Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Comments on New Updates to the FamilySearch Family Tree

The latest edition of the "What's New on FamilySearch -- August, 2015" has quite a long list of changes to the website. I thought it would be a good idea to go through the changes (updates, whatever) and comment on each. The list is quite long so bear with me. If you use the program at all, you will probably want to know what has changed. I did not include most of the FamilySearch screenshots for each of the changes. I suggest you view the original post from FamilySearch for more information. 

300,000 Places Added to the Place Directory
Here is what FamilySearch has to say:
As you add a place, Family Tree displays places from the place dictionary that might match what you are entering. As soon as you see the place you need in the list, you can click it, and the system fills in the rest of the location. This saves you time typing, helps you spell the name of the place correctly, and enters a complete location.
My comment:
There have been two challenges in using the Standard Place Names drop-down list from FamilySearch in the Family Tree. When you are adding place names, you should be using the name of the place at the time the event occurred. This makes for both temporal and spatial challenges because place names change over time and vary as place names are abandoned. I commented on this recently in a post entitled, "More about Standard Place Names in FamilySearch Family Tree." There was also an extensive comment to this post from Gordon Collett.

I have noticed a new challenge. With the addition of multiple variations in a place name, especially those in Germany and other European Countries, there is a difficult decision as to which of the variations apply at the time of the event. Making a choice may be determined by the exact date of the event, but the place name choices do not include dates, so it may be a guess as to what variation of the name applies at what point in time. I also noticed that some of the English translations of foreign place names are standardized into the target language. One example I recently found was the translation of "Saxony" into the German, "Sachsen." But this same area has many names determined by the political control at any given time:

  • Freistaat Sachsen
  • Swobodny stat Sakska
  • Sasko
The FamilySearch Catalog has these two variations on the name:

  • Germany, Preu├čen, Sachsen
  • Germany, Sachsen
As well as the English "Germany, Saxony." Additional variations on historical name changes will probably cause some confusion and possible mis-application of the standard names.

Updates to the Family Members Section
Here is what FamilySearch has to say:
The Family Members section of a person’s details page has been updated to match the new Landscape view. To edit the relationships, you can click the icon that is always visible for the person. Tablet users will appreciate that the icon is always available. We also added a silhouette so that in the future, we can display portraits on this view. This change is the first in a series of improvements we are making to manage relationships. Stay posted!
My Comment:
Yes, I will certainly stay posted. I think the change from the label "Edit Relationship" to an ever-present icon is beneficial, as is the adaptation to make the program more useful on tablet computers.

Adding a Child on the Landscape View
You can now add children from the Landscape View.

My Comment:
It is even easier now to add the wrong child to a family! There should be a step required to add a child where the data being added, such as the place the child was born, and the place where the family lived and the other children were born is compared and questions asked. For example, someone recently added a child born in England to my family living in Beaver, Beaver, Utah. With the ability to add a child from the very limited information available about the family in the Landscape View, it will become more of a game of matching names rather than evaluating the actual circumstances of adding a child to an existing family.

Recently Added Features on the FamilySearch Mobile App
FamilySearch has added the ability to watch, delete a person and search records to the mobile app. The Family Tree and  Memories Apps have also been updated with the following:

  • New Memory Artifact Notifications
  • Tag Photos in the iOS Tree App
  • Manage Couple Events

My Comment:
I thought one of the ideas of the program was to make deleting people difficult, not easier. But as long as it is limited to correcting your own errors, it is a good idea. I do welcome useful features being added to the mobile versions however. Previously, the FamilySearch Family Tree app was not much more than a viewer. I welcome additions to both apps.

Memories: The Updated People Page
To see the changes, you need to go to the People page in the FamilySearch Memories section of the website. Here is a screenshot of the new page:

There are more than a few changes. Here is the quote from FamilySearch:
The updated People page in Memories has been released to all users. To see the page, go to, click Memories at the top of the screen, and in the drop-down list, click People
Here are some of the updates:
  • The page has a new look.
  • Family Tree automatically displays all the people in your scope of interest who have memories attached to them. (The scope of interest is 4 generations of ancestors and 1 generation of their descendants.)
  • To change the category of people you see, click the arrows for Show at the top of the page, and click a category.
  • The person’s life span has been added.
  • The gray thumbnails of pictures behind the person’s portrait indicate more memories for the person. Click the person to go to the page that displays all the memories that have been added. Even if you don’t see thumbnails of more photos, click the person to see if other users have added stories or documents.
  • Click the star to be notified when information or memories are changed or added for the person. To quit being notified of changes, just click the star
  • Click View My Relationship to see how you are related to the person. 
My Comments:
I like the changes. The page is more useful now. I have noticed many of the changes for some time and when I show them to users of the program, they are surprised, My guess is that few of the users are aware of the People page.

Thumbnails of Original Records
Here is what FamilySearch has to say:
Several places in display a photo icon or thumbnail. It means you can see an image of the original document online if you click the icon. 
In response to requests from users, has replaced the generic thumbnail with a thumbnail of the original document. This informs users of the type of document to expect before they click to view it. 
Be sure to click the icon and view the document images for your ancestor’s records. Original records often include information that wasn’t indexed. (For example, the 1900 census tells you how many children a woman had and how many were still living.) Indexers try to be as accurate as possible, but sometimes you can read the original record better than the indexer because you know the name you are looking for. 
Additionally, the information about the image is now presented below the thumbnail in a clear and easy-to-read table. The person’s indexed data and household data has also been re-organized to make it faster to read and understand.
My Comment:
Good ideas. Anything that helps the researcher look at the original document is welcome.

Find Out More about Your Name and the World When You Were Born
FamilySearch comments:
This project is an attempt to take one of the kiosk applications in the Discovery Center and create a similar experience on the web. You will most likely see additional engaging features on the Home Page when you log in. 
To learn more about your name and the year you were born, go to:
My Comment:
Here is a screenshot of what the top of my page looks like:

Interesting and engaging, but not particularly useful from my perspective.

Well, that seems to be the list for this month.

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