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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is going into New FamilySearch?

If you have had any interest at all in New FamilySearch (NFS), you are likely aware that the database was a conglomeration of several existing collections of records. Most of the records in each of the contributing collections were the result of individual submissions by mostly unsophisticated contributors. As a result, the information contained in any given record is certainly tentative and subject to further verification. For an in depth discussion of this issue, see The Evidence Architecture of the New FamilySearch Tree by the Ancestry Insider. His statement is a good summary of the problem, "The evidence management compliant architecture of NFS has given FamilySearch nothing but problems, so I expect they will discard it. One reason it has proven problematic is FamilySearch’s decision to preload millions of junky, sourceless evidence summaries (IGI patron submissions, Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File)."

Given that the original information in NFS was lacking in accuracy, the question is now, can anything be done about the situation and what about the submissions that are currently going into the program?

Since I am most familiar with my own family file in NFS, I will use an example from my own family of the present issues with the program. The original stated purpose of the program, in part, was to avoid duplication of LDS Temple ordinances and to facilitate collaboration among researchers. Some recent public statements about the program have indicated that the there is some indication that the program is being effective in eliminating duplication. I am not aware of any public statements about the effect of the program on collaboration among family members. Has progress been made towards either of these goals?

I will start with an examination of my Grandfather who died in 1944. As far as his life is concerned, he is moderately well documented. We have photos, letters, a few physical personal items and abundant historical records. There is no dispute as to the accuracy of the basic facts of his life, i.e. birth, marriage, children, death etc. Looking at the entry in NFS, we find an entirely different story, right off we find twelve separate and conflicting entries for his birth information; two different months and three different locations with multiple variations of each. In examining each of the ten different entries, most of the differences are in the accuracy. He was born 12 January 1895 in St. Joseph (now Joseph City) Apache County, Arizona. The entries have him born in Utah and in June. If you go down through the submissions on LeRoy Tanner, on just his birth date, there have been a total of 38 submissions, so far. With the exception of my own verified submission, every last one of the others is inaccurate in some fashion.

I put "so far" because regularly the number increases. When the program was introduced, there were no more than two or three entries. Why all the additional entries. Interestingly, LeRoy Parkinson Tanner had only two children who lived and from an examination of the contributors, it is doubtful that more than one or two of the contributors are actual descendants. Where do the other records come from? Apparently, distantly related individuals feel compelled to duplicate the information already in the program without checking the accuracy or the need for additional copies of the information in the file.

How does this relate to the issue of duplication of LDS ordinances? If you look at the LDS ordinance information it is evident that all of LeRoy Tanner's ordinances were completed during his lifetime. But if you use a program such as RootsMagic to look at the information in NFS, you can immediately see that some of the ordinances have been repeated two and three times and even during the time NFS has been in use. If we go back one or more generations the duplication grows exponentially. None of this duplication is obvious in NFS unless you use a third-party program to catalog all of the duplicates.

I agree with the Ancestry Insider that there are some technical shortcomings to the program, but the real issue is lack of user involvement with the program. There is apparently a significant number of people who believe it is there duty to put more and more information into NFS without regard for duplication or accuracy. The original faulty information is being augmented daily with additional inaccurate submissions. The inaccurate submissions result in variations in the dates, names and other information about individuals that then results in duplication of ordinance work. The problems with the information submitted about LeRoy Parkinson Tanner are minor compared to the wildly inaccurate information being submitted about more remote ancestors. It is not uncommon for unrelated individuals to be added as children, spouses, parents or other relatives and then immediately submitted for ordinance work.

Even if you approach the information presented from an outsider standpoint, there are so many contradictions in the information it is practically useless as either a resource or to determine a family line. In this regard, the latest change to the program initiated a Discussion tab for each individual. Other than the fact that there is nothing in the program indicating that a discussion is available, this is at least a possible step in the right direction. But it does not address the core problem of the multiplicity of inaccurate information flooding into the program.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job. I appreciate learning what other people think about NFS.

    Thanks for mentioning me.

    The Ancestry Insider

    ReplyDelete