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5 Minute Family History

I’m an amateur family history researcher. When I was 10 yrs old, my Mom brought me to the family history library in downtown SLC. I experienced a little success and got bit by the bug. I’ve dabbled in it ever since. One of big challenges people face is how to do meaningful work in small amounts of time. That is why I was particularly excited about the FamilySearch indexing tools. I’ve seen my daughter grab a hold of that and do thousands of names.

I’ve been very impressed by new FamilySearch website and been using it to document sources, attach pictures, extend lines, collaborate with others, and eliminate duplicates. This last week I was introduced to puzilla.org and was able to use it to accelerate the work I’m doing. I played a bit with the APIs and came up with the following ideas for tools:

There are a number of specific tasks that a person does over and over again but figuring out the contexts for when you should do each is challenging for the average researcher. Moreover if you were to do them repeatedly you could do them more efficiently. To help solve this problem, I want to build task specific tools that you can sit down to and be that one specific task repeatedly for your ancestors and their descendants similar to how indexing works. That way you could tune the user interaction to make it more efficient and effective to do.

All of the tools would start from a given person and recurse breadth first through a specified number of generations through your ancestors and their descendants and help you do the following tasks:

Find and merge duplicates – Present the merge screen for people one after another people that Family Search recognize as having likely duplicates. In that screen, provide additional guidance about performing the merge (e.g. make sure to merge into the person who has ordinance work performed).

Attach sources and information – Go through all people that have fewer than x attached sources and find sources that are obvious matches (e.g. the first 3 in the list when you click the search resources link when looking at an individual) and make it real easy to preview the source, attach it to the record, and to copy information from it into the record.

Extend end of lines – Same as #3 except do it for your ends of lines.

Find missing family members – Do #3 except do it for families that have patterns likely to indicate that there are missing spouses or children.

Standardize data formats – Recognize examples of non standard place names, dates, capitalizations, and other data formats that should be standardized, suggest possible standardizations, and allow the user to choose one or skip.

Request ordinances – Given a set of criteria (e.g. need ordinance work, born more than 100 years ago, no obvious duplicates, have sufficient information needed to submit), present one after another families of information to request.

I think puzilla is a great start but I believe much more can be done. I like the compact way of displaying the ancestry and descendancy charts, I think if they were combined with the existing family search views and the task specific interfaces I listed above, that they could be used to give an overview of work that needs to be done and to help you remember where you are currently working.

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