Monday, December 13, 2010

Comparing the Old and the New

FamilySearch online booklet helps users adjust to new websiteSaturday morning another uncertain indication showed up that will go live this month. This comment showed up temporarily on the FamilySearch Wiki early Saturday morning:

The FamilySearch Wiki Engineering Team modified a link on this page so it will not break when the Family History Library Catalog changes in late December.

The comment and the modification disappeared before the end of the day.

Documentation on goes through the features of the old and gives a report card, of sorts, noting differences or deficiencies with the new website. I’ve added my own candid take, below.

To you, my friends outside FamilySearch, remember that these are my personal opinions and I do not speak for FamilySearch.

To you, my friends inside FamilySearch, I mean no offense. I know you care for quality, are aware of the issues, and are working to fix them. I have faith in you and ever growing respect. Although you may hear some things here first, I only repeat publicly available information.  My criticisms are offered as a service to our users.

Feature from old Status of the feature on the new
Links to the Home page The logo works as it did before, taking you back to the home page.

The new website does not have a home button. I hear users saying they want it; I’m surprised FamilySearch hasn’t complied.
Search Records Search Records, Advanced Search, and RecordSearch pilot have all been replaced with Historical Records search. Surprising, there are no links to this central feature of the new website. None in the header. None in the footer.

Here’s an insider tip: Click the FamilySearch logo.
Library Catalog I wrote about the FHLC after the November release (here and here). Product Manager, Robert Kehrer, responded with additional information you’ll want to read. (Thanks, Robert!)
Historical Books The new website provides no way to search Historical Books and no link to search them on the BYU website. There are links to individual titles in the Family History Library Catalog. The documentation states, “You cannot currently search the historical books directly.” I hope that means FamilySearch is planning on adding Historical Book search.
Web Sites Google and other search engines do a far better job of searching other websites. Further, it is beyond FamilySearch’s ability to maintain a categorized directory of genealogy websites. With the FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch has given users the ability to provide, categorize, and maintain links to other websites.
Ancestral File
The new website’s Ancestral File has Individual view only. Pedigree and family views are coming. Thankfully FamilySearch has concentrated on higher quality historical records and readying the new FamilySearch Tree for public use. Hopefully this meager effort to include Ancestral File is but a placeholder for the latter.
Census The 1880 U.S. Census is present on the new website, along with additional years! Some minor losses of functionality have occurred, including links to subscription websites, where the images were free for some FamilySearch accounts. (BTW, the image links on the old website no longer work. But I digress…)

The 1881 British Census is not available on the new website. Use the old one.

The 1881 Canadian Census is present, along with additional years!
International Genealogical Index As I’ve mentioned before, the good stuff—the extraction records—have been moved into FamilySearch Historical Records, available on the new website now. Patron submissions were moved to the new FamilySearch Tree. I’ll have a lot more to say about the IGI.
Pedigree Resource File Not added yet. Users are instructed to use the old website. Ditto here my comments about Ancestral File.
US Social Security Death Index The US Social Security Death Index was added to FamilySearch Historical Records last week!
image The Vital Records Index is present, but incomplete. I tried one record from each of the five countries. Twenty percent of my teeny, tiny unscientific sample were missing. Has FamilySearch compared batch counts to know how many records are missing?

*  Mexico: Albino Perez
*  Denmark: Lars Peter Johansen, 19 Oct. 1877; Sigersted, Sorø, D.
-  Finland: Matt Johansson, 12 Sep 1867; Sippola, Viipuri, Finland
*  Norway: Ellen Johannesdatter; Askim, Ostfold, Norway
*  Sweden: Nils Johansson, 5 July 1801;Stånga, Gotland, Sweden
Index Records I don’t get it. If Historical Records are the central feature of the new website, then FamilySearch Indexing is its lifeblood. The FamilySearch Indexing page is buried two links under the home page. The first link is secret. The second is hidden.

Should you solve the mystery of the first, secret link, don’t bother clicking the big “FamilySearch Indexing” title or the large, beckoning image. The link is hidden after a couple of paragraphs into the page text.

Insider tip: Click Give Back in the row of links near the top of any page. Then click Get Me Started.

(On second thought, don’t get me started…)
Share My Genealogy “Share My Genealogy” is not present on the new website. Ditto my comment on Ancestral File.
Research Helps Research Helps have been copied into the FamilySearch Wiki and in many cases improved. Click Learn, then search for the topic of interest.
Research Guidance
The FamilySearch research assistantResearch Guidance is a virtual reference consultant found on the old website. “Chatty Cathy” (as we sometimes call her) asks you a series of questions about an ancestor and then gives you an ordered list of records to consult, based on the locale, time frame, and the vital event of your ancestor.

Because Research Guidance has long been the hidden gem, the Cinderella stepchild of the old website, I fear Cathy won’t find her way to the new website.
Search the Wiki The Wiki is not really a part of the old website. It is part of the new website.
Ask a Question Ask a Question is a link to the Forums, also a new, not old, website.
Online Classes The online research classes have been copied to the new website. Click on Learn, then click on a link you can’t see until you scroll the page down. Don’t scroll too far or the link will disappear off the top of the page. Don’t scroll too little or the link will not appear. Do a Goldilocks scroll. Don’t click “Research Courses.” The color looks like a link to me, but it is not. Keep reading, scrolling if necessary.

Insider hint: Click on View the Courses.
Family History Library Find information about the Salt Lake Family History Library by clicking on FamilySearch Centers, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking the hidden link.

Insider Hint: To find hidden links, move your mouse around over possible spots. When the cursor changes (a pointing finger on most browsers), it is pointing to a link.
Family History Centers To find a nearby family history center, click on FamilySearch Centers, enter the location, and click Search. Notice the snazzy new map.
Education “The site currently does not provide information about genealogical institutes, university and home study courses on family history, online genealogical presentations, and upcoming genealogical conferences. Much of this information will be available in future updates of the site.”
Library Catalog This is redundant. I covered it in the Search Records menu.
Help and Product Support It looks like the same Help Center software added a few years ago to the old website, and used on the new FamilySearch Tree website, is being used on the new site.

To learn more about the differences between the soon-to-be new and classic, start at, click on Help, then “What are the Differences between Classic FamilySearch and Beta FamilySearch?” Use the interactive guide. And click “View or Print Handout” to access “Adjusting to the New Version of (8 December 2010).”


  1. Well, that gives me about six months worth of things to think about, which, of course, will have to be crammed into one or two weeks. Thanks, (I mean this, not sarcastically) for all the info. It really does help to see the issues spread out. I am not sure some of the items you point out really matter, they may not be real losses since they were never very real assets. I will undoubtedly have more to say.

  2. Thank you, AI for this summary. Another usability issue is that the new site's graphics block viewing such niceties as the Database List and search results for some operating systems and browsers. Each software change makes more links non-functional (such as what used to be the Log In link on the database-list page, and the 'delta' link for results preview), again for some operating systems and browsers.

    Oh, and the change in blog site host software a month or so ago for blogs such as Mr. Tanner's splendid "Genealogy's Star" (and DearMyrt) also made the "comment" link non-functional for some operating systems and browsers.

    Those without technical and financial resources to obtain computers updated to follow the famous-maker's planned obsolescence scheme are being left in the dust.

  3. I really want to keep the download of the IGI controlled extraction data but it seems to be broken. I've emailed support, but no answer. And a lot of the IGI batch numbers now come up with nothing found, even when you try to display the whole batch without a surname or given name. These used to work. It was wonderful to get a batch downloaded, put in a database and then manipulated looking for connections. (sigh, ... seems to be all gone).

  4. Here's a forums thread on FamilySearch Forums about the broken script, and what happened. Three pages of posts about all of that.

  5. Forgot the forum link:

  6. James Anderson,

    Your link is to a thread concerning Wiki programming technical issues.

    Until a few days ago there were some threads concerning IGI downloads on this message board:

    But they have been removed from view an can no longer be found by using the search box.

    The forum you pointed to does not have a general category for FamilySearch website records user problems and the search engine won't come up with a thread concerning inability to download IGI.


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