Timeline revised

The focus for today’s release of the findmypast Family Tree was to consolidate the timeline of a person’s profile page. A person can have any number of facts and events added to their profile, and where more than one fact type exists (such as Residence) then one is defined as “Preferred”.


The example above shows where two instances of a Residence fact has been created for a person, and the most recent one selected as the preferred item. While there is argument that every instance of a fact type is relevant, there are many occasions where we need to display a single instance of the fact, such as birth, death or occupation. So rather than just pick the first one entered, we allow you to have multiple items and to select which one you believe is the most relevant or most important.

In the previous version of the Family Tree, the timeline displayed every preferred fact in a constructed sentence style. That is we try to construct an English language sentence around the information that has been added for a fact. Note, that this is not always an accurate and grammatically correct sentence, but with the careful use of language in the fact description field, it does work in most cases. The purpose is to present the person’d journey in a story style.

For example, the birth of a child would appear as follows.

timeline story fact

Up until till now, we have displayed all the preferred facts by default. With some tree user’s, like myself, where a person can easily have up to and over 30 facts, this made the timeline too busy and unusable. So we decided to reduce the default items, but at the same time give you the ability to select which items to appear as default across your tree. There are three groups of fact types.

The first group will appear in the timeline, and cannot be switched off. These are:

  • Birth fact, including child birth facts
  • Death fact
  • Marriage fact
  • Census fact

The second group will appear by default in the timeline if they have a date, but these can be switched off. These are:

  • Baptism fact
  • Military service fact
  • Occupation fact
  • Divorce fact

All the other fact types, including custom facts, will not appear by default in the timeline.

This resulted in a more manageable, readable and constricted timeline for the person.

full timeline

So now, if you want to include other fact types in the timeline as a default for all people, what do you do? We have introduced a new list style page for all fact types in your tree. It is label “Fact types”, and can be found on the pages menu in the top right hand corner of the tree.

added fact types list

It follows the same standard format as used for the people list. Next to the name of the tree is a counter. This shows how many of the particular fact types there are based on the filter. The filter is blank to start with so it will display the list in a paged format. With 20 items per page. You can use the auto-filter field to look for a fact type or narrow the displayed facts to ones which include the filter text in their description. The auto-filter means that it will filter as you type. You can also opt to select more items on the page. By default it is 20, but you can increase this to other amounts. All columns are sortable ascending and descending. Click once to sort a column, click again to reverse the sort order.

fact types list

The line of data that is shown for a fact type includes the description, and indication of whether the fact type offers the Description, Date or Place fields when adding or editing. It indicates if the item will be included in the timeline, and a column that indicates if the fact type has been deleted. This last option will be have a purpose in a future release, where you can opt to exclude a default fact type from the add fact list of fact types.

At the moment the options button only offers the ability to show or hide fact types in the timeline. Just to reconfirm, only the “Preferred” fact of displayed types will appear, and again only those with dates.

show in timeline

So if I switch on one of my custom facts, “Addr @ Other” to show in timeline, and return to my profile page, I will see the following.

added custom fact type to timeline


Please be aware that this change will force this fact type to appear in the timelines of all people that have this fact with a date. It is not specific to a single person. Of course, if a person does not have this fact type used in their profile it won’t appear.

Bug fixes

  • When updating the preferred core fact for Birth, Death, Occupation and Marriage, the profile header was not updating.
  • When editing a fact with no place, the place name was being saved with a single space.

Thank you for reading my posts

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. 



Adding custom facts

Last Tuesday we had another update roll out. Much of the work was preparing for tree sharing, so not a lot to see, but I can explain a little about what is coming. This was included in my presentations at Who Do You Think You Are Live 2014.

Custom Facts

You can now add custom facts for a person. There are three category of facts,

  • “person names” which include full name, also known as, etc. and deal with name properties, prefix and suffix,
  • “person facts” which refer to items that can include description, date and place and deal with just the focus person,
  • “family facts” which refer also to items that include description, date and place, but deal with the focus person and a spouse.

add custom fact

Only custom “person facts” can be created at this time. You can choose to create a custom fact when you click on Add Fact. You need to provide a “Fact type” name. By default, the fact type will have description, place and date fields, but this will be editable very soon. Just save as normal and you see both the fact added, but also the fact type will appear for future use in the fact type list.

create custom fact

Quick Links

I have mentioned before the dialog box we call the Nodal Modal, which appears every time you click on a person’s name. It has a very specific intention and that is to give you more options and guidance about the person you just clicked on. For newcomer’s and for when you venture down a less well trodden path within your tree it is very useful, but on the most common sections, it seems like over kill. So we have introduced a quick link within the pedigree view. It will let you make the current person, the focus person within the pedigree view, you can jump to the profile, add a relative or open the quick edit option. It’s a small link, and a bit fiddly to get working on the iPad, but I’m told by our designers that this is intentional. For iPad they recommend just using the Nodal Modal.

quick links

Specific Search Links in Timeline

We’ve added fact specific search links within the timeline for Birth, Death Marriage, Child Births and Censuses. They’re as accurate as we can get and save a lot of typing. We’re still waiting to add “attach records to tree” to become available, so you do need to manually link these back as a source, but it’s better than nothing.

search links

Shared Trees

The feature is not available yet, but we have been preparing for it. When a tree is created you have the option of creating it as Public or Private. The option does not refer to whether or not your data can be searched, they all can, but whether or not another user has to ask for your permission to view you tree(s). My recommendation is to leave it as private, and then people can ask to view your tree. Having said that I know I have opted for a Public tree in the past on the likes of Ancestry. Why? Because there is another option available, called Show Living which I set to off. This means that although people can freely view my tree, they cannot see details of living persons. Like the one below, they can see the shape of the family but no detail.

shared tree

And when we do release, there are a couple of other interesting features. The first is that you can choose to set the Show Living flag on a person by person share, meaning that you can by default Hide Living from most user’s, but for some close relatives, you can opt to Show Living. And also, against all notes and facts, there is a Private flag. Ticking this means it will never be visible when viewing as a  shared tree.

Coming Up

We have some new lists to show, including one for places and one for fact types, and some options on each. The timeline will be configurable. And GEDCOM export is coming very soon!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions.

Thanks for reading, Phil

Thank you to all attendees at WDYTYA 2014

Two weeks ago I presented my first ever talk, and the following day I repeated it. It possibly wasn’t the most exciting, stimulating talk at Who Do You Think You Are Live at Olympia 2014, nor did I recall some fantastic or amazing journey through my family history. But I would sincerely like to thank all the congregation of the “Parish Church of St Findus-in-the-Past” who attended my whistle stop tour of the new findmypast family tree. I had 45 minutes, and 81 slides to cover, so it was quick!

st findus in the past

My aim was to provide an overview of the new tree, with plenty of screenshots, to show the growth of the new tree, and demonstrate how far the feature set has been extended over the last 6 months, and what will soon be released to the findmypast UK user base.

I literally started at the beginning with an explanation of creating a tree, the tree settings available now in terms of privacy and control, and the plans for the future. We then covered adding a person, extending the detail, adding relations, attaching media, selecting profiles, lists, etc.

At the end, I briefly showed the Ming Dynasty Tree one of my colleagues who originates from China has started, to demonstrate how we handle Chinese characters and other character sets. This will be evolving further.

But amazing, even though I prepared my presentation only a few days beforehand, since we are rolling out improvements so fast, it was already out of date in a couple of places!


I also had to throw in a few quick mentions for the findmypast iPhone App called Capture which will soon be released that offers users some nice features such as quick photo, audio and note upload to a person profile, direct to your trees online. It should also be available on Android too! As I told my attentive congregation, this would surely be a great tool to have at a wedding or family gathering. Or even a funeral. At my own grandmother’s funeral a couple of years ago, I would have loved to have collected an audio comment from her friends and family (including her 96 year old elder brother) about their favourite memory of my gran.

In the end, despite my incredible nerves before both presentations, I thoroughly enjoyed doing them, and very relieved to see that they seem to have gone down so well. Apparently, the findmypast team were quite busy after both with questions along the lines of “when can I start using the new tree?”. Very soon I am told.

In addition to the two presentations, I was quite busy Thursday and Friday, helping out as always on the Genes Reunited stand. Well to be honest, the only rest I got was when I did my presentations, though I’m not complaining. I love helping people track down the missing records, lost relatives or just solving the issues they’re having with the site.

genes reunited


I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to one South African born, British based gentleman who used to frequent my great-grand uncles hotel near Durban as mentioned in a previous blog post: http://www.genesreunited.co.uk/blog/phil-moir/archive/2011/7/30/henry-turnbulls-voyage-to-south-africa-in-1904. We were going to chat more, but I’ve lost you email. Please do get in touch with me via this blog.

And I can’t not mention the wonderful company I enjoyed at the findmypast dinner on Thursday night along with many members of the Society of Genealogists, including the members of the Hampshire Genealogy Society. It was a real pleasure sitting with you all, and of course, for letting me have the spare chocolate pudding!