28 January 2013

Sneak peek to next version of FamilySearch Family Tree?

Rather than duplicate what was already posted, I am simply providing you a link to screenshots:

While the post is meant to assure FamilySearch Photos beta users that their work will be preserved and shared, a close look at the screenshots reveals some encouraging user interface improvements for Family Tree.

  • quick click-able links to the sections for Vitals, Other, Family, Sources, Discussion, and Ordinances (LDS). Currently, users must scroll to the section they want. I see this as a major improvement on usability, even though it is a small thing.
  • a larger portrait, and removal of the view tree button (presumably replaced by the tree icon). I like the bigger photo portrait area, but I'm not sure I like the tree button. What do you think?
  • and of course, the photos tab. Wonderful. 
These developments are encouraging. Small steps. No release date, but I would guess this will roll out by the end of RootsTech in March. There is always room for improvement. I hope this news will encourage someone about the future of Family Tree as it has done for me. They are still working to make it better.

Amanuensis Monday: Let us be cheerful In times like these

NOTE: Amanuensis Monday is a genealogy blogging prompt used by many in the blogging community. The word, according to Google, means: "A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts."

My sister, her husband, and I are going through old family letters together. This is a wonderful sharing experience between our family. We hope anyone who is interested will benefit from our work and that there will be many more letters to come.

                           Dec. 25, 1941
Dear Caldwell:
            We are living in very un-
certain times.  Times when we
know not from one day to
another whether we will
ever have an opportunity
of seeing each other again
after separating in the
morning for our regular
            Let us be cheerful
            In times like these it
behooves us all to make in the
memories of each other pleasant
and lasting
^impressions of friendly spirit—
impressions of
^paternal, maternal, and
filial endearments that
will carry us through any
[page break]
possible separations, long
or short, so long as we
all or any of us shall
       --finitely or eternally
live.^  Let us not allow our-
selves to lend our minds
                     words of
and voices to^ petty bicker-
ings or vituperations.  Let
us remember that the smallest
unit of our society—the
family—must be retained
intact (as nearly as possibly)
and on terms of good will,
^feeling, and good spirits,
if our cities, our states, our
nations to retain within
them the necessary cohesive-
ness to endure.^ Remember
the old adage “A chain is
[page break]
no stronger than its weakest
link.”  If each individual
in our family respects
                                thinks of(?)
each other individual^ and
actively engages to deserve
that respect from the
others, we, as a family,
will succeed and en-
dure in the way that
we should.
            I pledge my self to
the above and ask
your cooperation.
            May the gift accom-
panying this missive
ever serve to remind
[page break]
you that your father
seeks not to criticise
your every action by
what he means as
^friendly interest in
your affairs; that he
would not take away
from you that inde-
pendence which every
young man should
have; but that he
expects you to use your
independence as freedom,
not as license.   ¶ Liberty
is such action as uses
one’s rights only so far
as they do not infringe
[page break]
upon the rights of
others.  It has^ been
said that “One
man’s rights stop where
another’s ^ begin.”
            Whatever happens,
wheresoever you may
be, may this watch
ever remind you that
your Dad wishes for
you only the BEST.

Select individuals included in this letter:  
Clifford Caldwell McCormick Junior "Caldwell" (his page in FamilySearch Family Tree)
Clifford Caldwell McCormick Senior "Pop" (his page in FamilySearch Family Tree)

Ancestry Insider: Required Reading for FamilySearch (my response)

This post is a response to Ancestry Insider's post from this morning: Mailbox Monday: Required Reading for FamilySearch. You may want to read that first.

I generally have a battle in my mind about whether it is appropriate to speak like this about FamilySearch. I sometimes sense an attitude with some involved with FamilySearch that the organization is the genealogical hand of God and cannot be wrong. It is more perception than reality. I actually support FamilySearch in its religious role as the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also feel that it is important that employees of FamilySearch are honest among each other about what the public really expects--and are not getting.

As Ancestry Insider mentioned, FamilySearch has many good employees who are working in the direction of fixing these issues. Sometimes things move slowly there... and that feels like an understatement.

To understand why FamilySearch is so far behind in tree technology, it is important to understand the real priorities and resources of FamilySearch. As a non-profit, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch runs on the premise that all genealogy work is to be done to the end of taking those names of deceased ancestors to temples where ordinances such as baptisms for the dead can be accomplished in proxy as a religious benefit to ones self and ones ancestors. In making temple work submissions easier, FamilySearch has come leaps and bounds with both nFS and Family Tree. These programs provided the first time that this preparatory phase could be done at home--with no use of special Family History Center software. FamilySearch had met their goal of improving the ease at which members of their sponsor could take names to the temple.

Before I continue, let me set out a few "facts." Ancestry.com is a for-profit company that was recently valued at 1.6 billion USD. Their mission is to make money, which motivates meeting the needs of the user. I am not suggesting that they are greedy people without your genealogy at heart. Simply, I ask you to ask: "What are FamilySearch's resources?" And here, I mean: How much money does FamilySearch have to put into making the world's best Family Tree? I don't know, but I think it is less than 1.6 billion. They use thousands of volunteers to provide customer support, hundreds to digitize the historic records they put up each week, hundreds of thousands to index their records, etc. Because of being a non-profit, using volunteers is the only way they have the capacity to get so much done. It is also an organizational decision. As a church sponsored unit, FamilySearch would logically want to give people the good feeling that comes from being a volunteer.

Don't get me wrong, FamilySearch does pay people. I believe they pay all their programmers and engineers. Of course, they have thousands less of those than they have of support staff. Each time they pay anyone to do anything it requires approval of the organization as a church sponsored unit--with the purpose of getting people to the temple. It is hard to shell millions of tithing dollars and donations into the pockets of programmers and engineers.

On a positive note, I have spoken with, or heard comments from many of the employees at FamilySearch who have the same goals for the system that we do. They want it to be a good experience. One thing I often hear is that one project pushes out another. That is a resource problem. For example, at RootsTech 2012, Grant Echols said that FamilySearch Linking would probably be released sometime after the 1940 Census. When I was an intern with FamilySearch so many people seemed focused on the 1940 census. Other projects received less attention until it was over. The same thing happens for all projects. Since 2011 or earlier, FamilySearch employees in top engineering positions have been talking about wanting to link photos to Family Tree. FamilySearch Photos has just recently become a closed beta, open to members of the sponsor organization. The FamilySearch Indexing mobile app released at RootsTech 2012 was pulled offline in December and put on indefinite hold due to this same lack of resources. There appear to be too few programers and engineers to do the work that we want to see done. It isn't that the employees lack our vision as much as the fact that they must prioritize to a smaller amount of projects.

Anyone who is a follower of FamilySearch will realize that as a whole, their website offers a staggering amount of resources. Much has been done in the past year--just not in every area.

Another example as per your desire to let FamilySearch download sources and media to your computer software like Ancestry.com already allows: http://www.gedcomx.org/
Like I said, FamilySearch is aware of many of our needs and has concepts designed to work toward a solution. The GEDCOMX concept wants to create a new GEDCOM that will make transfer of media objects, sources, etc easy. After a couple of years they still are having trouble doing anything really significant with the community. FamilySearch has been criticized for their lack of official position with the FHISO for example. There is an insightful article from last year on the GEDCOMX blog that talks about it.

So, what do I think the future will bring? Who knows? I have the utmost faith in the concepts that FamilySearch employees have. The turn around is unbearably slow, but at the same time, FamilySearch adds new value to their website and worldwide network every day. I don't think I will ever stop loving FamilySearch, and I don't think that I will ever stop wishing they would hurry it up.

27 January 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Elers / Ehlers Civil Birth in Ober-Sickte

Thanks to the members of the "Germany/Prussia Genealogy Research" FamilySearch Community on Facebook for their generous help in providing this transcription.

Who is this record about?
My 4x great grandmother, Henrietta Ehlers, came to Baltimore, Maryland with her husband (Frederick Bewig) and 7 children. After years of researching Baltimore records, and the help of a friend, we found her place of origin as Obersickte, Braunschweig, Germany. This past week, with the help of FamilySearch's microfilm collection we now have the names of her parents.

Zivilstandsregister, 1808-1811
author:Sickte (Obersickte, Braunschweig). Bürgermeisterei

Am vierundzwanzigsten September 
Morgens acht Uhr im Jahre Eintau-
sendachthundertundzehn zeigte mir 
dem Superintendenten, Prediger und Civil-
Beamten der Gemeinde Sickte im Canton
[page break] 
Cremlingen des Oker? Departements Johann 
Friedrich Conrad Gille, der Schuster und 
Brinksitzer v. Obere Sickte Johann 
Heinrich Elers, fünfunddreissig Jahr 
alt, ein Kind weiblichen Geschlechtes an, 
welches am zweiundzwanzigsten diesen 
Monats Morgens zwischen acht und neun
Uhr geboren war. Er erklärte, daß 
er Dasselbe mit seiner Ehefrau Johan-
ne Elisabeth geborene Rüscher, fünf-
undzwanzig Jahr alt, erzeugt habe 
und ihm die Namen Anne Dorothee 
Henriette geben wolle. Diese Erklä-
rung und Vorzeigung geschah in Gegen-
wart des Ackermanns und Meiers 
aus Obere Sickte Johann Heinrich 
Pape, neununddreißig Jahr alt 
und der Kothsasse in Niedern Sickt 
Johann Heinrich Borneike, 
dreiunddreißig Jahr alt. Ich nahm 
hierüber diese Urkunde auf, die 
ich vorlas, unterschrieb und von den 
Zeugen unterschreiben ließ. (signatures)
Johann Friedrich Conrad Gille
Johann Heinrich Pape
Johann Heinrich Borneike

Direct translation:
On September twenty-fourth 
eight o'clock in the morning one thou-
sand-eight-hundred-and-ten showed me,
Superintendent, preacher and civil
Officials of the municipality Sickte in Canton

[page break]  
Cremlingen the Oker? Department Johann
Friedrich Conrad Gillespie, the shoemaker and
Brinksitzer from Upper Sickte Johann
Heinrich Elers, thirty-five years
old, a child of female sex,
which on this twenty-second
Month, morning between eight and nine
o'clock was born. He explained that
The same, he and his wife Johan-
ne Elisabeth born Rüscher, twenty-
five years old have produced,
and his name Anne Dorothee
would give. These declara-
tion and presentation happened in counter-
presence of the farmer and Meier
from Upper Sickte Johann Heinrich
Pape, thirty nine year old
and Kothsasse in Niedern Sickt
Johann Heinrich Born Eike,
thirty-three years old. I took
here on this document, which
I read, signed, and the
Witnesses had to sign.

Readability translation:
At the twenty-fourth of September of the year One-thousand-eight-hundred-and-ten in the morning at eight o´clock reported to me, the superintendent, priest and civil-servant of the community Sickte in the county of Cremlingen of the Oker? of the Departement Johann Friedrich Conrad Gille, the shoemaker and farmer (brinksitter) of Obersickte Johann Heinrich Elers, thirty-five years old, and reported the birth of a child of female sex, which was born the twenty-second of this month, in the morning between 8 and 9 o'clock. He declared, that he fathered this child with his wife Johanne Elisabeth nee Rüscher (Ruescher), twenty-five years old, and that he wants to give the child the names Anne Dorothee Henriette. This declaration and explanation happened in presence of the farmer from Obersickte Johann Heinrich Pape, thirty-nine years old and the farmer (cottager) in Niedersickte Johann Heinrich Borneike(?), thirty-three years old. I wrote this certificate which I read, signed and let sign by the witnesses.
Johann Friedrich Conrad Gille
Johann Heinrich Pape
Johann Heinrich Borneike 

person born: Anne Dorothee Henriette
birth date: 22 September 1810
father: Johann Heinrich Elers
age: 35
residence: Obersickte
occupation: shoemaker and farmer (brinksitter)
mother: Johanne Elisabeth Rüscher
age: 25

The word "Brinksitter" is difficult to translate. It is somebody sitting on the Brink. But what is the Brink. The Brink is the border of a field or the protective wall of the village or the land outside the protective wall or unused land somewhere. Of course, these people are not really sitting on that wall… Especially craftsman were Blinksitter. Their main job was, what they do as craftsman and additionally they had a small land where they do work as a farmer. - Jürgen Niebecker

Read about Germany Civil Registration on the FamilySearch Wiki.