ve had to touch these censuses anyways. That’s aligned the planets for repair of known problems. Hopefully, your errors in the above censuses got fixed. If you have errors in other censuses, now is the time to get them on the list.

What about it? Did your favorite errors get fixed?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Required Reading for FamilySearch

Dear Ancestry Insider,


I have been following your comments on NFS as well as, 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.

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 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 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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 Rethinking New Search? survey invitation headerThanks to an alert reader, I’ve found out that last month sent out a survey to a few of its users soliciting feedback about its search system:

If you have a few spare minutes, we would love to get your feedback on your experiences with search on Our goal for search is to make it easy for you to find all the records about your ancestor as easily as possible. Your responses to this short survey will let us know how well we are meeting this goal, and will help us to prioritize areas for improvement.

The survey was indeed brief. Ancestry asked about search usage, satisfaction, accuracy of results, and relevancy of results.

I’ve had many discussions with colleagues, both while at Ancestry and while at FamilySearch about Ancestry’s “New Search.” In these colleagiate discussions, the number of search results often came up. People who had no indigestion when Google returned 43,000 results experienced consternation when New Search returned 4,300. (Ancestry doesn’t expect you to review all 4,300, folks.)

In the survey Ancestry asked about the number of search results. Were there too many? Just about right? Too few?

(BTW, what’s up using the word “new,” as in “New Search” or “New FamilySearch?”Do these people think they will never replace the “new” system? How confusing was it when the new came out, making no longer new? 

I’ve got an idea. Let’s start calling FamilySearch Family Tree “Newer FamilySearch.”

But I digress…)

A premise behind New Search is that it is good to return results that only partially match the search criteria. These results are valuable, according to the premise, because they contain unexpected, but relevant records. The search is also more resilient against mistakes in records, such as indexing errors or mistakes by record creators. A name can be misspelled. A birthplace can be misreported. New Search could often find these records.

Ancestry asked outright if users “prefer for to suggest potential record matches, even when they do not exactly match [the] search query.” They asked how well they are doing at finding records that don’t exactly match the search query and if makes it hard to find intended records.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it sounds to me like Ancestry is reexamining the premise behind New Search. It will be interesting to see how Ancestry proceeds. Stay tuned…

What’s your experience? Do they return too many results? Is the long list of results a price you’re willing to pay to find records with errors? How often does Ancestry find—correctly find—records you weren’t expecting?

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Monday Mailbox: NFS and Mustaches

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Is there any truth to the rumor that we have heard the the new.familysearch site will be left online as a read only site? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Richard St Clair

Dear Richard,

I don’t know.

I hear things, but none from any authoritative source and none mentioned publicly. I’m guessing (hoping?) that it will be left online for some interim amount of time. There are things you just can’t get in Family Tree.

For example, while membership records from many Churches are available as Historical Record Collections, records for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are only available inside

(Did I just say that out loud?)

--The Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

[Regarding the article, “ Incremental Improvements,”]

I can't seem to recreate your first screen shot with the red arrows which gives the option to search immigration & naturalization, military, probate, etc. Can you provide steps to that screen? Thank you.

Phyllis *

Dear Phyllis,

Sorry about that. My big, thick arrows, besides looking like a big, asymmetric mustache, obscure parts of the interface.

Underneath the First Names box it says, “Restrict records by.” To the right of that are three choices: Location, Type, and Batch Number. Clicking any of these links toggles the visibility of the option. To see the record types such as Immigration & Naturalizations, click on Type. To hide them, click Type again.

By default, Country is visible. If that is causing you problems, click Location to hide it.

--The Insider

Dear readers from outside the U.S.,

Some of you might wonder what M.L.K. stands for. Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., a clergyman, leader, activist, and iconic American who did much to advance racial equality in the United States. He was assassinated in 1968.

--The Insider

Thursday, January 17, 2013 Fixes 1850 Errors

Many of you have complained about the misindexed abbreviations of Now Ancestry has gone back and reworked the 1850 United States Federal Census to correct these errors, among others.

Many of us are familiar with seeing old style name abbreviations formed by leaving out intermediate letters and elevating the last letter of the name. Peter becomes Petr. James becomes Jams. Samuel becomes Saml. The propensity to abbreviate in this fashion seems to have applied to some place names. Florida was abbreviated Fla. Georgia was Ga. Pennsylvania was sometimes abbreviated Penna. Indiana was sometimes abbreviated Ia.

That style persists in many U.S. Postal Service two letter state abbreviations such as GA for Ga. and PA for Penna. Florida and Indiana are not among them. Fla. is now FL and Ia. is now IN.

Ia. is the wildcard that threw off Ancestry’s 1850 census. (See Geolover’s comment to “Monday Mailbox: Indexing Place Names.”) While back in the 19th century Ia meant Indiana to Indianans, to young people today IA is always Iowa.

Two years ago in my article “The World Has Had Enough of Silly Presentisms” I presented the case of John Houts, 2 months old, born in Ia, and enumerated in Shawnee, Fountain, Indiana. Both and had it wrong:

In 2011 both and had indexed John Houts wrong
This is how and used to look.

I’ve checked and now has this case correct. Their indexing rule of “key what you see” probably made it relatively easy for them to re-expand all Ia abbreviations in the state of Indiana.

I’ve checked and they still have it incorrect. Their policy of having indexers expand abbreviations has left them no way to correct such errors. They don’t know if the original record stated Ia or Iowa. They also give users no way to provide corrections. But I digress…

What about your favorite errors in Ancestry’s 1850 census? Have they fixed them?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ancestral File Tree View

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).

Old style printed genealogy pedigree chart

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.

Classic genealogy pedigree chart

The classic 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:

New Ancestral File pedigree chart

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

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.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Incremental Improvements

FamilySearch search with country and record type restrictionsI’ve noticed several improvements in recently. One is pretty major, the other two small increments.

Restrict Records by Location or Record Type

On large websites like and one challenge is reading the mind of the researcher. Sometimes a researcher is interested in casting a wide net, finding all mentions of an ancestor, such as a parish record of English birth, a record of immigration to the United States, a U.S. census record, and marriage and death records. And not just his own, but the researcher would like the records where the ancestor is mentioned as a parent in the marriage and death records of his children.

On the other hand, sometimes the researcher is looking for the ancestor’s English christening record. The complaint is often heard,”Why are you giving me U.S. census records?”

FamilySearch now allows restricting records by country and record type. By default, the country fields is visible but the record type checkboxes are hidden. Click the link to make the respective section visible.

This is a welcome, major addition.

Image Load Time

On my DSL connection at home images used to take near a half-minute to load. Now images start to appear in a couple of seconds, albeit fuzzy. It only takes a few more seconds for the image to finish loading. Meanwhile, detail is often clear enough I can start zooming in on an area of interest.

It also feels like I can zoom in further. Does anyone else feel that way?

FamilySearch catalog search supports multiple criteriaCatalog

The new FamilySearch catalog (as opposed to the old, classic FHLC catalog) can be searched by multiple criteria.

For example, in the old catalog a surname search (now called a Last Names search) for Gates returned 259 results. But adding an Author name of Gates cuts the results to 25.

Click on a “Search by” option to reveal the respective search box.

I like incremental improvements. I know some people don’t like a website constantly changing. They would rather have a website stable for years at a time, with all the changes saved up and released all at once. Me? I’m an incrementalist. I’m glad we have these new improvements sooner than later.

Monday, January 14, 2013

FamilySearch Increasing Camera Operations by 60%

Missionary Brent Heineken carries box of records
in Tacoma, Wash.
Image: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
The Church News of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently ran an article about record preservation missionaries manning cameras for FamilySearch. (FamilySearch is wholly owned and operated by the Church.) Here’s information and quotes I’ve gleaned from the article.

FamilySearch has 200 teams in 45 countries capturing digital photographs of historical records, according to Paul Nauta, FamilySearch marketing communications manager. (If I understand correctly, FamilySearch still has a couple of microfilm cameras still in operation. But I digress…)

“FamilySearch plans to significantly expand its digital preservation efforts starting this year,” he said. About 80 of the teams are missionary couples and FamilySearch hopes to increase that number to 200 this year and even more in 2014 and 2015.

“We're now producing, online, about 400 million digital images a year,” Nauta said. “The bulk of that, about 250 to 300 million images, is coming from vault conversion.” As the conversion of microfilm in the FamilySearch vault tapers down, FamilySearch hopes to maintain the 400 million annual publication rate by increasing the number of camera teams in the field. About 80 million historic images came from the field last year and the number is expected to increase to about 100 this year.

Most of the article is a pitch to retired couples of the Church to volunteer as record preservation missionaries.

“We need volunteers to go out and help us now as we continue to gather new records,” said Nauta. “They will handle priceless historical documents — in some cases older than the U.S. Declaration of Independence,” he said. “In essence, they are helping preserve the literal heritage of a nation and the world for future generations.”

“Records preservation missionaries can serve for one to two years,” he said. “They can serve locally or internationally and choose where they want to serve.”

Map of current record preservation missionary opportunities
Map of current, full time opportunities.

According to the article,

Couples interested in serving in the records preservation effort can learn more about it by going to the website There they may watch an explanatory video titled "A Day in the Life of a FamilySearch Records Preservation Missionary."

They may also contact coordinator Tim Law (for part-time opportunities) at (800)453-3860, extension 24963; or coordinator Karma Tomlinson (for full-time opportunities) at (800)453-3860, extension 24546.

To read the article in its entirety, see “Family History: Preserving the World’s Records,” by R. Scott Lloyd.

Friday, January 11, 2013

National, Regional, State, and International Conferences

Logo for the Conference Keeper websiteIf you’re interested in attending genealogy conferences (and you really should be), check out Jen Baldwin’s Conference Keeper website.

I’m lucky to live close to a number of conferences, and to have an employer that permits me to attend them. Here’s Conference Keeper’s listings for several I hope to attend.

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy

January 14 - 18, 2013: Salt Lake City, Utah


RootsTech 2013

March 21 - 23, 2013: Salt Lake City, Utah


NGS Family History Conference

May 8 - 11, 2013: Las Vegas, Nevada. 


44th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy

July 30 - Aug 2, 2013; Provo, UT.


Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference

Aug 21-24, 2013; Fort Wayne, IN. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Searching search formSearching is not a one size fits all. Depending on what you are searching for, you need to use a different search system. Don’t think that because you’ve searched from the home page that you’ve searched everything that FamilySearch has to offer.

I’ve heard FamilySearch criticized on that point. Here are the different search systems. Searching any of these does not search any of the others.

While some of these systems could or should be combined, many should not. Why?

1. Context, context, context

A Google search for [Saint Mary] is almost never going to return what I am looking for. Google will desperately grasp at context. Past the Wikipedia article of Saint Mary, mother of Jesus (always a good Google guess), Google uses my location in Salt Lake City to return an article about “Saint Mary’s Home for Men of Salt Lake City.” Then it uses my search history and returns a link to this article, since I often select articles on Beyond that, Google pretty much depends on a popularity contest with no idea of what I am looking for.

Things change on I might do an exact search of the 1940 census for last name Saint Mary. I might do a location search in the catalog for Saint Mary. I might do an FHC search for Saint Mary. I might search Family Tree for first name Mary and last name Saint. I might search immigration record collections for a ship named Saint Mary. (OK. Actually, I can’t do that on FamilySearch, since they have yet to implement collection-specific search fields. However, I can do that on But I digress…)

In each of these cases each search system uses its context to determine my intent.

If one unified search system could read my mind, a combined search would be great. But somehow I want my search system(s) to know the difference between a person and a place. I don’t want my search system to give me results in poorly documented conclusion trees when I intend to search census and vital records. Nor do I want results from the English BMD indexes when I want a pedigree. I don’t want a golfer’s ancestors when I am searching for an online course about handwriting.

2. Error rate has been down the single search path before and learned some things. Because of what they learned, they separated these three search types—search for a person in a record, a person in a tree, and a person in a book—into three buckets that can be individually searched.

One measure of error is the number of false positives. A false positive is a search result that is wrong. Ancestry found that the false positive rate for books and newspapers was extremely high. Correct results from record collections (like census and vital records) were buried in false positives so deeply they never saw the light of day.

So should any of these searches be combined? I think so.

Could the searches of all tree systems be merged? Yes, I think that would be great. (I’d have to think about it, but you might be able to throw in user submitted IGI also.)

Could searches for places in the Wiki and online learning courses be merged? I think so. Place names in collection titles? Yes. What about catalog place search? Maybe. A good UI (user interface) might make all this work.

Until then, be aware that searching from the home page of does not search everything.

Monday, January 7, 2013

FamilySearch Mobile Indexing App Withdrawn

FamilySearch Indexing App
Image Credit: © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
“In February 2012, FamilySearch quietly launched a beta test of a FamilySearch indexing mobile app for the IOS and Android platforms,” Michael Judson, FamilySearch Indexing spokesperson, said last month. “At this point, we feel we have enough beta testers and have decided to restrict the app from further downloading.” The withdrawal of the app from the app store occurred mid-December.

I briefly mentioned the existence of the app back on 3 February 2012 and reviewed it in June 2012. (See “FamilySearch Indexing on iPad,” “The Betaness of FamilySearch iPad Indexing,” and “FamilySearch Indexing App Q and A.”)

Judson went on to say something that made me wonder if the beta program is winding down. He said that current mobile indexers could continue to do, but only a limited number of new snippets would be produced.

I’ve wondered if and when collections indexed might be published. Judson said, “all information indexed on the mobile app will eventually become part of the searchable collection on”

When you say “beta test” to me, as an old software developer, I think of a final test before a product is released. This was not the case for the Mobile Indexing app. The purpose of this beta test was to

  • gauge overall interest in mobile indexing,
  • get feedback on the product design,
  • and determine the relative effectiveness of the mobile approach vs. the traditional desktop indexing approach.

Interest was deemed to be high. The app was downloaded more than 150,000 times and more than 21,000 individuals used it each month.

FamilySearch received feedback and Judson promised it would be used to help improve the product.

Relatively, the production of mobile indexers was discovered to be far less than desktop indexers. Further, the cost of preparing indexing batches of name snippets is expensive.

So what is the future of mobile indexing from FamilySearch? “We know the beta test has raised the anticipation level for some,” he said, “so we ask for patience as we continue to work toward delivering a truly effective mobile solution. FamilySearch is committed to getting this right.”

Other FamilySearch Indexing Numbers

As of 14 December 2012, the regular FamilySearch Indexing program had produced:

  • 950,826,364 total records completed
  • 255,339,985 records completed in 2012 (at this rate the grand total will surpass one billion in 2013!)
  • 337,355 contributors in 2012
  • 197 current projects

Thursday, January 3, 2013 Discloses 2013 Plans recently disclosed its plans for new databases coming in 2013:

  • More yearbooks and detailed 19th-century student lists from select U.S. colleges
  • Occupational records from railroads in the U.S. and engineers in the UK
  • More New York state census years
  • More World War II draft cards
  • Interactive census experience for 20th-century censuses from the U.S., UK, and Canada
  • More birth, marriage, and death records from the Northeast.
  • “Deeper connections to early ancestors with AncestryDNA.” (Whatever that means.)
  • Additional African-American military records and newspapers
  • Jewish records created in the U.S. and overseas.
  • Puerto Rico records
  • Asian immigration files
  • Upgraded mobile app able to search
  • Additional birth, marriage, and death records from the UK, Germany, and Sweden
  • UK divorce records
  • Lord Morpeth’s roll from Ireland
  • More Canadian military records
  • Quaker church records
  • A collection of Texas death certificates
  • Confederate casualty lists
  • Prisoner of war registers from the War of 1812
  • American Loyalists’ claims
  • Canadian ship muster rolls and paylists
  • Additional alien depositions
  • Alien draft registrations from the southwest U.S.
  • Lists of passengers arriving in Canada from the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company
  • Updates to the Hamburg departing passenger lists
  • All new departures from the UK
  • Associated Press records
  • Civil War death records
  • Land records from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia
  • Enhancements to Family Tree Maker that will let you update your family tree from multiple computers