Review: RootsTech – “What’s New at Family Search”


I try to watch at least one genealogical video every week just to keep up with what is going on. Of course, I get behind a lot, but it is a goal. I’ve been catching up with RootsTech 2015 videos.

They are always among the best genealogy videos out there. If you haven’t seen them, you should. This week I watched, Devin Ashby’s video regarding “What’s New at FamilySearch.” Family Search is my Number 1 free site — I use it regularly (at least weekly) and figured that Devin’s presentation could help me catch me up with new features at FamilySearch. Of course, I was right again – it was an excellent presentation and was able to learn some new things and able to solidify some other capabilities more clearly in my mind.

I felt that Devin started a little slow, but his content improved as the talk went on. Most of what he talked about I already knew or had seen before through other newsletters and blogs that I subscribe to. However, towards the end of the video he mentioned some software/online resources that I hadn’t seen before, most of which work with Family Search.

First was #MyToday which makes a journal of your Facebook top events, photos, and statuses. I set it up and tried it – Nothing. When I’d hit the start button, something that should “take about a minute” the icon just spin and spin as it was “Processing.” So, I guess the site is not working at this time. After several minutes, my browser (Chrome) goes to a blank screen.

Next was Puzzilla.com. It creates sort of a stick chart of your family tree. It has the ability to take you to other sites to see the information. I wasn’t impressed. Frankly, I felt the stick-chart tree was pretty lame. The chart has a number of features, but I think the fan chart and links within FamilySearch are better. Luckily, disabling the Puzzilla account is easy. Just log into Family Search, click on your name on the top right, then on settings. Click [Revoke Access] twice and you are done.

The next one was “Find a Record.” It looked cool in his presentation, so I was excited to take a closer look. Wow! I was impressed. You use your Family Search login and Find a Record suggests areas of research for you based upon what you have, or don’t have, on Family Search. It also provides immediate links to their partner sites: Ancestry.Com, Billion Graves, Family Search, Find-A-Grave, Find My Past, and My Heritage. Those links auto-fill your key data into the search parameters on those sites to keep you from having to reenter the same information on each site – Very useful. There is also a Chrome extension that is very handy. With the extension, when you view a person in Family Search, there is an icon in your browser address window that, when clicked, brings you to the Find a Record page for that person that provides suggestions for research.

In case you didn’t know, there is also an Ancestry Family Search Extension for Chrome that allows you to click once from an individual’s page on Ancestry and have your browser take you to Family Search with the parameters for the individual auto filled in. Anyway, I think Find a Record can be a really useful tool to facilitate researching an individual efficiently. If you have an Ancestry.Com subscription, find the individual on Ancestry, research the hints there, use the Family Search Chrome Extension to switch to Family Search, search there, then use the Find-a-Record extension to switch there and search Find my Past and My Heritage, etc. if you have accounts there. I like it because it focuses me on one individual and helps keep me from being distracted by BSOs (bright shiny objects).

Finally, Rootsmapper.com was mentioned in Devin’s talk. It is supposed to map out your ancestors and where they are from. I think it has possibilities, but I found the interface confusing and difficult to use. I’ll try it again when I have a better-defined family tree in Family Search.

That brings me to the last point.  In order to use any of these tools (except for #MyToday) you need a tree on Family Search. The better your tree is on Family Search, the better the results will be using these tools.  I currently keep my trees on Ancestry so I’ll need to improve my trees on Family Search in order to really see how useful Rootsmapper, and, possibly Puzzilla, are.

The bottom line:
10 – RootsTech: (In general)
 9 – Family Search (The best free site for research on the internet)

 8 – RootsTech: “What’s New at Family Search” (Slow start but great end.)

 8 – Find-a-Record (I’m planning to incorporate it into my workflow.)
 5 – Rootsmapper (I will revisit it when I have a more substantial tree on FamilySearch in a few weeks.)

 4 – Puzzilla (Family Search itself does a better job.)

 1 – #My Today (Site not working – Maybe I’ll revisit it in a few weeks.)

Future Actions

Revisit #MyToday
Revisit Rootsmapper

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