Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ancestry.com Seeking Senior Product Manager in Ireland

Ancestry.com seeking job candidatesI don’t know if this means Ancestry.com is expanding their Irish offering or the Ireland presence, but they are advertising for a “Senior Product Manager, Ancestry.com, Ireland.”

Ancestry.com is looking for an experienced Senior Product Manager to manage the creation of a new content product. This role will focus on implementing and driving the product and consumer experience. You will be leading the entire product experience single-handedly in a small entrepreneurial team within the company.

In the posting Ancestry.com discloses that they now have 2.0 million subscribers, 39 million member trees containing 4 billion profiles, and over 1,000 employees.

Ancestry.com is also seeking multiple marketing people for their London office.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FamilySearch Prepping to Move Source From NFS to Family Tree

An example of an NFS sourceFamilySearch recently told users that they are preparing to move some of the sources from new.FamilySearch.org (NFS) to FamilySearch Family Tree. In an email to source contributors, they said, “If you created sources in new.familysearch.org and do not want to have them transferred to Family Tree, please let us know by clicking on the link below and entering the information requested.”

The option to not migrate sources to Family Tree is provided for people like Heather McPhie. She wrote,

There are some patrons (myself being one of them) who spent hundreds of hours in NFS adding sources, but found that the formatting in FT is so much superior to the NFS formatting that we are working to add those sources again using the FT formatting. There have been a lot of requests to allow patrons to opt in or out of having their sources brought over from NFS. I, for one, do not want my NFS sources brought over since a lot of them are now duplicates. I know others who feel this way, too.

Last month Ron Tanner wrote,

In a few weeks we will be sending out a survey to ask people if they want their NFS sources brought over or not. Those who choose to not move them over, we will not migrate their entered sources. For everyone else we will migrate their entered sources. Essentially the form in nFS was to generate a citation. We will collapse these pieces to create a citation and titles[.] [O]ther information will be in the notes. We will create sources for you (they will appear in your source box) and attach them to the person they are on in nFS.

Terrence Mason suggested that the survey include examples showing how the transferred sources would look so he could make an informed decision. NFS sources have 18 fields (see above illustration). Family Tree has four.

Regardless, many users have voiced their desire to have their sources migrated and will be happy to see it take place.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Student Rate Announced For #FGS2013

The Ancestry Insider is an FGS 2013 ambassadorThe Federation of Genealogical Societies has announced a terrific student rate for their 2013 annual conference. Students can register for $40 for the entire conference, or $25 for a single day.

“To show support for involving youth in genealogy, the Federation of Genealogical Societies is excited to announce that for this year’s FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, it has established a discounted student rate,” wrote Dawne Slater-Putt, FGS representative.

The offer is open to students of all ages, “from elementary school to graduate school, attending public, private or parochial institutions.”

For more information, check the FGS Conference blog.

Remember that the early-bird registration deadline is July 1st. Save $50 off the regular price of $240. Visit the conference registration page for more information.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Family History Library and Cafeteria Closure

The FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake CitySome patrons of the FamilySearch Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City avail themselves of the cafeteria in the basement of the Church Office Building, two blocks directly east of the library.

Starting Monday, the cafeteria proper will be closed for remodeling through August 5th. During the remodeling, lunch will be available to employees on the 26th floor from 11:00 to 1:30, Monday through Friday.

Access to the 26th floor requires an employee escort, and I have been unable to ascertain if or how the facility will be available to patrons of the library. Before you trek over to the cafeteria, I recommend you inquire at the front desk. For the first several days, they may not be aware that the remodeling is occurring, so I would ask specifically about the “26th floor cafeteria.”

The more I think about it, the less I think library patrons will have access without an escort. Doing so would bypass building security.

Employees who wish to escort guests to the 26th floor must get guest passes from department administrative assistants. Church Service Missionaries without employee badges must show their missionary badges to the security officer to obtain access to the elevator.

The menu will include soups and breads, main dishes and sides, pizza, a specialty sandwich of the day, a grilled sandwich of the day, hot dogs, desserts and cookies, canned and bottled drinks, grab and go items, and a salad bar “of the day.” Ice and drinking water will not be available, but bottled water will be sold for $.25 per bottle (during lunch hours).

I’m sure the library staff can direct you to alternatives in the downtown area available by foot or by Trax, the Salt Lake City light rail system.

Friday, June 21, 2013

PAF is Dead

After several rumors and sputters in recent years, FamilySearch has made an official announcement. PAF is dead.

The announcement was made in several venues. One came as a small item buried in a newsletter to family history consultants:

imagePersonal Ancestral File (PAF) is Discontinued

Beginning July 15, 2013, PAF will be retired and will no longer be available for download or support. For more details on this PAF announcement, click here.

A more lengthy announcement was posted to the FamilySearch blog.

“For the last several years, FamilySearch has focused on building relationships with partner organizations to deliver better overall services to the market,” wrote David Pugmire. “The past several years have seen Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree, and RootsMagic introduced as significantly better alternatives to PAF.” Each of these products support two-way synchronization with FamilySearch Family Tree. I assume products like Ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker were not listed because they lack this synchronization. (Compatible products are listed at https://familysearch.org/products/.)

Yesterday, 20 June 2013, RootsMagic announced that it is “Share+” (notice the “+”) certified to work with Family Tree. This makes RootsMagic 6 the first product to support desktop access to some of the collaborative features of Family Tree. These include discussions, sources, watch and change history.

For more information about the discontinuation of PAF, see http://familysearch.org/PAF.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

FamilySearch Image Restrictions

Sometimes access is restrictedArchives and other record custodians have the dual and conflicting missions of protecting records and making them accessible. When FamilySearch negotiates contracts with record custodians to photograph, digitize, and post records online, record custodians often wrestle with the proper balance between these two. Access to images on FamilySearch.org is sometimes restricted in some fashion by contractual agreement with the record custodian. I’ve written about this before in “South David Fair: Selective Blindness,” and “Make More Data Free.” Since the last time I presented examples, a couple of new flavors have shown up.

Here is a list of restrictions, with example collections.

UPDATE: THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PROVIDED EXAMPLES. I’VE INCORPORATED SOME OF THEM HERE.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Found Another Photo of Me at NGS2013

image

If you’re new to my blog, you may not be aware that I am the Wilson of genealogy bloggers. Julie Miller took this photograph of the Official Blogger Media Center, accidentally capturing me. I’m the one in blue in the back, behind Kathryn Doyle, behind Randy Seaver.

See more photos from Julie in her article: “Day 2 of the NGS Family History Conference -- just as busy and exciting as Day 1.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Ancestry Insider is an #FGS2013 Ambassador

The Ancestry Insider is an FGS 2013 ambassadorI have volunteered to be an ambassador for the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The conference is scheduled for 21-24 August 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I knew I had to go to this conference the moment I saw the cover of the brochure:

The planet on the cover of the FGS 2013 conference brochure

Apparently, the mission of “the Federation” is “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new lives and new generations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”

Certainly, I’ve never been to Fort Wayne, Indiana or the famous Allen County Public Library. The Genealogy Center there is world class and I am looking forward to exploring it.

We are fast approaching the Early Bird Deadline on July 1st. Register in June to save $50 off a full conference registration. Visit the conference home page to learn more about the conference and the registration page to register.

The prime directive is to maximize your learning at the conference and at the ACPL library. Live long and prosper.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

#NGS2013 Recordings Now Available

NGS 2013 Official BloggerThe National Genealogical Society has announced that “recordings of lectures presented at the NGS 2013 Family History Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 8–11 May 2013 are now available from JAMB, Inc. The CDs may be purchased from the JAMB online store for $12.00 each. A full list of available lecture CDs can be found on their website at http://www.jamb-inc.com/genealogy/ngs/2013-ngs-conference-las-vegas-nv.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FamilySearch.org Photo Frustration

FamilySearch.org has two systems of people, tree people and photo peopleAncestry.com member trees have persons and photos. Photos can be linked to persons. Simple.

The Tree section of FamilySearch.org has persons. The Photos section of FamilySearch.org has its own set of persons. Photos can be linked (tagged) to photo persons which can be linked (connected) to tree persons.

FamilySearch Family Tree has one set of deceased tree persons. FamilySearch Photos has photo persons that are unique to each user.

Two tree people can have the same name. Two photo people cannot. Each photo person must have a unique name.

Tree people can be assigned facts like name, birth date, and death date. These can be used to distinguish tree people with the same name. Photo people only have a name. One way to distinguish photo persons is to add the birth and death years to the person’s name.

Can a photo person have a different portrait from a tree person which can be different for each user? I’m totally confused on this point.

Should the same person be mistakenly entered twice, two tree persons can be merged. For two photo persons, delete one and reattach all its photos to the surviving photo person. The Help Center describes this eight step process. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for each photo.

  1. Find the duplicate ancestors in your People Photos section.
  2. Determine which ancestor appearing on the list is the duplicate that you would like to delete. Often you can tell by the default image you have selected. Usually the default image is the first tagged image that was uploaded. **Remember this image, as it will help you to know which name to untag in step 6 below.**
  3. Select the duplicate ancestor photo from the People Photos section by clicking on the person's photo.
  4. Click the View Family Tree link (if it is linked to an ID number in Family Tree), and click Unlink to unlink it from the Family Tree.
  5. The photos tagged by the duplicate ancestor account will now be shown. (Often at this step the program will change from displaying many photos to just a couple. This is because the photos are no longer associated with the other ancestor account through the ID number that you unlinked).
  6. Click on each photo listed, and untag the incorrect duplicate account name from the photo. Use the default image to determine if it is the duplicate account name. Also, the unlinked account will appear with a red exclamation point.
  7. Retag the same photo with the correct ancestor's name if it is not yet tagged. Determine this by confirming the default image associated with the ancestor's name you are typing. 
  8. Reload the People Photos section to confirm the second ancestor is now deleted.

On Ancestry.com with its one set of persons, if I change a person’s name, I change it once. Likewise with birth and death years. On FamilySearch.org with its two sets of persons, I must change it twice, once for the tree person and once for the photo person. Likewise with birth and death years if they have been used to make the photo person name unique.

In my opinion FamilySearch needs to unify its two systems of persons.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

FamilySearch.org Announces GEDCOM X Progress

GEDCOM XIn an email to developers on 4 June 2013, FamilySearch announced “the first stable milestone release of the core GEDCOM X specification set.” The announcement was repeated in a public GEDCOM X blog post on the GEDCOM X website, www.gedcomx.org.

The email was targeted to software engineers, so it is pretty technical. Release of a specification does not mean there are any products or apps that utilize GEDCOM X yet. It doesn’t mean that anyone (besides FamilySearch) is or will use it.

The “GEDCOM X Conceptual Model” does mention sources, one of the key deficiencies in the current GEDCOM standard.

The GEDCOM X website states that “the free flow of genealogical data will enable every individual to:

  • Discover their family and heritage, preserve their identity, and publish their life story.
  • Reduce duplication of sources, relationships, and identities.
  • Identify people in photos, in documents, on gravestones, and in other sources of information.
  • Keep track of the progress made in family research.
  • Distribute and share genealogical information with others.”

A Google site search of familysearch.org for "GEDCOM X" reveals a page in the FamilySearch Developer Center that states that “GEDCOM X is capable of preserving rich media content in a new file format” (emphasis in the original). This is another of the key deficiencies in the current GEDCOM standard.

The page also states that “the FamilySearch Family Tree API is built on this specification.” I interpret this to mean that products that are Family Tree (FT) certified are already using the GEDCOM X specification to some degree.

A Google site search of familysearch.org for '"FHISO" shows two mentions on the FamilySearch.org website. One page encourages participation in technology communities working on family history, including “FHISO: An international organization created to develop standards for the digital representation and sharing of family history and genealogical information.”

The other leads to comments on a blog post about David Rencher, FamilySearch chief genealogical officer. One commenter, Michael McCormick, wrote, “No one at FamilySearch in PR or GEDCOMX responds to my request for a statement about FHISO relations.” Another commenter, Steve Anderson, posted this reply:

FamilySearch applauds and encourages industry standards that enable families to connect with their past, present and future. Where we have the need to share between different products and systems, we are looking at how we can best do so. Due to limited resources we have chosen not to participate in joint standards development at this time. If an industry standard emerges, we would seriously consider implementing it. When it is ready, we are open to submitting our own work, GEDCOMX, as the basis for a standard.

Over the weekend FHISO, the Family History Information Standards Organisation, announced the appointment of Drew Smith as the first Chair of FHISO, effective 1 July 2013. Drew is currently the Organisational Member Representative to FHISO from the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). In the press release announcing Smith's appointment, he is quoted as saying, "I recognize the critical importance of information standards, and as a long-time genealogist, I understand the needs of the world’s genealogy product and service vendors, repositories, societies, and individuals to collaborate and to share family history information. I look forward to leading an international effort to support the creation of these essential information standards." Smith's appointment drew support from FHISO members, Brightsolid, Ancestry.com, RootsMagic, and others. See the complete press release on the FHISO website.

I’m glad to see the progress of GEDCOM X and FHISO. The community has waited a long time for a successor to the current GEDCOM standard. It is encouraging to see any progress towards an updated standard.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ancestry.com Revisiting Search

Ancestry.com is refocusing and reinvesting in the search experienceAncestry.com is refocusing and reinvesting in the search experience, said Katharine Nester, director of product, and Dave Menninger, UX lead designer. Ancestry.com held private briefings with bloggers earlier this week to unveil several new search concepts. These concepts are still under investigation. Some might never see the light of day. Others might be changed from what we were shown, so we were asked not to show screen shots.

For several years investment has been elsewhere: providing hints (shaky leaves), a new image viewer, and the 1940 census. Now Ancestry.com is investing again in the search experience because of the big impact it has on customer satisfaction.

Part of that investment goes behind the scenes, changing infrastructure, improving performance, maintaining browser compatibility, and automating some steps in the publication process. Part of the investment will make a direct impact on users’ search experience.

Better Use of Context

“Our results do not take into account records a user has already found or reviewed,” Nester said. Ancestry.com can make better use of user context. With 86% of subscribers having a member tree and at least 50% of searches specifying a person in the tree, the tree can be used to provide context and to capture context about the search for an ancestor.

The search engine (system) already indicates what records in the search results you have already attached to that person. Many times a person is expected to appear in a collection only once. So if a result from, say, the 1940 census is already attached to the person in the tree, the search engine could be told to ignore that collection.

Today users can review a search result and say “yes” that is my guy by attaching the record to their tree. Tomorrow users may be able to say yes, no, or maybe. A user would specify that a record is not a match for a person in their tree so that they were never shown that record again. (There would be some mechanism to see them, just not in the regular search results). If a record might be a match, they could stick it in a shoebox specific to that person.

Ancestry.com is looking at better ways to facilitate comparison of the information in the record and the information in the tree. Today minimal information from the tree is shown in a box above the top of the search results. Tomorrow a fuller set of information might be shown side-by-side. Tomorrow a map might show the location indicated in the record versus other locations where the person was known to exist.

Refining Search Results

Ancestry.com is considering several ways of filtering the number of search results, at the same time revealing the power of the match options currently available for each field on the advanced search page (like Soundex, exact match, adjacent county, and so forth).

The Google Maps magnification sliderOne concept is to use sliders (like the Google Maps slider shown to the right). A slider would be provided for each search parameter, like first name, last name, location, and date. Zooming in would correspond to narrowing the number of results.

Location might zoom from match on anywhere within the country, to states and adjacent states, to specified state, to county and adjacent counties, to county, or finally to exactly specified location. Date would narrow the range of matching years. Names might range from loose match including initials, to Soundex/phonetic matches, to exact match.

Filtering might be provided for life stages. Users might select to show results corresponding to

  • All results
  • Hints
  • Records for the person as a married adult
  • as a single adult
  • as a child
  • as an immigrant
  • related to military
  • or in a specific collection.

Category filters on Ancestry.comFilters (called facets) might be provided that work a lot like online retail websites. Instead of filtering by price, manufacturer, and TV size, users would filter by location, date, and record category. Next to each facet is a number indicating the number of results in that facet. The category facet looks just like the category list today (shown to the right), except that a checkbox would be in front of each category. Users could select one or more categories, or drop out one or more, like the ever ubiquitous census results.

Time Frame

Ancestry.com indicated there was no set timeframe for the release of these features. Some, the handling of attached records, could be released in the next month or two. Others could be released throughout the year. And some may not be released at all.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What’s New at Ancestry.com: Home Page Changes

Ancestry.com recently made changes to the search box on the home page. The changes make the form simpler, less powerful, and allows the page to load faster.

New home page search form on Ancestry.com

Previously the search form, in advanced mode, allowed specification of multiple events, multiple family members, keywords, gender, race, and collection types. It allowed fine control of matching for each field. None of these are now available except the ability to specify one place and a birth year. Oh yah, you can also limit record results to US collections (similar to the FamilySearch restrict feature I mentioned last week).

Advanced search capabilities are still available on the Search page. Click “Show Advanced” in the search form or click Search on the menu.

Location of Ancestry.com home page adsAlso on the home page, when logged in, Ancestry.com now, always, displays an advertisement to one of its own products in a banner across the top of the page. It also displays an ad, again promoting its own stuff, inside the “What’s Happening” box part-way down the page on the left side. At times it also displays an ad at the very bottom of the right-hand column.

For more information, check out Crista Cowan’s YouTube video.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FamilySearch.org Search Futures

Before I tell you about features coming soon to FamilySearch.org’s historical records search engine, let me point out a two new features.

Set the number of search results on FamilySearch.org historical recordsBy default, FamilySearch.org shows 20 search results from historical records. Above the first result, click 20, 50, or 75 to set the number of results shown.
Many websites are trying to ride the social media wave and FamilySearch.org is no exception. FamilySearch has added the ability to share a historical record on popular social media sites. Look for the Share icon on the right side of the window.

image

Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager, has announced these upcoming features:

View a Person Record Linked to Family Tree
When a historical record is already linked to a person in the Family Tree you will see a link that will let you go directly to the person in the Family Tree.

Link a Person Record Directly to Family Tree
If a historical records is not linked to Family Tree, you will be able to quickly look for them in the Family Tree and create the source in the Family Tree. FamilySearch will add the link to the source box for you, as well, so you can further organize it in the source box if you wish.

Export Search Results to a Spreadsheet
Logged-in researchers will be able to export the data from their search results into a spreadsheet so they can sort, label, and organize these records in their research workflows.

Comment on a Historical Record
Researchers will be able to leave comments on a record that is viewable by all other FamilySearch.org users. FamilySearch will allow you to flag these comments as being a correction to the transcribed data on the record. It may be a while before these changes are displayed and searched as part of the record, but for the first time you will be able to officially record errors in the record.

Filter Catalog Titles by Location
The FamilySearch Catalog now holds many titles from the regional libraries and even some Family History Centers. You will soon have the ability to see all the titles that are held in a specific library or center.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ancestry.com new Story View

Various sources are reporting that Ancestry.com is testing a new feature for member trees called “Story View.” According to Jordan Novet of GigaOM, Ancestry.com uses software from Narrative Science which takes facts from the documents and photographs attached to a person in a public member tree and uses a computer algorithm to construct a narrative describing their life. Novet wrote that Ancestry.com is rolling out the feature slowly, currently making it available to 10% of users.

Frederick Walton Seaver's story view on Ancestry.comRandy Seaver is one of those with access to the feature and reviewed it in his blog last Friday. (See “First Look at Ancestry.com’s Story View.”) He clicked a green button on a person page to generate a Story View of that person (shown to the right).

The top of the page consists of the principal photograph of the person and a paragraph constructed by computer that gives a short biography of the person.

Underneath this Ancestry.com constructs a timeline using the images associated with that person. Next to each image is a date and description, which can be edited and reordered.

The resulting story can be shared with the general public. To see Seaver’s, click here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch vs. Ancestry.com Record Acquisition

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Two questions.

1) Does FamilySearch have the same records as Ancestry.com because there are two teams of people photographing the same materials? Or, do the different entities keep each area with some propriety, so that there are fewer duplicates?

2) Are there any plans to go back to some of the older records, for example, in Italy, where the first microfiche records are so poor?

Signed,
bldgdiva

Dear bldgdiva,

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch have been known to swap records. That would explain why some collections are present on both websites.

For example, according to the FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch obtained the “Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005” record collection from Ancestry.com. And according to the Ancestry.com website, Ancestry.com obtained the “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947” collection from FamilySearch. According to an Ancestry.com press release, FamilySearch and Ancestry.com traded some U.S. census images and indexes.

Sometimes the two organizations work together on a project. At RootsTech this year, Ancestry.com’s Tim Sullivan announced “our largest and most ambitious collaboration with FamilySearch, ever.” The two will work together to digitize, index, and publish U.S. probate records.

Some records are present on both websites because both organizations have digitized the same microfilm. I think NARA microfilm M1509 is an example. It is published as “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” on Ancestry.com and as “United States, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” on FamilySearch.org.

Both companies have their own digitization teams out imaging records. (Nearly two years ago I published maps showing the locations of each organization’s digitization teams at the time. Click on the maps to enlarge.) I suppose duplication could occur, but typically archives won’t allow it. Handling records causes deterioration so archives don’t like two entities both photographing the same records.

As to going back to retake photographs of records already on film or fiche: I suppose it could happen, but I think these organizations get more return on their investment by going after new records.

That said, I know that FamilySearch is digitizing more than 115 million images of Italian birth, marriage, and death certificates. (See “Italian Ancestors: Making Italy Civil Registration Records Freely Searchable Online.”) Perhaps they will get the records you need. If you can read Italian records, I’m sure they would be happy if you would help out.

FamilySearch Italian Ancestors project

Signed,
The Ancestry Insider

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Breaking News: Family History Library Security Concern Saturday

A couple in my neighborhood reported earlier today (Saturday afternoon) that they were turned away at the FamilySearch Family History Library for “a security concern.”

Michael John Neill reported on his Facebook page a couple of hours ago that “The Family History Library in Salt Lake is closed today, unexpectedly for unspecified reasons.”

I will let you know when I know more.