Saturday, May 19, 2018
A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Two -- The Scope of the Challenge
The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is not the problem, it is the solution.
Nearly all of the comments both pro and con directed at the FamilySearch.org Family Tree involve the content in one way or another rather than the operation of the program itself. For this reason, to begin a one-sided discussion about the FamilyTree, it is important to realize that the initial information came from a previous database called new.FamilySearch.org that supplied the bulk of the original entries. I have covered this all in previous posts over the years, but a major part of the process of commenting on the huge number of issues represented by the present Family Tree program involves the fact that it is sort of a descendant of the earlier program. The present Family Tree program was originally seeded with the huge pile of records incorporated in the earlier new.FamilySearch.org program. This huge compilation of records had a significant number of duplicate records that was rapidly increasing because of the way that the new.FamilySearch.org program functioned. Most of these duplicate records primarily consisted of whole databases of duplicate records that had been submitted by those who had been submitting names to FamilySearch and its predecessors for over a hundred years. Beginning clear back in the 1890s, none of the methods that were implemented over the years to reduce duplication actually worked; new.FamilySearch.org not only did not reduce the number of duplicate entries, it facilitated their creation.
The crux of what we need to know right now about all this previous history is that hundreds of thousands of duplicate entries inherited from submissions contributed for over more than a hundred years, have been eliminated from the Family Tree but there is likely a huge number left to eliminate. What we also need to know about all this history is that many of the records in the Family Tree are not supported by any source information at all. In my opinion which comes from working consistently and regularly with the Family Tree since it was introduced these two factors outweigh any other major considerations. I consistently see more duplicate entries being added to the Family Tree and I see constant changes that are unsupported by even a modicum of documentary support.
Notwithstanding these serious challenges, the Family Tree is alive and well. Since its inception, I have seen a constant improvement in the accuracy of the entries due to the fact that is a wiki-based program. I also see huge numbers of sources being constantly added to existing entries. According to currently reported statistics, there are nearly 950 million source entries in the Family Tree. As a result of this huge number of source entries, the reliability to the Family Tree has grown and continues to grow at a rapid pace despite its somewhat duplicative and checkered antecedents. The entries in the Family Tree are further supported by about 23.9 million photos and 1.69 million stories. There are about 1.1 billion persons in the Family Tree as of the date of the facts published by FamilySearch for April 2018.
So what is the challenge? As the poet, John Lydgate wrote; "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time." This quote was made famous by President Abraham Lincoln. As it applies to the Family Tree, we will always have those people who are not pleased with some aspect of the program or the data, but right now, the Family Tree is the best program we have to work with. The alternative also exists in the millions of individually maintained family trees on hundreds (if not thousands) of websites.
The challenge that we all face is continuing to build a source-centric Family Tree based on the best possible records that can be found. Fortunately, much of what is now in place in the Family Tree is adequately supported by valid sources and the conclusions are reasonable and defensible. Unfortunately, as the core of validly defensible data in the Family Tree expands, the amount of data that has yet to be entered or that is without any supporting documentation also continues to expand. The comforting aspect of this reality is that what is already entered into the Family Tree is becoming more accurate and thereby more reliable at an increasing pace.
This series will address individual issues confronting the continuing viability of the Family Tree. I do not pretend to have a solution for all of the problems facing the use of this marvelous tool, but I can address as many of the problems as I can see and suggest resolutions where possible. The object of this series is to explore the issues confronting the continued growth and health of the Family Tree and to codify those issues that remain to be resolved. I fully admit that I have neither the experience or the expertise to solve these problems or issues, but I do have the time and inclination to codify them and discuss possible solutions to those issues that are actually impediments to the purpose for which the Family Tree was created and for which it is being maintained.
I am certain that as I keep writing, the main issues confronting the Family Tree will become the focus of most of my analysis. Stay tuned for further developments.
Here is the first post in this series
Part One: http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-survival-guide-to-familysearch-family.html