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Monday, September 28, 2009

Two year review -- New FamilySearch

In my last post, I began a discussion of some of my impressions during the past, almost, two years of using and teaching New FamilySearch (NFS). In the Fall of 2007, when NFS was first introduced to the Family History Consultants in the Mesa, Arizona Temple District, I understood that there were several goals of the program. After its introduction to the Church members, the program was, at that time, intended to be opened up to access by everyone, both inside and outside the Church. I did not have the impression, again at that time, that the introduction of the program to Church members would take so long that two years later, we would all be still waiting for the remaining Church members in Utah to gain access to the program.

Interestingly to me, NFS is still far from well known by the general Church population. Despite its introduction now for almost two years, as I travel to different areas of the Church throughout the U.S., I find very little knowledge of the program, its purposes or procedures. Outside of the genealogy/family history community, there is not only little knowledge of the program, but even less interest. For example, in talking to my children who live in various parts of the U.S., they have barely heard of the program and have no real understanding of what it is or does. I was in a Ward in Pennsylvania today where the topic of family history work was briefly discussed and none of those present had any particular knowledge or acquaintanceship with the program, in fact they were still talking about "Temple Ready" the previous program.

During the NFS introduction, I understood several goals of NFS; provide a less complicated method to submit information for ordinance work in the LDS Temples, facilitate the cooperation of family members in doing family history work, avoiding duplication not only of Temple ordinance submissions to the LDS Temples, but also duplication of research efforts. Now, from the perspective of the present time (September, 2009), I have the opinion that only some of these goals have been reached in a very limited way.

It is my impression that one of the major obstacles to achieving these goals more completely is the complexity of correlating and combining the massive amount of duplication and misinformation present in the existing records. There is also a basic lack of understanding on the part of the users of the program as to its goals and purposes. I have been in meetings where the attendees were urged to use the program to do their genealogical research and essentially mine the data for additional names submit for Temple ordinances. That is, click on the green arrows and print the Family Ordinance Requests, without doing any cross checking, combining or any other review of the need for these ordinances to be done. As recently as today, one person commented that they had loaded their Personal Ancestral File data into NFS and were ready to print the cards and take the names to the Temple. In other words, there had been absolutely no effort to check to see if the information was not already present in the huge database.

I understand that if you are reading this post and are not familiar with NFS, some of the references will not make much sense. But if you are familiar with the program, you will certainly understand what I am talking about.

Continuing with the previous thought, in other words, the program allows a user to enter his or her own data directly into the program without any process at all of verifying that the information does not duplicate whatever is already there. In this process, the user is admonished to check for duplicate information, but my experience indicates that many, many users do not even understand what is meant by these admonitions. As a result, many of the submissions I see each week are obvious duplicates. I know this to be a fact, because I have questioned the submission process and this is exactly what is being done. I have also used some of the add on programs, like RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest to enter some of my own information and seen that the programs would easily allow me to upload the files showing the availability of duplicate information, should I be tempted to do so.

As for the goal of decreasing duplication in Temple submissions, although I hear statistics that there may be a decrease, from my personal experience, I see a massive amount of duplication. During the past month or so, I have seen two additional submissions for my own grandfather and he was married in the Temple during his lifetime.

This discussion will be continued in future posts. Please feel free to make comments, especially if your experience is much different than my own.

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