Thursday, January 30, 2014

Watercooler Wednesday #22 - Boundary searching is live on Find-A-Record

Boundary searching is now live on Find-A-Record. As shown in the Friday video from last week, you can search for collections within an entire county, state, or country all at once. Don't forget to install the Chrome Extension for an enhanced search experience from within FamilySearch and Ancestry trees. Right now we have collections from, digital collections from, and FamilySearch catalog entries for the UK.

Find-A-Record is still in beta. If you have any ideas for new features or find a bug, please let us know.

We are aware that a lot of collections in England are incorrectly mapped to the country level instead of the county level. We have plans to fix that tomorrow.

* This post is a day late because we were heads down preparing for RootsTech yesterday and completely forgot about it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Watercooler Wednesday #21 - Matt, the water god

On November 11th of last year Matt, the local water god, walked through our door with a wondrous contraption. A tall black cylinder that, if supplied with water vessels and electricity, would dispense a never-ending shimmering stream of cool, refreshing H2O. The peasants rejoiced.

Early last week our mystical  developed some disturbing symptoms. Its usual gurgley response to filling our tankards was distinctly absent, and its flow was abnormally slow. Being as we are not practiced in the arts of dispensary divination, we cast the bones and summoned Matt. After a few minor incantations and an absolutely amazing decapitation and reattachment, the gurgles returned. All was well again in the kingdom.

But our serenity would not last long. On Monday morning, as we bowed before its shiny black exterior gathering the chilled drops of dew from its small spout, the gurgles ceased. No amount of pleading or cajoling would bring them forth again. Luckily, before complete panic set in, we remembered the appropriate combination and summoned forth a vision of Matt, the water god.

After we explained the dire predicament we found ourselves in, Matt assured us that we would not die of thirst. Mounting his white chariot, Matt raced through the local wilds of Springville to bring relief and salvation to his devout followers. He arrived, and quickly rushed to the stricken tower.

An on the spot resurrection was once again attempted, but alas, the patient was too far gone. No matter the incantation or ritual, the gurgles of life refused to return. Upon a plea to know what had befallen the filler-of-beakers-with-clarity-and-coolness, Matt replied that an autopsy would be required before he knew for sure.

We thought all was lost, and that the kingdom would come to an end, but Matt said no, all was not lost. A new non-carnivorous contraption would be dispatched forthwith, and we would once again experience the ecstasy of agua.

At 8 o'clock this morning Matt arrived, toting a massive parcel. Inside was a brand new cooler, ready to fill our cups with life-giving sparkles. Huzzah! Praise the lord and pass the pretzels! It now sits behind me, waiting patiently to respond to my request for a draft with bouncy gurgles of pleasure.

As I close this tale of danger and redemption, I am nursing a tall goblet filled with glorious H2O, cooled through the good graces of Matt, the local water god.

Matt, I raise my glass to you. May your magic always hold true.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Watercooler Wednesday #20 - Open Place Database SDK and pre-launch

We are planning on launching this week. In preparation for that, we are working on a JavaScript SDK, documentation for the data API, data schemas, and instructions for installing OPD on your own server.

The JavaScript SDK and documentation is on github. We hope to have it in npm by the end of this week.

The data schema documentation can be found at

The instructions for running a copy can be found at

By Friday we will have data available for download at

In addition to weekly snapshots, we have a new public changes API that will allow you to keep your own copy of the data up-to-date. Documentation will be available at once we get an hour or two to update everything.

This is a huge milestone for us because all of the data for geolocating collections in Find-A-Record is coming from the Open Place Database. We plan on adding a massive amount of place data to Open Place Database over the next few months, and all of it will be available under the Open Database License.

We don't know yet when the data will be open to editing by the public, but we'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Watercooler Wednesday #19 - 6 Hour Heart Transplant - Neo4j to PostGIS

We learned this week that our core database, Neo4j, wouldn't be able to handle the amount of data we need. We scrambled to find a solution and settled on PostGIS. Amazingly, it only took John 6 hours to implement today -- complete with Couchbase XDCR. We're a little busy tieing up loose ends and racing towards the RootsTech Developer Challenge deadline on Friday. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Watercooler Wednesday #18 - We're Going To RootsTech

We will be attending RootsTech on February 6-8 as well as the Innovator Summit on the 5th. Here's what we're looking forward to.

Developer Challenge

We will be entering both Find-A-Record and Open Place Database in the Developer Challenge. The cash prizes are underwhelming but the publicity is priceless. The developer challenge put last years winner, Treelines, on the map and they weren't promised half the attention that even 3rd place will get this year.

FamilySearch Records API

We're hoping for some big news from the session about the FamilySearch Historical Records API. A historical records API that grants access to a collection as vast as FamilySearch's will initiate an exciting new age in the development of genealogy applications.

FamilySearch Partner Services Session

FamilySearch will be hosting a session titled FamilySearch is Open for Business! – What is Partner Services? How Can it Help my Business? We're hoping to hear some announcements about an improved experience for FamilySearch partners, such as self-service developer keys.


RootsTech is always full of surprise announcements from companies large and small. What will happen this time?

Meeting People

We're going to meet some friends from RootsDev for breakfast before the Innovator Summit. We look forward to meeting many others over the course of the four days.

Free Lunch

The Innovator Summit includes free* lunch. Who could pass up an opportunity for free lunch?

* Free after the entrance fee, of course.