Wednesday, April 2, 2014

FamilySearch Migrates New FamilySearch Sources

Migration from New FamilySearch to Family TreeOn 11 February 2014, Bryce Roper of FamilySearch made this announcement:

We started another round of migrating some of the user contributed sources from NFS to Family Tree.  This migration will take about 6 weeks to complete. Sources that are migrated will be attached to the proper ancestor in the tree and will also be added to the original contributors Source Box with the title Legacy Source....

We made the decision to load these sources into the contributors source box so they would know what sources had been migrated.  If you don't want them in your source box you can check the box to the left of the source title and then click the Move tab and select Remove from Source Box.  Remember removing a source from your source box does not delete it from the persons it is attached too, it only removes it from your source box.

In New FamilySearch sources had many fields. Here is an example source documenting a death (“4 February 1884; Erie, Pennsylvania, United States”) and a burial (“Wheelock Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania, United States”).

  • Source type: Published information
  • Source detail: Cemetery record or headstone
  • Media type: Website
  • Title: findagrave.com
  • Author: Ted Keniston? and Bimmy Urso
  • Publication information: Record added 15 October 2005
  • Repository name: Find A Grave
  • Repository address: www.findagrave.com,
  • Page number: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GScid=&GRid=12065390&
  • Actual text: Birth: 1820 Oneida County New York, USA Death: Feb. 4, 1884 Erie County Pennsylvania, USA son of Lewis Napoleon Raymond and Martha Howard; husband of Lucy M Barker Family links: Parents: Lewis Napoleon Raymond (1788 - 1852) Martha Howard Raymond (1793 - 1854) Children: William Howard Raymond (1846 - 1887)* Marcellus Alonzo Raymond (1850 - 1878)* Viva Adelaide Raymond Brown (1857 - 1888)* Spouse: Lucy M Barker Raymond (1822 - 1898)* *Point here for explanation Burial: Wheelock Cemetery Erie County Pennsylvania, USA Maintained by: Bimmy Originally Created by: Ted Record added: Oct 15, 2005 Find A Grave Memorial# 12065390,

When FamilySearch transferred sources to Family Tree, it had to decide how to take the information from the ten fields supported by New FamilySearch and save them into three fields in Family Tree. This is a difficult task, even under the best of situations. Here’s how this example was transferred:

  • Title: Legacy NFS Source: Alonzo G. Raymond - Published information: Cemetery record or headstone: burial: ; Wheelock Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Citation: Website, findagrave.com, Ted Keniston? and Bimmy Urso, Record added 15 October 2005, Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com, Page number: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GScid=&GRid=12065390&
  • Notes: Published information: Cemetery record or headstone: burial: ; Wheelock Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania, United States

    Birth: 1820 Oneida County New York, USA Death: Feb. 4, 1884 Erie County Pennsylvania, USA son of Lewis Napoleon Raymond and Martha Howard; husband of Lucy M Barker Family links: Parents: Lewis Napoleon Raymond (1788 - 1852) Martha Howard Raymond (1793 - 1854) Children: William Howard Raymond (1846 - 1887)* Marcellus Alonzo Raymond (1850 - 1878)* Viva Adelaide Raymond Brown (1857 - 1888)* Spouse: Lucy M Barker Raymond (1822 - 1898)* *Point here for explanation Burial: Wheelock Cemetery Erie County Pennsylvania, USA Maintained by: Bimmy Originally Created by: Ted Record added: Oct 15, 2005 Find A Grave Memorial# 12065390
    Published information: Cemetery record or headstone: death: 4 February 1884; Erie, Pennsylvania, United States

    Birth: 1820 Oneida County New York, USA Death: Feb. 4, 1884 Erie County Pennsylvania, USA son of Lewis Napoleon Raymond and Martha Howard; husband of Lucy M Barker Family links: Parents: Lewis Napoleon Raymond (1788 - 1852) Martha Howard Raymond (1793 - 1854) Children: William Howard Raymond (1846 - 1887)* Marcellus Alonzo Raymond (1850 - 1878)* Viva Adelaide Raymond Brown (1857 - 1888)* Spouse: Lucy M Barker Raymond (1822 - 1898)* *Point here for explanation Burial: Wheelock Cemetery Erie County Pennsylvania, USA Maintained by: Bimmy Originally Created by: Ted Record added: Oct 15, 2005 Find A Grave Memorial# 12065390
  • Reason This Source Is Attached: Migrated from user-supplied source citation: urn:familysearch:source:3121801825

The resulting source is confusing on a number of fronts.

It doesn’t look like FamilySearch followed English language punctuation rules. Problems like the adjacent colon and semicolon in the title make it confusing. Quotation marks, colons, commas, and semicolons, properly used, might have produced a more understandable result.

FamilySearch put some technical stuff (urn:familysearch:source:3121801825) into the reason statement. This confuses users. If it provides some value to FamilySearch, they should have found a way to hide it from them.

A design change results in further confusion. In New FamilySearch (NFS) one could say, “Here is a source and here are the facts that came from it.” That is no longer possible. Now one says, “Here are a bunch of sources and here is the conclusion I draw from them.” In migrating sources, FamilySearch had to deal with this design change. It had to stick the facts somewhere. It stuck them in the title and in the notes.

It is confusing in the example above that the title mentions a burial fact when back in NFS the source applied to both death and burial. And it is confusing that the information in the notes is repeated twice, once for death and once for burial.

The confusion is great enough that at first glance a user felt the useful information had been stripped from migrated sources, leaving nonsense.

FamilySearch carefully preserved and migrated everything specified by the user in the example above. I think that’s a great thing. Is that true in all cases? Let me know. (URLs and PIDs required!)

We need to stop settling for sources like “FamilySearch,” “unknown4470317,” or “Jerry Brown [no contact information specified].” But no source at all is even worse. Have you ever tried to disprove a value for which there is no source? There’s always the real possibility that there’s a source for that value and you haven’t found it yet. There is real power in knowing where a value came from.

FamilySearch has made extra effort to migrate sources from New FamilySearch. Given FamilySearch’s historical propensity to throw sources away (see “FamilySearch Values Sources?”), I’m ecstatic. You should be too.

3 comments:

  1. Unrelated to this post, I saw the following tidbit that I was unaware of which explains for me why FS mad the deal with Ancestry :
    In February, FamilySearch.org, a nonprofit family history organization owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that LDS Church members eventually will be granted free subscriptions to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FindMyPast.com as part of an ongoing partnership in which the companies collaborate to obtain historical records and share resources.

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  2. thank you for helping me to understand what Familysearch had to do to migrate the source information over to FamilyTree. It's not pretty. It's confusing, but it is what it is. Overall I really like FamilyTree, I just wish they had planned things out better.

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  3. I have seen quite a few entries in the "notes" field that have only the unintelligible line, as in your example, "urn:familysearch:source:3121801825." No data, no source info, just this derivative from some peculiar coding.

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