This is a cross post from my other genealogy blog, the Sharp Family in NC. I heard from my Fast Forward blog colleague, Paula Thornton, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been working on a project to provide is one and only one instance of every individual -- to be shared in a global representation of genealogy. This allows all work done by individuals to be shared in an open collective.
At first I was a little skeptical. Some of what the Mormons do is extremely helpful. For example, I when I did some family history research a few years ago, I was able to get microfilm of actual church records in England in the early 1600s. However, what they put on their web sites was simply user contributions with no fact checking. I saw the same mistakes repeated over and over again. If you treated the material as clues to validate with actual records then that was sometimes useful. But many people treated the material as facts and so much misinformation was being spread.
Now the Mormons were not unique in this spreading of misinformation, all the other genealogy sites also do no fact checking as far as I can see. I could see the same errors repeated across sites. So I would be very suspect of the data that is conveyed.
However, Paula made a very good point, and this is the potential of web 2.0. She said that the whole purpose of the 'shared' space is for such 'errors' to be shared and fixed collectively. Then we can also see what facts might need more research and run off and do it (or take related trips). This is the point of the genealogy forums but they seem awkward to use which is one reason I started my genealogy blogs. I am sure there will be controversies and perhaps edit wars (like in the wikipedia). However, progress should be made.
Here are some of the things that the Mormons are doing which can be found at the their family history research site.
Record Search - helps you identify your ancestors by letting you search millions of indexed records and by letting you browse images of records that have not yet been indexed.
The FamilySearch Family Tree is their effort to combine their Pedigree Viewer and the Life Browser and combine them into a more full-featured application. The current version updates the person page and adds an event map.
Standard Finder allows for a search for a standardized name, date or place based on your input. The Standard Finder will present the standards that will be used in future releases of new FamilySearch.
The FamilySearch Research Wiki forms a community of research experts and interested genealogists that share up to date information on how to research sources for information about your ancestors