Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FamilySearch Clarifies? Shutdown

Some of you are aware that FamilySearch Family Tree has a predecessor: (NFS). NFS is not used much, as it was never available to the general public and has been read-only for more than a year. Last November, FamilySearch announced it would turn off NFS on 1 February 2015. (See my blog article, “FamilySearch Announces Retirement of”)

Consequently, I was surprised when FamilySearch announced last week that “the website was recently closed down.” I checked the URL ( and found that was not true. It was still there and still bore the announcement of a 1 February 2015 shutdown:

Message currently on

I thought last week’s announcement was confusing in another way, as well. The Q & A portion of the announcement starts with this:

Q: Why have the engineers decided to shut down before it and Family Tree are separated[?]

A: The new.FamilySearch database and Family Tree have always been separate databases. We cannot shut down one and start the other, especially when they are so different. To address this issue, we’ve allowed a period of time where the two databases are synchronized. This means that data can be entered in one and it will show up in both databases…

I think FamilySearch is really trying to answer two questions at once. Here’s what I think they are trying to say:

Q: Why have the engineers decided to shut down before it and Family Tree have separate databases?

A: and Family Tree already have separate databases. However, the two databases are synchronized. This means that data can be entered in one and it will show up in both databases.

Q: Why are the two synchronized?

A: Using Family Tree is very different from using We could not shut down and start the other without confusing users, especially since the two are so different…

I wish the Q & A had several more questions and answers.

Q: Will shutting down remove the limitations that synchronization has imposed upon Family Tree?

According to the message currently on, the answer is “no.”

In early 2016, will be completely shut down.

It is important to note that many highly desired features of FamilySearch Family Tree cannot begin to be developed until has reached the final milestone and is completely shut-off. Once that has happened, work can begin on features such as:

  1. Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records. [The public calls such a person an IOUS.
  2. Highlighting and fixing other data eccentricities, such as when a person appears to have been married before birth, a child older than a parent, a child who is the spouse of parent or grandparent, and so on.
  3. The ability for users to change the gender of an ancestor.
  4. The ability to see a spouse’s ancestral line by default.

That leads me to ask another question:

Q: What is the difference between shutting down and completely shutting down

The message currently on again provides the answer:

On February 1, [2015] all public … interfaces…will be turned off, as will be the ability to access the program. [In other words, isn’t going away, just public access to it.] This step is necessary as we enter the final phase, which is to transfer and synchronize all of the remaining data from to FamilySearch Family Tree. It is anticipated that this final phase of data testing, transfer, and retesting will require a year to complete. Once this phase is completed in early 2016, will be completely shut down.

That leads me to my final question:

Q: What is the “remaining data” to be transferred and synchronized?

The answer might be this information from the Q & A and a comment posted online by Ron Tanner.

To help users identify the actual individuals who were combined in new.FamilySearch, we are planning to create sources on each person in Family Tree that refer to the original AF, PRF, and IGI records. (Q & A.)

We will be migrating the IGI sources from NFS over into Family Tree. These sources will link over to the records which contain the film and batch numbers. (Ron Tanner.)

That’s exciting. I can’t wait for these sources to be added to Family Tree, as well as the ability to clean up the problems in Family Tree.

To see the remaining questions and answers, see “Why Was Turned Off: Frequently Asked Questions.”


  1. Last night I found an improperly combined ancestor: two identical names, one born 1900 in the USA, the other born 1852 in England. both wives were attached to the 1900 man, and the 1852 Englishman had no presence in either FT or nFS. I went to the old nFS, found the 1900 person, and in his combined record was the 1852 Englishman. I was able to reconstruct the 1852 man, get him attached to his family, and eventually to find his wife, who had been deleted (instead of unlinked), and get that entire 1852 family restored.

    I also have several ancestors that are IOUS - very large - that I am anxious to combine, but I don't want to lose the capability to separate improper merges. I have used that capability several times. I am glad the nFS was still available for this problem.

  2. Am I the only person who can't keep the alike but different names straight? I only use the search feature so it's not critical to me. Just know that I will never ever use nor add to the one world family tree. There is no way to ever know if it's accurate and more misinformation gets added than correct information. Really bad idea.

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  4. I am excited to finally see NFS go away. It was exciting when it first came out but soon lost that excitement as the bulky nature of the program persisted. FamilySearch Family Tree keeps getting better and better.

    I disagree that an "Our Tree" vs a "My Tree" approach reduces accuracy. There are so many 'my trees' out there that are horribly undocumented. There are so many trees that Aunt Bertha works on but won't share with her relatives but doesn't properly preserve when she dies and 'Poof' the research vanishes upon her death.

    The way a "One Tree" becomes successful is when people attach sources, add stories, leave notes, and present analysis. No genealogist has ever not confused people. I have and I blogged about the mistake. Had I not confused the two people, I would not have opened up the family in Germany. However, once I got the family to hop the pond, the confused ancestors became GLARINGLY obvious. I made the changes and left notes so others will know what happened and how to keep the individuals separated.

    In time, as peoples' hearts soften and learn to collaborate, energy and resources won't be wasted on duplicate research. We will build a tree that captures the relations of all of us to each other. It's a bold vision and I'll do my part to assist.

    Thanks for this great post deciphering what all of the 'officially' closed announcements mean. As NFS finally shuts down, I just wonder what effects it will have on the things I have straightened out since FamilySearch Family Tree began. Frequently I find "FamilySearch" making changes to my tree and sometimes those changes are not pretty. Hmmm... Guess that's another post for another person in the know.



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