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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Is there a future for the Family Tree?

My wife, my daughter and I spent nearly three hours yesterday listening to Ron Tanner of FamilySearch talk about the future of the Family Tree. To answer the obvious question, yes, we are related. Ron is my second cousin, one generation removed (his father is my second cousin). For years now, Ron has been talking about the Family Tree and we have both been looking at some of the same set of ancestors. So it is interesting to hear what he has to say (at length) about how some of the seemingly intractable problems with our shared genealogy might be resolved. By the way, he was presenting at the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group meeting in Provo, Utah. As a member of the UVTAGG you can get a recorded, video copy of the entire presentation and the lengthy question and answer period that followed.

One interesting thing about his presentation was that very little of it was new news. He has essentially been saying the same things in different ways for years. There were, of course, some refinements in the ideas he has expressed previously due to advances in technology. One recent change was clarified. FamilySearch has imposed some "Person Limits." These include the following limits on what can be added to the Family Tree:

  • Spouses 200
  • Parents 100
  • Children 400
  • Memories 1,000
  • Sources 200
  • Discussions 50
  • Notes 50

Most contributors will likely never encounter these limits. The only one that is even very possible to exceed is the limit on the number of Memories. I have already exceeded this with some of my ancestors.

Some statistics that he mentioned were also interesting. He said that 16 million new sources are being added to the Family Tree each month and that there are presently over 766 million sources already in the Family Tree. The flood of sources going into the Family Tree are going to have a profound effect on the way genealogy is done in the immediate future. The Family Tree is quickly becoming one of the most valuable free resources for finding information about your own ancestors. Of course, for this to happen, you have to look at the sources and Memories that are being added.

Some of the ideas he explored for future developments included ways to make the information in the Family Tree shareable between immediate family members by creating a Private Space that includes selected family members. I assumed from what he said that the Family Space would make an appearance in the next few months or years.

Other comments were directed at increasing the need for documentation for changes and giving more immediate notice to others about any changes being made. FamilySearch is well aware of the problems created by people adding undocumented changes and is moving towards tightening the requirements for adding information as well as making it easier to do something about arbitrary changes.

Many of the changes he talked about were specifically aimed at the process of reserving and submitting ordinances to the Temples. I suspect that these changes will take place very slowly over time. There is already a time limit of two years on reserved names and these time limits may also be augmented by limits on the number of names that can be reserved at a time by any one individual.

All in all, Ron's presentation was entertaining, as usual, and a very good review of the present and near future operation of the Family Tree. By the way, I found that what I have written recently is very consistent with what he had to say.

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