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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Going Public with New FamilySearch

Since the announcement that New.FamilySearch.org (NFS) would be released to those who are not members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been extremely interested to get some feedback from one of the users. I am delighted that Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings Blog is one of the first, if not the first to start evaluating the program from an "outside" perspective. I really hate to talk in terms of inside and outside, but in the case of NFS the distinction was made by the fact that members of the Church were given access to the program to the exclusion of those outside the Church's membership.

I think Randy Seaver is really good place for the evaluation to start. He is an expert genealogist and very technologically sophisticated. He is a top-notch Blogger and a very good writer overall. He does an excellent job of analyzing genealogy programs and is more than familiar with most of the popular programs. His perspective will be valuable in the extreme.

Randy's first impressions are significant. He says, "Over the past four days, I've explored the New FamilySearch Family Tree a bit, and observed many of the problems that James has written about in significant detail.  I searched for some of my ancestors back five or more generations, and see some of the duplicate person and duplicate assertion problems.  I'll point out some of them in future posts as examples, and discuss the options for how to deal with them." I have wondered if my impressions of the program were too biased by my proximity to the problems. Lately, I have taken an entirely "wait and see" attitude based on assertions by FamilySearch representatives that many of the issues I have written about in the past will be resolved. For that reason alone, I will be interested to see the program through some relatively new eyes.

Randy Seaver and any others given recent access to the program have not had the experience of watching and living with the changes to the program over the past three years or so. They are coming into a fully developed version of the program with many of the initial issues partially or completely resolved. It is impossible for a newly signed on user to appreciate the initial problems, especially those that have been resolved. On the other hand, this lack of historical background will be an advantage in assessing where the program is functioning today.

Lately, NFS has blended into the background of the genealogy world. The program is functioning at a low level within the Church's genealogy community and is acting mostly as the entry level program for producing Family Ordinance Request forms for members of the Church. I have been teaching classes on NFS since it was introduced. For example, I had a class scheduled at the Mesa Regional Family History Center today and no one showed for the class. This is consistent with my experience during the past few months. I am surprised to even have one person show for regularly scheduled classes. When the program was introduced into the Church, there was a significant interest until the members figured out that they would actually have to do some genealogical research and then interest began to drop off dramatically. My impression was (and is) that the members of the Church initially thought it was a way around doing research. That some how or another the program was going to do their genealogy for them. Hence, the current lack of interest except for isolated individuals who decide to actually do some research.

Church members have the impetus to use the program to do Church ordinances for their ancestors. It is my impression that those who are new to genealogy really don't understand the program at more than a very basic level, sufficient to accomplish their purposes and nothing more. They hear that there are people like me and my family that have a lot of "problems" with the program but don't really understand the issues or the problems and don't want to. As such, members have gone back to their normal, disinterest in all things genealogical with isolated pockets of intense activity to the contrary.

Thanks to Randy Seaver for opening this dialog.

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