Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NFS Update for 27 January 2009

Las Vegas Temple, copyright 2008 IRITheoretically, the Las Vegas Temple is now live! Once again a temple has probably gone live without an update to the official knowledge base article 102463. Do you think maybe FamilySearch waits to update this article until they get my NFS update?

What a roller-coaster Las Vegas has gone through, on, then off, then on again, then off again, then on again.

The release of NFS in the Las Vegas Temple district comes as we approach the 20th anniversary of the temple later this year. The temple was announced on 7 April 1984. Ground was broken 30 November 1985. After an open house, the temple was dedicated 16 December 1989.

 The Las Vegas Temple stands in sharp contrast to 'the Strip.' Image: (c)
The Las Vegas Temple stands in sharp contrast
to "the Strip."   Image: ©

Aaron Shill, a reporter for the Mormon Times, says,

Church members here recognize the incongruity of a strong LDS community against the backdrop of a city defined by gambling and associated activities that run counter to church tenets. Some call it a contrast; some a dichotomy.

No other districts are known to be in the transition phase to New FamilySearch. Latest rumors place the transition for any other districts late this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Belated Bloggers Day Report

As promised, here are links to articles posted by attendees at's Bloggers Day held Friday, 9 January 2009. Before we left the Generations Network's Board Room, where most of the presentations were made, I prevailed upon Diane Haddad to take a picture of the group. Here we are:


From left to right,the gals are:

Jennifer Utley, Ancestry Magazine editor-in-chief

Diane Haddad, Family Tree Magazine managing editor, the Genealogy Insider

Elizabeth Shown Mills, FASG, FNGS and author

Pat Richley, DearMYRTLE

The guys are:

Drew Smith, Genealogy Guys

The Ancestry Insider

Andrew Wait, The Generations Network Sr. VP and GM of Family History

Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center Manager

Mike Ward, The Generations Network Public Relations Director

Dick Eastman, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings, etc.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Visiting NARA: Making Reproductions

I recently made my first visit to the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). This is one in a series of articles inspired by that visit to help you make your first visit to the National Archives. The information in today's article is a mixture of personal knowledge gathered from that trip and information from General Information Leaflet (GIL) 71, The National Archives in the Nation's Capital – Information for Researchers.

Making reproductions

Copystand image courtesy B and H Photo - Video - Pro Audio Archives I permits self-service copying, although you need to ask the staff's permission each time, so they can verify that the records you wish to copy can be safely copied. In general, a document should not be allowed to hang over the edge of any copy machine, scanner, table or desk. Hand-held scanners are prohibited because they can damage documents. You can bring your own scanner, but see the restrictions, below.

The National Archives and Records Administration is one of the few archival institutions in the world to offer researchers the opportunity to make self-service copies of records. This rare privilege carries with it responsibilities for careful handling of original documents. Fragile or oversized records may not be self-photocopied, although NARA or an authorized vendor may be able to make the copy for you.


Self-service black-and-white photocopiers are available for your use in the textual research room. Self-service reader/printers are available in the microfilm research room. Staff told me that they hope to add a color copier. A debit card reader attached to each copier deducts money as a copy is made. Debit cards may be purchased onsite through vending machines or at the Cashier’s Office. The vending machines take bills only. The Cashier’s Office is open from 8:45 am to 4:30 pm in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC (10 am to 4:30 pm in Archives II at College Park), Monday through Friday.

I understand the photocopiers add an imprint indicating the document is a copy so that when you are checked prior to exiting the building, the documents won't be mistaken for originals. I didn't use the photocopiers, so I didn't see exactly how this worked. It looked like there was always a short line to use the copiers when I was there off season during extended hours.


You may use your own scanner with the following restrictions: the copying surface (platen) must be the same size or larger than the record; the scanner must not cause friction, abrasion, or otherwise damage records; light sources must not generate heat on the records; and equipment surfaces must be clean and dry before being used. Drum and automatic feed scanners are prohibited.

Personal paper-to-paper copiers are permitted only under certain restricted conditions and are subject to highly specific guidelines. If you intend to bring a scanner or copier, you must make prior arrangements with the Customer Service Center.

Because of preservation considerations, research room staff must examine all original records before you make copies using your own equipment.

Digital Camera

Fortunately, you may use a digital camera. Unfortunately, I have a shaky hand which produces blurry photographs (familial tremors). Fortunately, a bright light will avoid blurring. Unfortunately, you may not use a flash or your own artificial lighting. Fortunately, the textual reading room has a copy stand (see image of a copy stand, above). Unfortunately, the evening I was there one of the two light bulbs was burnt out. Fortunately, the working bulb produced enough light and the camera mount held the camera steady. Unfortunately, one bulb isn't appropriate for archival purposes. Fortunately, having only one light source produced aesthetically beautiful shadows and depth that, for me, was more valuable.

Using a light table produces steady, clear photographs. Using just one light source sometimes increases the aesthetics.
Using a light table produces steady, clear photographs. 
Using just one light source sometimes increases the aesthetics.

Of all the copy options, I prefer the digital camera with a copy stand. I didn't have to wait for photocopy machines. I didn't have to get a debit card or pay anything. I didn't have copies to be reviewed when exiting the building. It felt like I could make copies a little faster than a photocopy machine. Plus, the copies are color! I love capturing the full rainbow of ink and paper colors. I love the dynamic range of light and shadow!

Coming home with these fabulous images is part of what made the trip to Washington so fulfilling for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How do I subscribe?

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I have a friend who wants to subscribe. I am receiving your Ancestry Insider by e-mail subscription, but I do not remember how I subscribed. Would you be so kind as to send me the link or information on how to subscribe so I can share it with her?  My friend is a Family History Consultant.

Thank you,


Dear Mary,

Thank you for recommending me to your friend. Forward this message to your friend. To subscribe to the Ancestry Insider by e-mail, click here.

Use these links in the right side-bar to subscribe You can also subscribe at the Ancestry Insider website. I'll tell you how to get to the website in just a moment. Click one of the links shown to the right. If you wish to receive the Ancestry Insider by e-mail (no more than once per day), click subscribe by email. If you wish to subscribe using a news reader, click one of the other three links. If you use the Bloglines news reader, click on the Bloglines button. If you use Google's feed reader, click on the Google button.

If you use some other reader, click on the Subscribe in a reader link. If you need to paste a URL into your reader to subscribe to a news feed, use this URL:

To get to the Ancestry Insider website, go to . To get to the website from an e-mail, click on any of these:

  • The article title
  • The gray "The Ancestry Insider" to the left of the masthead picture
  • The masthead picture
  • At the bottom of the e-mail, the link labeled "The Ancestry Insider."


-- The Ancestry Insider

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Flanders fields and inauguration day Remembrance Day newspaper advertisement World War I ended at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 after the Germans signed the Armistice. The following year England's King George V dedicated the anniversary of Armistice Day as a day of remembrance to those who were killed during the war. Remembrance Day continues to the present, both within the Commonwealth and without. It is even commemorated in the United States, where it is called Veterans' Day, although it shares military honors with another holiday, Memorial Day.

Remembrance Day also bears the title "Poppy Day" as a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae's poem, In Flanders Fields. On 2 May 1915 McCrae witnessed the death of his young friend and former student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. That night he presided at Helmer's service in the absence of a chaplain, burying his friend in a growing cemetery just outside his aid station in the complete darkness required by security.

The following day McCrae paused from his gruesome work to step outside his aid station. The station was situated at the bottom of a hill overlooking the front so that as soldiers were shot, they would roll down to his care. McCrae paused to look out over the cemetery. War had twisted and disturbed the soil across Belgium which in turn had prompted the growth of wild poppies to a degree never before seen. Crudely dug graves further prompted growth of the blood red flowers from which his morphine was derived.

A red poppy flowerIn Flanders fields

McCrae put pen to paper and wrote:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

The poem quickly came to mark the sacrifice of not just Canada's dead, but all the allied dead from the Great War. It was an immediate success. However, not everyone agreed with allied recruiting's use of the fiery third stanza to incite additional young men to join their fallen comrades in Flanders fields. Today, some groups forego inclusion of the third stanza altogether.'s Flanders fields ad

It is within this context that ran the poppy-laden, color, half-page advertisement shown above. The ad ran in a Canadian newspaper last Remembrance Day. There was a great problem with the feel-good advertisement offering free database searches for ancestors who served in the Great War. According to a UPI story, historians quickly came forward to identify the gun-toting soldier as a German.

"I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the picture of the German soldier," said Canadian history buff, Kevin Nikkel. It's an outrage to the memory of those who died fighting for this country." Nikkel had three uncles fight in the war.

"We're so sincerely apologetic for this unfortunate error," said spokesperson, Karen Peterson.

The backlash backlash

As you read the remainder of this article, don't mistake my message. I do not condone or defend's mistake. Following the public flogging of, several interesting blog posts were published. Put prejudice aside and read on.

"I have been embarrassed about my heritage sometimes," wrote blogger Spitfire in "A different type of white guilt." She has ancestry that died on both sides of the great wars. She proudly celebrates Remembrance Day. She said, "I've learned to live with my history and heritage."

"Why is it so terrible to remember that war has casualties on both sides?" wrote Raphael Alexander of British Columbia in "Canadians have German grandparents, too." Of Canadians with ancestors that fought for the "wrong side," Alexander wrote, "Did they not also sacrifice in the war? What makes the loss of their grandparents somehow lesser?"

"Remembrance Day is a day to recall all of the soldiers who died in the struggle of global consciousness for freedom. Not just the Allies," said Alexander.

Wasn't World War I sparked by the assassination of a minor official of a minor government and fueled by nationalism? Wasn't it a war where soldiers on both sides would just as soon celebrate Christmas with the enemy in no-man's land than carry on the political machinations of government officials who directed the battlefield use of poison gas?

What was the torch and faith of the boys of Flanders fields? The dominion of Canada over Germany? Is that what McCrae had in mind? Adopting nationalism by honoring Canada's fallen above those of Germany's? Do you think that adopting the evil that led to their deaths will uphold the torch and give peaceful slumber to these fallen boys?

One of the lessons—maybe the principal lesson—of doing genealogy is learning from the mistakes of our ancestors.

And so on this, the inauguration day of Barack Hussein Obama, I ask: How do we take up this torch and these lessons and apply them to us, this inauguration day? Is it not non-partisan, non-racial respect? Yes, that seems obvious enough. So let me hit closer to home. What about good will and fair treatment of by consumers mirrored by good will and the fair treatment of consumers by

As George Washington first said, "So help me God."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Videos I've posted

I admit this post is more for me than for you. I can't remember from one time to the next how to imbed a video in a blog article, so I need a way to refer back to some of the videos I've embedded before. (Did you notice my inconsistent spelling? I did that to see if it would drive Lawrence bonkers! Don't worry; private joke.)

Do you remember these posts?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NFS Rollout Update for 14 January 2009

It's time once again to update you on the progress of New FamilySearch (NFS) and its younger sibling, Family Tree, which we could call New New FamilySearch, but that would be too, too confusing. As we previously reported on these pages, NFS is coming to Las Vegas! Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who registered their Family History callings received the magic e-mail Tuesday informing them that their temple district was going live on Temple Tuesday, 27 January 2009.

You're Going Live Message

The "you're going live" e-mail message has been updated since I shared it with you a year ago. Here is the way it currently reads:

Sent: Tuesday, [ 14 days prior to the go-live date ]
To: [ mailing list name at ]
Subject: New FamilySearch to Go Live on [ day/month/year ]

To: Priesthood leaders, family history center directors and family history consultants in the selected Temple district.

Beginning on the Tuesday date listed above, the new process for printing temple name cards using Family Ordinance Requests will be used in your temple. The new FamilySearch will be available to the general membership of the Church within your temple district on the previous Saturday. No additional notice will be sent to priesthood leaders or members of the Church in your temple district concerning these dates.

We ask that family history consultants and center directors encourage members who have existing TempleReady disks to take them to the temple and have their temple name cards printed before the new FamilySearch becomes available. Beginning immediately, please do not create any new TempleReady disks in your family history center for members who live within your stake or temple district.

If you have not done so already, please complete the new FamilySearch online training prior to the temple release date. This will greatly benefit your preparation for helping members to use the new FamilySearch as part of the new process for preparing ancestral names for the temple. Please contact FamilySearch Support by e-mail or phone if you have any questions or problems.

Thank you for your support of temple and family history work.


FamilySearch Support
U.S. and Canada : 1-866-406-1830
International: Go to for more toll-free phone numbers.

This is the first screen of the 30-day preparation survey30-day Rollout Preparation Survey

At least some of the members of the Las Vegas temple district received a survey about their preparations for the New FamilySearch. The e-mail message looked like this:

Subject: New FamilySearch rollout preparation
To: [ mailing list name at ]
Date: Sunday, [ 30 days before the temple's go-live date ]

To: Family History Center Directors and Consultants in Selected Temple Districts

We are coming down to the final few weeks before the new FamilySearch is introduced to the members in your temple district. We again hope that your preparation activities are progressing well.

To help us to have a better idea of what you may need to finish your preparations, would you please take a few minutes and complete a very short survey. The survey may be viewed by clicking here or by going to [Sorry, I can't give you the full URL 'cause that could mess up the statistics.]

As always, if you have any questions or need assistance with the new FamilySearch, please contact FamilySearch Support.


FamilySearch Support
U.S. and Canada : 1-866-406-1830
International: Go to for more toll-free phone numbers.

New Old

In other news, the home page for the old website got a new look recently, as shown in the illustration below. Contrast this with the previous iteration shown on the PAF-LUG blog.

A new look for the old

The new home page sports several minor changes.

  • The name and logo of FamilySearch owner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is displayed prominently in the header. The phrase "a service provided by" is situated just to the left of the logo.
  • The "Start Your Family History" section on the right side of page has been supplemented with an historic photograph. Refresh the page and you'll see a different photograph.
  • I don't remember if this is new or not, but the header is now in a frame so that it won't scroll off the top of the screen as you scroll down the page.
  • The "Free Family History..." heading is larger, dark blue, in a new font and has a little more white space, which makes it look more inviting.

Along with the home page changes, the Family History Library Catalog page has had a minor facelift with links to three training videos.

If you hear any news about the rollout of New FamilySearch... you know the drill.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009's Key Messages

In a previous life I somehow landed in an executive position without an MBA. Perhaps it was my lack of proper schooling that prompted a communications executive to arrange for some media relationship training. I learned that companies, spokespersons, candidates and politicians prepare to meet the public and the press by deciding the key messages they wish to communicate. Speeches, advertising, trade show messaging, press releases, press campaigns and pre-prepared answers to press questions are crafted to best communicate the key messages. That's why politicians often sound like they are evading questions; they respond with prepared key messages instead of addressing the questions addressed to them. has an excellent PR guy, Mike Ward, so it came as no surprise to me when mid-afternoon Friday (Bloggers' Day), it hit me that there were several messages common to almost every presenter. At the time, I thought there were only two key messages. Companies have to keep the number pretty limited; people just can't pick up more than a half-dozen, tops. Three or four key messages is probably optimal.

Andrew Wait, Sr. VP and GM Family History at the Generations NetworkAndrew Wait, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Family History, was our host for Writers' Day. Somehow I never got to spend any time with Wait when I worked at, so I didn't know him. Wait did a great job communicating the key messages. He seamlessly integrated them into his presentations. You see, you don't want your key messages to sound flaky or forced. The messages become less believable that way.

Several times throughout the day Wait reiterated that knew that various aspects of the website don't work well, that they had made wrong decisions at times, that they were working hard to fix the problems and even stuff they were pleased with could still be improved. At different points, Wait shared several anecdotes about his wife's use of, at one point sending us into loud guffaws when he announced that his wife would divorce him if he were ever to do away with Old Search. He was completely believable, authentic and open. Hat's off to Andrew Wait.

Mike Wolfgramm, Senior Vice President, Development, made a couple of presentations during the day. Wolfgramm showed obvious enthusiasm for's technology, server architecture and content pipeline processes. He did an excellent job explaining some pretty complicated technologies and it was apparent that he enjoyed working at When I worked at, always did a much better job communicating how awesome the technology was that they were developing to digitize their vault holdings. Friday, Wolfgramm did a credible job claiming that was doing some innovations of their own.

It was during our tour of's content production facility that I became aware that we were repeatedly hearing key messages when a couple of the male presenters, after explaining their area's role in production, made virtually identical tangents, talking about passion and caring and doing genealogy.

Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of the Generations NetworkTim Sullivan, President and CEO, concluded his Saturday night speech, indeed the entire evening, with these three messages:

  1. employees are real people who care about their work, want to work well and use it themselves.
  2. "We're having a blast doing what we do," Sullivan said, and
  3. "We'll continue to make mistakes, but our hearts and our passions are in the right place."

I immediately recognized all three as the key messages we had heard over and over, all day Friday. More importantly (for the Generations Network, at least), after what I had seen and heard, I believed him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Content is King!

"Content is King," declared's Tim Sullivan last Saturday night. This is the mantra oft repeated by the genealogists at to each new executive that joins so I was glad to hear it from Sullivan's own lips, even though I believe market forces like Google, FamilySearch International and others might one day overthrow the King.

Sullivan, president and CEO of the Generations Network (TGN), which owns, made the remark in Salt Lake City at a special invitation-only dinner Saturday night which hosted for various genealogical world luminaries: keynote speaker for the dinner, Elizabeth Shown Mills, a fellow of both the American Society of Genealogists (FASG) and the National Genealogical Society, and an esteemed academian and author; Loretto Dennis Szucs, award-winning author and FGS co-founder; Jay Verkler, president of FamilySearch; Kathleen Hinckley, APG Executive Director; Jake Gehring, APG President; Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center Manager; Drew Smith, Genealogy Guys co-host; other APG and FGS officers; Dick Eastman, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter; Pat Richley (DearMYRTLE), genealogical e-community pioneer; Elissa Scalise Powell, author and lecturer; Jennifer Utley, Ancestry Magazine editor-in-chief; Diane Haddad, Family Tree Magazine managing editor; and genealogy uber-blogger, Randy Seaver.

Many were in town for the 2009 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy starting today, Monday, January 12, 2009 through Friday.

Pillar #1

Sullivan presented Ancestry's three pillars for investment in 2009. Pillar #1 is content. will spend more on content in 2009 than any company ever has before, according to Sullivan. I glanced at FamilySearch's Verkler for a reaction to this statement, but he maintained a perfect poker face. I don't know what FamilySearch's budgets are, but I know the numbers of people they deploy and the amount of equipment involved is huge compared to

FamilySearch is also currently bearing the expenditure of building their content pipeline. Again, I don't know dollars but I've seen headcount. Mind you, I used to run a software development group and I know what headcounts cost six years ago. It's not fair to compare pipeline development costs of the two organizations, since Ancestry's pipeline is a mostly smooth-flowing machine. But if you do, FamilySearch is far, far outspending Thank goodness for those tithe paying Mormons and Church leaders who are willing to expend countless dollars preserving genealogical records.

Now, if I could just access them all on the Internet... But that's a topic for another day.

Pillar #2

"If content is king, then technology is queen," said Sullivan. The other bloggers present Saturday night and Friday have covered some of this technology pretty well and I'll provide some links to their articles as soon as time permits. The one item from Sullivan's presentation that I wish to mention here concerns international websites. Sullivan said that the company would be creating a lot more websites internationally in 2009. These would be different kinds of websites than what we've seen, but he didn't specify any more.

Pillar #3

Lastly, Sullivan talked about the company's investment in marketing. has received lots of public criticisms over the percentage of revenues spent on marketing, both by commenters on my blog as well as elsewhere. Having been a software company executive, the numbers never bothered me as they are in line with the industry as a whole. Sullivan was kind enough to walk through the scenario of cutting those numbers and using it to obtain more content. Initially, the annual increase in content would jump. But without marketing activities, the subscriber base would increasingly erode. With the decrease comes decreased investment in content. Year-over-year, the effect snowballs until revenues drop below what is required to keep the website up and running and they have to pull the plug. It's not a pretty thought.

The reason is able to spend more on content in 2009 than it ever has before is only because its marketing efforts are growing the number of subscribers, according to Sullivan.

Sullivan closed by repeating the key messages that had been presented repeatedly to the bloggers and writers on Friday. They were...

Well, actually, its late and I'm out of time. That round up will have to wait. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm in heaven

I'm sitting at a table with a few of the big genealogy industry bloggers and writers, a few of the people that I look up to immensely. I don't want to steal any of their fire, so I won't immediately reveal who. But you may be seeing posts about our meeting very soon on their blogs. I'll add my two cents as well when the time comes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Visiting NARA: The Archives Website

The home page of has nearly 150 links. I recently made my first visit to the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. This is one in a series of articles inspired by that visit to help you make your first visit to the National Archives.

Understanding the National Archives Website, the website of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), has a colossal amount of information. For the latest information and to answer questions not addressed in this series, consult the website. Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like a maze of twisty little passages that sometimes look all alike and sometimes all different. For example, search for "hours" and compare some of the results, such as the suggested link, "...Changes in Hours," "Extended Research Hours," "...Extended Research Room Hours," "...Changes in Hours," "Proposed Hours," etc.

Each page of has so many links that it is easy to spend half your time doubling-back on yourself. The home page is one of the worst, with nearly 150 links from which to choose; the main genealogists' page, more than 110. Unfortunately, making the website easy to navigate is NARA's 4th and lowest web priority. That's not to say they've taken no thought to do so, as we shall see they've provided us plenty of tools.

The green box in the upper-right corner of the home pageXYZZY

The magic to spelunking is understanding its organization. is divided into sections for different users. Near the upper-right corner of the home page is a green box (shown to the right) that lists the sections of the website. The two of most interest to us are Genealogists/Family Historians and Researchers. The first highlights NARA records of interest to genealogists. The latter gives information about doing onsite research at the National Archives. I encourage you to spend some time exploring these two sections.

Often, links from one section jump to another. This can lead to disorientation, looping and dead ends if you don't orientate yourself after each link by looking at the picture in the header or checking the bread crumbs.

As shown in the diagram, below, the bread crumbs are located immediately below the header. Unlike dropping tasty food crumbs in some cave adventure, the bread crumbs don't show the path you used to arrive at the page. Rather, they show how the page fits in the logical organization of the website. Remember looking at the results of searching for "hours"? Perform the search again; click the links once more; this time look at the header and bread crumbs. Notice that conflicting hours of operation are merely faithfully archived copies of old press releases. Also, did you notice that as soon as you click in the Search box (at the top of the page) you are given the choice of searching the entire website or just the current section? Limiting your search to one section is one way to avoid potentially outdated or extraneous results.

Page Layout

Understanding the page layout used on will help you avoid "link overload." To return to the home page, click on the blue box at the top-left or the home icon underneath it. To return to the main page of a section, click on the name of the section in the header or the bread crumbs. The footer links and the other header links don't change, so I mentally eliminate them from the clutter. This just leaves the left sidebar and the page contents.


There are three icons across the top of the page contents. The first icon formats the page for printing by leaving off the header, footer and sidebars. The second icon allows you to email a link to the page and the last icon bookmarks the page, which adds it to your browser's list of Favorites or Bookmarks.

The left sidebar is a helpful list of links that apply to that particular page. (A few pages also have a right sidebar with links.) I've seen these links lead to pretty much anywhere: up the bread crumb trail, down the bread crumb trail, over to a different section or elsewhere on the same page. To prevent looping back on yourself, if you find a page of interest, read the page contents before following any links. Next, follow any links of interest in the page contents. Only then should you use the sidebar to look for additional pages of interest.

Make liberal use of your browser's Back button. Consider opening links in new windows (or tabs, if your browser supports tabbed browsing). And remember to keep an eye on the header and bread crumbs.

Notable links

Like many web sites today, the commerce section of the National Archives website has a different look and feel than the rest of the website. You won't generally touch this part of the website unless you purchase something or consult the Microfilm Catalog. Explaining the use of this section of the website is beyond the scope of this series. A pamphlet describing the contents of each microfilm publication is available for download from this section. Unfortunately, I don't think there are reusable URLs to these downloads. A few have been duplicated on the regular website and have addresses such as, which is the address for the descriptive pamphlet for microfilm publication M1947.

Lastly, here's a link that you're not likely to need unless you author a blog or website. To create a reusable link to an entry in ARC, the Archives Research Catalog, use this format: Replace 654530 with the ARC identifier.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 future content

I assume the economic downturn is putting its chill on the genealogy industry. Genealogists will find it more important than ever to spend their money carefully. Perhaps that is why is taking big steps to woo subscribers.

In an e-mail to registered users, CEO, Tim Sullivan, offered 25% discounts on annual subscriptions and directed users to a web page with a "detailed look at" upcoming content additions. (Non-U.S. content requires a World Deluxe subscription.)

The page says, "we asked members like you what kind of historical content you thought would add the most value." The page goes on to state that they will be adding more content than ever before to "the world’s largest online collection of historical records."

Some of the plans listed are,

  • U.S. State Census RecordU.S. State Census Records, 1800s–1900s — claims to have the most complete online collection of state census records. They say they will be adding more than 10 million records and 50,000 images.

  • England & Wales Birth and Marriage Indexes, 1916–1983 — Images are already available on with a peculiar range-index, either is doing a real index to this collection, or they are doing a deal with FreeBMD. Ironically, the collection itself is an index, so the images become superfluous, having no additional information, once you have an electronic index.

  • U.S. Naturalization RecordU.S. Naturalization Records, 1792–1989 will have 5 million names and 10 million images from more than 20 states. A new immigration collection will contain 2 million records of immigrants crossing from the U.S. into Canada.

  • The Complete Canada Census, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1916, will be indexed and online. One or more of these are joint projects with FamilySearch. The 1930 Mexico Census is the only Mexican federal census available to the public and has 16 million individuals. I've seen this census on FamilySearch Indexing, so I assume it is a joint project also. U.S. Deaf Marriages, 1889–1894 is an World Archives Project.

  • U.S. Military will add millions of military records, land records, court records, newspapers and Jewish records. They will make continued updates to their contemporary obituaries collections and will update the PERSI index. Godfrey Memorial Library refused to renew's license to the AGBI index (formerly at since a competitor acquired both AGBI and former director of the Godfrey Memorial Library, Richard Black. In the complex three-way agreement, is rumored to have received a first-round draft pick. (Just kidding.)

  • will add 8 million names to the Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901–1936. The Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850–1934 will get 700,000+ new names. Other international additions include Italian vital records from Toscana, Lombardia, Liguria and Piedmonte regions; and millions of Scandinavian vital records. will add more U.K. City and County Directories as well as German Phone Books.

  • Headstone is also planning on adding a headstone photograph collection.

  • U.S. Deaths Abroad, 1910–1974 — I assume this information is from NARA. The first thing is likely to publish is the finding aid, 1870-1906 Registers of Consular Dispatches in 14 volumes (Inventory 15, Entry 82) which is rolls 19-32 of M17 although I seem to recall reading lately about the 1857-1922 Notices of Deaths of U.S. Citizens Abroad (Inventory 15, Entry 849).

To see the web page and the complete list of upcoming content, click here.

Monday, January 5, 2009 possible future directions Customer Survey has leaked possible future directions for their website. In a poll directed to some website visitors, those selected to take the poll were able to see possibilities being evaluated.

Besides standard customer satisfaction questions, was particularly interested in how users felt about the website's search capabilities.

Respondents were asked how interested they would be in these possible enhancements:

  • Specify interest by record type (e.g. military, land, religious, ethnicity, etc.
  • Show real name in public profile.
  • Add to your task list suggested next steps based on what you've already done.
  • See indicators on search results that show which records have already been viewed.
  • Receive suggestions on where to search for missing information about an ancestor.
  • Save a search.
  • Write an online personal history.
  • Create multi-media stories containing text, photos, audio and video.
  • Upload existing audio and video files.
  • Download all your site contributions or purchase a copy on DVD.
  • Create slide shows with photos, records, music and narration.
  • Write a family history blog (provided by to share your experiences and discoveries with others.
  • Correct fields other than names
  • Add fields not keyed by Ancestry
  • Vote to prioritize database fixes.
  • Access images as you would on a microfilm reader. It was not specified if this would include the images currently hidden from view because no names are present.
  • Higher resolution maps with the ability to zoom in to details. Hopefully would fix the resolution problem I highlighted in my article of 20 August of 2008.
  • Digitization service for photos and documents.

Respondents were categorized by family history experience, how long they've used and frequency of use. Interestingly, respondents were also asked if they have their own blog and if they use social networking sites.

I'm pleased that product managers continue to use scientific measurement tools to discover customer desires and evaluate customer satisfaction. In my opinion Tim Sullivan has built a great product management team and I think features added during his tenure reflect this.

This makes the still unfolding saga of new search particularly interesting to watch. Will Anne Mitchell respond to my challenge in The Perfect Search Storm? I've extended the deadline until end-of-day Friday to see if anyone will submit an entry for New Search. Will Old Search or New Search win the challenge? Stay tuned!