FamilySearch.org’s goal is to become the Google of genealogy. True, in a way. The reality, however, is that they aim to become a phishing and packet-sniffing site, with users (in)voluntarily turning over their genealogical data for the LDS church’s religious rituals.
There is an interesting paper floating around on the web that discusses some ways to get around the increasing irrelevance of the FamilySearch organization. It calls the National Genealogical Society’s “Standards for Sound Genealogical Research” document “disturbing.” The quote follows: “While these are sound principles for traditional genealogical research, they carry the disturbing implication that each researcher must verify the work done by anyone else by personally examining the original sources.” Traditional research meaning how any responsible genealogist does his or her work. The filename on the web is “10.1.1.111.2341.pdf”, and the title is “Efficient Genealogy through Personal Extraction and Automated Verification”.
The author of the paper, D. Randall Wilson, advocates creating a database of extracts collected from volunteers; you, whether you like it or not, for the church’s use and to lure other victims. The goal is similar to what Geni.com did: lure people in with free access and tools to share, and then make all of that data available for their church members to change; with you, the original, accurate recorder of the information standing by helplessly.
Mr. Wilson has also written another paper called “Bidirectional Source Linking: Doing Genealogy ‘Once’ and ‘For All'”, filename “wilson.fht2002.bi-link.pdf”. This paper’s title is, in itself ridiculous since genealogy is never done, “once and for all.” The goal of this paper is to create a linking scheme, with their network as the hub, for genealogists to use. They’d use data extraction and data mining tools on all the data crossing that network, and use the data for their own gain. The thing is, even though this sounds like criminal hacking or phishing, it would be ‘voluntary’ because the genealogist implicitly agreed to their practices.
The mere idea of Mr. Wilson’s ‘Bidirectional’ paper and his other (‘Efficient Genealogy’), shows how the LDS church views legitimate family history and genealogy, to an end for their own gain: not to share with others, but to collect others’ dead relatives and use those dead relatives for religious reasons. Somehow, I’m reminded of the Twilight Zone episode called “To Serve Man.” FamilySearch, the Family History Library, their databases, and other ‘genealogical’ resources have always been for the benefit of their members’ use: finding people to attach to their families and baptizing them; regardless of the dead person’s religious beliefs or spiritual leanings.
I’ve been a genealogist for over 10 years, and yes, I have used FHL and FamilySearch.org resources. Thing is, I’ve also always found a different, better source for the same information. Years ago, I used to see lots of references to FHL holdings in serious journals; today I see hardly any. Coincidence? Probably not. A shift in documentation standards? Could be. Like myself, others are probably also finding different, better sources than what’s in the FHL or in their databases. I heartily recommend avoiding any new overtures of data sharing from any group with ulterior motives like the LDS church has espoused.