At RootsTech 2017 Ron Tanner, group product manager for FamilySearch, presented a session titled “FamilySearch: Family Tree Futures.” Ron pointed out that when we teach our kids to fish, we do the hard parts because we want them to have a great experience. Then they’ll want to do it again, learning the hard parts over time. When we teach others to do family history, we want to do the same. Don’t send them to the end of the line and expect them to like family history. Sit down with them and FamilySearch Family Tree. Help them understand that this is a shared tree. Don’t make changes that shouldn’t be made.
Take them to a hint. Take them to the record. Show them how to attach it. Expose them to various aspects of family history and watch their faces. Look for their eyes to sparkle. Note what they are doing at that moment and help them do more of that, be it photos or stories or whatever.
Ron presented some Family Tree accomplishments for 2016:
- An average of 2.5 million persons were added to Family Tree per month, bringing the total to over 1.1 billion. [Was it Ron who said that that was a drop from 1.2 billion, indicating duplicate persons are being cleaned up, now that that is possible?]
- An average of 8 million sources were added each month, bringing the total to over 708 million.
- FamilySearch decommissioned NFS. Now you can combine anyone and you don’t have relationships coming back after being deleted. There are still limitations on merging if the resulting persons would look ridiculous in the number of things like spouses. More on that in a minute.
- FamilySearch added a warning at the time you make a change to a person. It lets you know the number of people watching that person.
- FamilySearch added the ability to see how you are related to a person in the tree. The computer searches for the relationship, going up and down the branches of the tree 15 generations in each direction. [Let me think. How distant a relationship will that find? 13th cousins?] It shows the shortest path, even if it is not a biological relationship. This is an expensive feature. The software to do this runs on the largest computer they could get.
The limits on merging prevent creation of persons having more than:
- 200 spouses
- 100 parents
- 400 children
- 1,000 memories
- 200 sources
- 50 discussions
- 50 notes
These limitation will be reviewed regularly.
FamilySearch is developing Family Tree lite for areas of the world where feature phones are how people connect to the Internet and Internet access is very slow. Here is a complete person page (left) and a family page (right). The family page lists ancestors up through the four sets of great-grandparents. It replaces the pedigree view.
Family Tree Lite focuses on sending the least amount of data possible, at the expense of features. The regular Family Tree requires the transfer of three megabytes of data, obtained by requesting data 263 times. Family Tree Lite makes only three requests and transfers only 31 kilobytes. That’s a hundred times more efficient. Facebook is trying to provide free Internet to developing countries of the world but they require websites be as efficient as Family Tree Lite.
There are a lot of things you can’t do with Family Tree Lite. It is designed mainly to allow new users to enter the first several generations of their ancestry. Family Tree Lite does not include
- Other facts
- Memories (documents, photos, etc.)
- Life Sketch
- Pedigree Views
- Change Log
FamilySearch is making great progress with their mobile app, FamilyTree. It can do almost everything that can be done through the full web version of Family Tree. More features will be added this year.
FamilySearch is researching how to do a system to allow sources to be attached to living persons, but kept private until they are deceased. Some people don’t want personal information about themselves to be visible to the general public. Today, all documents—including those attached to living persons—can be viewed by anyone with the URL. That is why FamilySearch doesn’t allow sources on living persons today. FamilySearch is considering putting together a personal vault where you upload your birth certificate and it becomes public after you die. Ron says he thinks it is crazy to make your descendants research you.
FamilySearch is researching how to share living persons. People want to share memories and avoid duplication. Today, each of us has an individual, private space. The plan is to allow a shared area where you can copy only the information you want to share. It will be copies of the persons in your private space. This allows putting living persons into multiple shared spaces. Private duplication is okay. Public duplication is not okay.
FamilySearch is also thinking about other shared features, like group messaging, shared to-do list, and a group-notification feed where you can see what other group members are contributing.
FamilySearch is developing faster change notification. Today you are notified weekly about changes to the persons you are watching. Ron mentioned different frequencies: immediately, daily, weekly,
FamilySearch is investigating some improvements to the Watch List. It sounds like you would get reports of changes to your watch list persons but not their relatives. Click the contributor’s name to see their contact information. Click the description of the change to see the change log. A new tab would show all your changes over the past 30 days.
FamilySearch is researching a feature to detect when someone brings back a presumably bad value. For example, if someone specified a non-existent birthplace, and you came through and fixed it, and then someone came back through and changed it back to the non-existent place, the system would throw up a warning, show the reason you gave for deleting it in the first place, and allow cancelling the change.
FamilySearch is researching giving you notification when someone changes a value you’ve contributed, even if you are not watching the associated person.