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Memories Opportunities

Overview of Memory Files

FamilySearch is committed to assisting individuals globally in preserving digital memories that are associated with everyone’s ancestors. ( more about FamilySearch ). A web-based platform has been set up for the searching, uploading and attaching of digital memories through Application Programming Interface ( more about API ) that is accessible for free by authorized web developers and organizations. This is an amazing opportunity for desktop, mobile, and web developers to enhance their products by integrating with Memories on FamilySearch. Memories can be read uploaded, created, preserved, and attached to ancestors.

This document is provided to help qualify developers and organizations and to help them understand how they can best leverage the FamilySearch Memories API module.

FamilySearch categorizes Memories by photos, stories, documents, and audio. All memories can be preserved, attached, and viewed using FamilySearch except for video. FamilySearch is a family-oriented site and is therefore intended to be appropriate for all ages. All user-contributed memories are public. All memories submitted to FamilySearch should be appropriate, relevant, heart-warming, free of copyright, and non-commercial (see the Submission Agreement and Upload Guidelines ).

A great opportunity exists for a third-party website that is less restrictive in what and why media is being stored, while giving the user the ability to easily select and post certain appropriate memories to FamilySearch. FamilySearch becomes one of many websites to share or repost media by the master repository. The opportunity exists for a third-party website to provide storage that accepts more file formats, larger files sizes, better media conversion tools, and more elaborate organizing, tagging, and searchability than FamilySearch.

FamilySearch has many capabilities and some limitations for each memory type. Third-party organizations can capitalize on their strengths in the digitizing, converting, organizing, sharing, and social expertise for any or all memory types. This document will present various opportunities for each memory type that goes beyond features and services provided on FamilySearch.org.

Photos can be .jpg, .tif, .bmp, or .png with files sizes up to 15 MB. FamilySearch provides the ability to upload and label one or many persons in photos. Albums can be created and selected photos added to one or many albums. Albums can only be shared by emailing the URL of the album. Photos cannot be sized, cropped, or stylized in any way.

OPPORTUNITY: For a third-party website that offers full photo storage, image manipulation and improved sharing.

Stories are created by typing or copying text into a simple text field. Styles, such as bold, underline, and italics, are not available. The API allows only for the replacement of the entire file.

OPPORTUNITY: For a third-party website that offers full text editing and sharing while integrating with FamilySearch Memory Module.

Documents are PDF files that are viewed by the browser’s supported PDF viewer. Document enhancements must be handled outside of the FamilySearch website.

OPPORTUNITY: For a third-party website that offers full PDF editing and sharing while integrating with FamilySearch Memory Module.

Audio files can be .mp3 or .m4a up to 15 MB. Like documents audio files must be created and maintained outside of the FamilySearch website.

OPPORTUNITY: For a third-party website that offers full audio editing and sharing while integrating with FamilySearch Memory Module.

Video files are not yet supported by FamilySearch. They can presently be referenced by URL as a source on another website that supports video storage or playback.

OPPORTUNITY: For a third-party website that offers full video editing and sharing while integrating with FamilySearch Memory Module.

General Memories Opportunities

Digitize. FamilySearch has scanners available at Family History Libraries and many Family History Centers ( learn more ) to digitize photos and documents. FamilySearch also has both iPhone and Android software for capturing family history memories ( learn more ). What is lacking in scanners is the combination of 1) a low enough price for home use and 2) the ability to upload directly to FamilySearch. Lacking in FamilySearch mobile apps are advanced editing choices, including the options to size, split, or stylize photos, before uploading them.

Share. FamilySearch provides the ability to share memories via Pinterest, Twitter, Google +, or email. Many popular social media avenues are NOT available to share through FamilySearch, including the most successful--Facebook. A third-party application that is tightly integrated with FamilySearch could share with many other websites while staying in sync with FamilySearch.

  Living Deceased
Preserve (online storage) Yes Yes
Share (Pinterest, Twitter, G+, Email) No Yes
(Memories only)
Discuss a Person No Yes
Message to a Contributor of a Person Fact No Yes


Third parties can be more flexible than FamilySearch in the storage and sharing of “person information” for both the living and the dead. At the very least, third parties can make it possible for their users to share person information about deceased persons with FamilySearch users, including person facts, photos, stories, documents, audio, and possibly even video clips.

Preserve and convert. FamilySearch offers an amazing free opportunity to third-party applications to preserve the memories they have digitized. This service is not intended as a backup for all photos, documents, stories, or audio a user has made or collected. The intent of this service is to provide a place for users to save the best and most meaningful memories from the lives of our ancestors. A good third-party solution could be a dependable backup cloud service that has all the tools to convert, organize, and enhance the media and that also makes it easy to move selected copies to FamilySearch to take advantage of the unique benefits of that website.

Many applications provide users primary online storage capabilities, such as Google Photos, Dropbox, Backblaze, Carbonite, and iDrive. It is more difficult to find a “cloud” solution that provides multiple methods to organize, group, and share media with different access privileges for private individuals, private groups, or the public. Even fewer solutions exist that use relationship information to associate media around a common ancestor, providing access rights to interested descendants. Features can be productized in many ways, with or without tight integration with the cloud, social media, and FamilySearch.

FamilySearch Integration Opportunities

FamilySearch has millions of memories already stored that can be read by a third-party desktop, mobile or web application. Reading FamilySearch memories makes it possible to discover living relatives who are contributors and who may want to collaborate on additional research or memories. Many photos are already selected and attached as a representative portrait for persons in FamilySearch Family Tree. It is best to match a person ID in the third-party application with a person’s ID in FamilySearch so that updated memories can be checked for and easily retrieved by the third-party application.

FamilySearch certainly prefers that meaningful memories located on other sites have an easy way for users to share to FamilySearch. The “write to FamilySearch” feature 1) provides a backup of the memory, 2) helps to connect living relatives who are interested in the memory, and strengthens the relationship with FamilySearch because both parties potentially provide and receive new memories.

Third parties can build helpful applications that sync memories associated with a common person in both applications. This option can be crafted so that changes to memories on the third-party applications can replace the memory on FamilySearch and the meta data from the prior memory. Likewise, the third-party application can check for changes or new memories of a person linked with that application so that the change can be “sync’d-down”. This is the best scenario and the strongest integration possibility.

Marketing Channel Opportunties

Privacy issues require different flows for handling information, depending on whether the persons are living or dead. In general, all information about living persons needs to be kept private unless permission to share is obtained and recorded. This permission can only come from the living person who is willing to share his or her own information. FamilySearch handles only the protection of information about a living person for and in behalf of that living person. FamilySearch privacy rules make it possible for the living person to save and retrieve information only about himself. A third-party application may provide greater sharing capabilities of information of living persons subject to their application’s policies for Rights and Use of Information and Privacy. However, if the third-party application allows the user to move information from FamilySearch to the third-party application, the user must still adhere to the Rights and Use of Information and Privacy accepted when the information was originally placed with FamilySearch.

Desktop and Mobile applications are allowed to store all information downloadable from FamilySearch including information on living users to which the user has access. Web Apps cannot store any information from FamilySearch about living persons.

In FamilySearch, living and confidential people are managed in a Private Space. Only the user is able to see and modify the person in FamilySearch that represents them, or a living direct relative that the user has also entered. However, anyone can potentially see the photos, documents, and stories that are attached to this person, i.e., group photos may show living people. Sources and Discussions are not available for living people.

A FamilySearch user can add information about a direct living relative in addition to information about himself. Again, this information is kept in the user’s own Private Space with a Person Identifier (PID) that is unique for the user’s access only. The relative’s person information and relationship in the Private Space will not be accessible by anyone other than the person who entered it. If multiple siblings or cousins all enter the same living relative, each user will have a separate PID for the same relative. When the common relative dies and moves out of the separate Private Space area, each of the duplicates of that same person will need to be merged together.

Social and privacy issues are hard to separate since the application can only facilitate the level of sociability of its contents that the contributors and participants allow. Sociability between social media applications means the third-party application needs to coordinate the rights and privileges between the apps, even if they are different. Most social apps provide for multi-level permissions by the media, which allows the contributor to keep some media private to the contributor only, and to make other media accessible to a specific designated group. Facebook groups and YouTube channels provide good examples of handling permissions for public and private groups in which the group owner can allow other people to join for access to the media in the group. In this way a user can set up multiple permissions. He (or she) can set up an account for his own media and can then share with others, as desired.

Social Media is also very good about handling media communications, such as likes, comments, and inviting new participants to join the social group. FamilySearch does not extend to these social channels, only to share Memories to Pinterest, Twitter, or Google Plus. There is no integration with the social side of these, or other, social channels.

Global reach of family history is an important priority of FamilySearch. One effort by FamilySearch is to make all features of the website available in ten core languages (German, Portuguese, English, Russian, Spanish, France, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese).

FamilySearch has been organized into five geographical areas, with a focus on each of the countries and languages within each area. These areas include North America, Latin America, Europe, South Africa/Pacific, and Asia. Third parties can maximize their association with FamilySearch by providing their integrated memory services in each of FamilySearch’s ten core languages. Further correlation and cooperative services with FamilySearch can happen when third parties offer translated and culturalized application of languages beyond FamilySearch’s core languages.

Single Vendor Solution

Sharing with FamilySearch users has some great benefits, with some friction. FamilySearch has millions of users that are just getting started in the digitizing and archiving of family memories. The learning and decision process of what to digitize and how to preserve photos and documents and to make them retrievable by the ancestor’s name and relationship is a difficult challenge to a novice, especially when the amount of undigitized media is in the thousands. Even creating a way to select and prepare 10% of what might be stored in a box or boxes in a proverbial attic is overwhelming to many.

Some friction for users with FamilySearch is the acceptance of the “Memories Upload Agreement” before using FamilySearch as a storage resource. Another friction for users is the segregation of the media between living and dead, especially when photos and documents contain images and documents that includes both living and deceased individual in one artifact.

Many users would like to have one vendor with mobile apps that coordinates with a companion web app for gathering, classifying, and tagging all media in which they are interested.--The media they captured and the media they discovered on the web through social media or just searching the web. An attractive third-party feature set for old and recent media is to make it easy for the user to complete four important tasks: 1) Digitize and Preserve; 2) Transfer and Reference; 3) Convert and Organize; and 4) Share and Sync, as illustrated below.

Working Together for a Common Purpose

Individuals and organization in the large space of digital media can find areas to cooperate with FamilySearch for the mutual benefit of leveraging each other’s digital media, international, family history, and marketing services. Please review what FamilySearch does and does not do, and engage FamilySearch Partner Services in a strategic discussion about how we can form a mutually beneficial relationship that benefits the family history market.

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