What happens to "Memories" when a living person dies (authoritative answer)
I've seen a number of questions about what happens to photos, stories, documents, etc., in the FamilySearch "Memories" section of living persons once they die (both Church members and non-members). I have yet to find a really complete article on the subject. I received the following directly from Ron Tanner, with his permission to post it here in the Community section of FamilySearch. This should answer almost any question on the subject, as far as FamilySearch has made decisions and programmed the system to operate.
Ron Tanner is the Portfolio Director for FamilySearch.org in the Family History Department leading a team with responsibilities for Family Tree, Search, Hinting, Memories, Mobile, Temple, Homepage, and other companion products. In his response to me he made his answers a different color to stand out from my questions but this format does not appear to allow colors. Therefore, his responses are bold.
This should answer almost any questions on the subject.
=== Ron Tanner's response below ===
(1) When I die (I'm a Church member) and the clerk finally updates my membership record to reflect my death, is FamilySearch also notified so that my "Private space" record becomes visible on the Tree? If not, then what happens to all the memories I put on my own page? And if it does become visible, do all the memories go with it to the visible Family Tree that everyone can access? If not, is there ANY way to preserve my own memories in FamilySearch for future use by descendants?
If you are a Church member then we get notified when the membership record is marked deceased and we do move your home person to the public area as it is marked deceased. Therefore, other users will see all the memories that you have attached on yourself. Except for the ones marked “Private.” We are still discussing if these should happen when a person is marked deceased or if the user should be able to specify a timeframe (e.g., 1 year after death).
Currently we do not make your gallery public. However, we are also discussing this and are considering putting a link on your person page (now deceased) to your gallery so others can see the images and attach them. They will not be able to delete them as you are the owner regardless of your living status.
(2) My wife, my children, and at least some of my grandchildren have entered my wife and me in their own FS accounts, thus creating multiple duplicates once all those become "Deceased." At least some of them will have their own unique memories about me that won't be the same as the ones I put in my own version of "me." What happens once I'm dead and family members begin the merge process? And do they need to determine which record is my "original" FamilySearch record with the PID assigned when my FS account was first created - and use that as the one into which all the others are merged? Or will all of the memories combine and be preserved from all of the different "Private space" instances of "me?" Any need for a specific merge strategy in such cases?
As other family members or others who have created a copy of you in their tree mark them deceased, your home person will show up as a duplicate. When they merge the two together the memories will all be copied over to the surviving person. It doesn’t matter which one is the survivor as the memories all come over anyway. No special merge process needed.
(3) It's easier with those of us who are members of the Church upon death, because a ward clerk will normally change our membership records shortly after death - if for no other reason than to reduce the "ministering" list assignments (hah hah!). But assuming that change in membership record also ends up being reflected in FamilySearch as a now-deceased person, that takes care of most Church members. What about non-member accounts? How do families notify FamilySearch about an account holder's death so that the original Private space record can be changed to Deceased, thereby allowing the merge process to begin? And the same question arises as with Church members: ideally, should all the records be merged INTO the original record created by the newly deceased FamilySearch account holder, or won't it matter once all of the Private space instances are marked "Deceased?"
This problem has not been solved. We have had many discussions about allowing family members of public users to notify us that the person is deceased and we could mark their home person as deceased. We have not settled on how we can do this. We are also interested in looking at the dates of the people in these private areas in order to determine if they are most probably dead, because they are over 110 years old.
(4) If the questions above have NOT resulted in a good job of programming to allow for preservation of Memories in FS, and recognizing the need to avoid tornadoes, theft, insects, mold, fires, floods, theft, etc., what recommendations are there for doing for ourselves the same thing we are diligently doing for our deceased ancestors - so our descendants have information about us as well? And CAN it be done near-term in FamilySearch so we can continue to promote FamilySearch as what I could otherwise consider the very best repository of our precious stories, photos, documents, and audio files of our entire family, not just the dead ones?
You will need to judge for yourself if you believe FamilySearch.org has provided sufficient features to help preserve your most precious memories, but I believe that it is sufficient with respect to the types of memories one can have currently. I believe in the future we will need to make sure we can potentially support other types of memories.