Well, I finally did it. I managed to fit the Central Florida Family History Conference into my schedule and went this year. It was their 21st annual conference, but the first time I have attended. In the past, I was teaching at the University on Saturdays and couldn't just tell the students they had the day off. Now that we have moved and I am no longer teaching, it felt like a good time to go. So, I decided to provide some info for all my Family History Consultants and followers on what I learned at this conference.
The Keynote speaker was Crista Cowan - "The Barefoot Genealogist". For those who don't follow her, she works for Ancestry and produces educational videos for the Ancestry YouTube Channel. Her Keynote talk was about Ancestry and some of it's resources. She discussed her history with the company including her days as a representative travelling between the US and London trying to get contracts for records, her time in the indexing program, and now her time in the DNA and education arenas where she helps do research for several of the genealogy television shows. Currently, Ancestry has over 22 billion records and is adding about 2 million records each day. Most of the indexing is contracted out but some is completed by indexing projects. The biggest aid in adding new records to Ancestry is the advancement of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which allows computers to index typed pages such as newspapers and directories. These OCR records are being added at an ever increasing rate as the accuracy of the technology has advanced. She also discussed the ProGenealogists program at Ancestry. This is a small group of about 100 professional genealogists who can be contracted to help you break down your brick walls.
Jim Greene, from FamilySearch, was the first talk that I attended. His presentation was on What's New and What's Coming with FamilySearch. I always try to attend these types of talks so I can get ready for where FamilySearch is going in the next year or two. So, for the What's New part, Jim talked about the record collections that were added in 2016. The rate of use of FamilySearch continues to increase and during 2016 the users were adding 2.7 million new individuals each month. The largest connected tree has over a billion names and then there are many smaller bushes, as he calls them. These smaller bushes are those trees which haven't yet connected to the larger tree. Users are attaching 8 million sources each month. I'm sure I am a big part of those sources being attached because that is basically all that I do now. I just run up and down my tree making sure as many sources are connected as possible and adding new people based on those sources. The total number of individuals that are connected to trees on FamilySearch is now over 1.14 billion with 733 million sources attached. Another thing that happened was the decommissioning of new.familysearch.org (nFS). If you have been using FamilySearch for many years you probably remember this transitional program that eventually was replaced by the current FamilySearch interface. There were several issues with nFS that needed to be worked out in development, such as Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS) who could not be merged due to capacity issues. For those techies out there, the transition from nFS, which was an Oracle system, to the current FamilySearch, a Casandra system, is a major leap in computing power. Another thing that was added is the "View My Relationship" function. I use this all the time to make sure I haven't strolled too far off my family tree (which I do way too often). I just wish they had the relationship spelled out so you know if you were working on a 3rd cousin 4 times removed instead of having to figure it out from the tree they show you. Don't get me wrong, I really like the tree that pops up, I just want the relationship added at the bottom, or somewhere. Another advancement is FamilySearch Lite. FamilySearch Lite is built for low bandwidth access. This is great for areas where broadband doesn't exist or for those with limited data plans on their phones. For example, the opening screen once you log in to FamilySearch is normally about 3 MB in size. With FamilySearch Lite, that same page is about 30 K. That is a huge difference. Jim also talked about the Relatives Around Me function on the FamilySearch App. This function shows you everyone within a 50 foot radius of you who has the app activated and then shows you how you are related (if you are). There were a few people in the audience with the app so we all turned it on to see what we found. The person behind me found that he was related to 3 of them. Of course, I was related to no one, as usual.
So, what is coming for FamilySearch in 2018? They are working on improving the Private portion of FamilySearch. The private area is a secure database, not connected to the public portion, where all the data on living people are housed. Currently, you can only attach one source to a living person. That will change so you can fully source and add memories to living people. This allows you to tell their story while they are still living. Once they die, they are transferred to the public data set with all their sources and memories attached. Also, you will be able to share private data with those you invite, such as family members, so they can work on the living lines together. This will allow for Group Messaging, Shared Memories, Shared To-Do List, and a Group Activity Feed, so you can coordinate your research with family members. All this private information will remain protected on the secure server to protect people's privacy. Another advancement will be the notifications if someone changes information you added. With these notifications you will know when any information that you have contributed has been changed. This is different than the Watch List that lets you know if anything on a person you are watching is changed, whether you contributed it or not.
The last speaker I attended during the morning session was Crista Cowan. Her presentation was titled Using Your Ancestry DNA Results to Make New Family Discoveries. I have been using Ancestry DNA for a couple years now and figured I might be able to learn something from the professional on this. Her introduction on Ancestry DNA started with sorting the data by the most recent so you can track who has been added since the last time you were online. You can find this at the top of the DNA Match page under the title text where it says "Sort by: Relationship/Date". She also mentioned how to add notes to the information (look for the small piece of paper icon on the person's individual page). These were great hints on how to keep track of what is in your DNA Matches. Also, clicking on the small dark circle with the i in it after the person's relationship provides you the DNA match information. That information can be translated by using some of the DANA relationship tables online, such as the ones on Blaine Bettinger's blog. Your list of DNA Matches is sorted by the size of the matching DNA, the number of matched centiMorgans. So, those at the top of each relationship section are your highest matches and those toward the bottom are less closely related. Crista mentioned that she has a good collection of YouTube videos on the AncestryDNA channel. Another great tip she provided was the Shared Matches screen which shows the matches that are connected to you and the person you are looking at. This can help you determine if the matches are on your maternal or paternal line if you have additional close family DNA results. For example, I have both my parents tested and my wife has her mother tested. If any of our parents show up as shared matches we know the side of the family they are connected to.
Well, I don't want to overwhelm everyone so I will stop here and continue with the afternoon session in my next post. Hope you enjoy this post and have learned something.