An article in the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City describes many changes beginning next year for the very popular FamilySearch.org web site. A complete overhaul of the church's site should allow those who have no experience researching family history to be able to "do something meaningful without having to learn anything prior," according to Steve W. Anderson, online marketing manager for the church's Family History department.
New online tools will allow novices to log on and - with a few mouse clicks - pull up their family tree, with details about ancestors, of any faith or none, that are part of the database. "You'll be able to attach images or photos to it, or something like a timeline of events. It will have all kind of things to make it a much richer resource."
Users will have their own login, allowing them to add information about living people to their family tree if they so choose, though that information will not be available for others to view in order to maintain privacy. Anderson said there is some concern about the accuracy of allowing people to simply add information, but "if someone disagrees with your account of it, there will be an opportunity to put additional information or opinion there."
In addition to the redesigned Web site, the church is pushing forward with a digitizing project that will eventually allow the images of such information as census records, birth, death, marriage, tax, and land records - now contained on its 2.4 million rolls of microfilm - to not only be placed online, but to be indexed in order to allow nearly instant access.
While not mentioned in the newspaper article, I have to wonder what this means for the future of Personal Ancestral File (PAF), the Windows and Macintosh genealogy programs which are also produced by the church's Family History department. The newspaper article states, "New online tools will allow novices to log on and - with a few mouse clicks - pull up their family tree, with details about ancestors, of any faith or none, that are part of the database." Doesn't that sound like a replacement for a genealogy program?
Indeed, PAF hasn't had any significant new updates in years. Reading between the lines of the newspaper article, it would seem that the Church's Family History department is focusing on an online replacement for PAF. That's not to say that PAF will be dropped, only that it might never get updated again with modern features.
In my opinion, that makes sense. The expenses of maintaining two competitive genealogy programs is probably prohibitive. As the world goes more and more to high-speed, "always on, everywhere" Internet connections, the advantages of building that functionality into FamilySearch.org may someday make freestanding software, such as Personal Ancestral File, look obsolete.
You can read the complete article in the Deseret Morning News at http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,650194998,00.html.