“Updated FamilySearch.org to Bring New Features Under One Roof,” Ensign, July 2010, 74–76
An update to familysearch.org, available now at beta.familysearch.org, will make the site a hub of genealogical activity. Users can visit the site and provide feedback for developers before the beta version replaces familysearch.org later this year.
The site brings together many of the tools FamilySearch provides, including FamilySearch Indexing, new.familysearch.org, user-generated and -edited wikis, and forums. To create a more seamless user experience, a single username and password will allow users to log in once and gain access to all areas of the site.
New.familysearch.org, which replaced TempleReady last year and includes the Family Tree feature, will be integrated into the updated site. The beta site also includes new record collections currently available at pilot.familysearch.org. As developers bring these various tools together, feedback from users is a valuable asset in helping prepare the site for a worldwide audience.
“In the past, using all the FamilySearch tools has been like visiting separate, distinct buildings. The goal of the beta site is to create a sense of visiting different rooms in the same house,” said Robert Kehrer, senior product manager for the site.
With the remodel, the site’s search capability, collaboration tools, and overall simplicity will help put valuable information closer to the user’s fingertips.
The Church is digitizing billions of records stored at the Granite Mountain Records Vault and adding them to the documents already available online. A new image viewer feature allows users to search digital images of microfilm and view them as they would using a microfilm reader at a family history center, only without the hand crank and eye fatigue. The image viewer enhances the legibility of record images and provides access to published records online. With so many records becoming readily accessible, an easy process for sifting through information is essential to a useful family history site.
In searching for ancestors, beta.familysearch.org’s search engine goes beyond requested documents and provides users with other information that might also be helpful in research. A search for an individual’s birth certificate, for example, will return historical documents but may also return information from Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, forums, the Family History Library Catalog, and other sources.
To help organize results, search pages include a “Record Type” box. Here, records are organized as Birth, Marriage, and Death; Census and Lists; Military; Probate and Court; Migration and Naturalization; and Other. The new site will also allow members to access select collections on third-party Web sites.
The improved familysearch.org will also provide several forums for collaboration that will enable family members to share and compare information without leaving the site.
Forums on specific localities, a blog, and similar communication areas are accessible now on the beta site, with more functionality to come in the future.
“The name family history implies that this isn’t a work to be done in isolation. We are laying the foundations of a site where families can collaborate on finding their ancestors,” Brother Kehrer said.
Users can read and contribute to wiki pages dedicated to specific localities through the “Learn” tab on the beta site. These pages provide forums where users can share information pertinent to a certain place, share research tips, and include external links to helpful Web sites.
In time, familysearch.org will be able to notify users when certain information of personal interest is edited or added. These alerts will help ensure changed information is accurate and encourage family members with similar information to compare sources and reach sound conclusions.
Even with so many new features, the beta site is designed to simplify family history work. The site’s usability saves visitors time as they find and prepare names to take to the temple.
One of the goals of beta.familysearch.org is to help novice researchers get started quickly and make meaningful contributions to family history work without a lot of training. The site is structured to make it easy for casual volunteers to learn what information is already available, find out what needs to be done, and help by finding sources of information and establishing credibility of information.
Even individuals whose family history is largely completed can help with family history by making records available for others. For example, users can transcribe information from online images such as census records on a personal computer in a process called indexing. After records are indexed, they can be searched digitally. The indexing application is currently housed on indexing.familysearch.org, but will be part of familysearch.org later this year.
Indexing is one way to help with family history, but it certainly isn’t the only way.
“Each person has different interests and skills that they can contribute to family history,” Brother Kehrer said. “We are building a site that gives users a lot of options for becoming engaged in the work.”
Help is also available on the Web site. Users can ask research questions and find information on getting started, understanding historical documents, researching specific localities, and other helpful hints under the “Learn” tab on the site.
With the coming improvements, familysearch.org makes family history work easier and helps further one of the great purposes of the Church in the latter days. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work of Church members has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. They understand that they are tying their family together—their living family here with those who have gone before” (“Your Family History: Getting Started,” Liahona and Ensign, Aug. 2003, 12).