Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Mailbox: Printed Research Guides

Dear Ancestry Insider,

The state and country research guides have been moved to the FamilySearch wiki. That's a good way to keep them up to date. Unfortunately they've created no way to easily print them. That's a really ill-conceived development. A lot of people like to have printed guides that they can look at when their computers are turned off.

From Anonymous*

Dear Out of Print,

I thought a bit about your comment last night. For us who live all day in the computer, it is too easy to dismiss your concern. You know our type. If we don’t have at least two gadgets on our selves at all time, we start to fidget and wring our hands.

I remember experiencing your same feelings. I went to college between punch cards and personal computers. All we programmers printed our programs when we left the computer lab early each morning. We poured over those printouts for the hours we were out of the lab. We wrote new code in pencil in the margins and marked up the lines of arcane symbols, only to return to the lab that night, enter the changes and repeat the cycle.

Once I graduated to full-time employment my program printouts exploded in size from a dozen pages to hundreds of pages. I quickly found myself alone by the printer, watching the group’s entire paper budget emerge from the machine. It took quite some time to adjust to the small window my computer screen afforded into a document I previously viewed unfettered.

Unfortunately—well, actually fortunately, man’s accumulation of knowledge is like a gas, expanding to fill the space allotted it. The 40 page research guide of the 90s has now expanded, probably ten times or more. Guides previously restrained to country or state coverage now extend to counties, provinces, and municipalities. Printing out all the pages corresponding to an old paper guide is not only super inconvenient—as you may have found—it is completely impractical.

I have no easy answer for you. If a compelling number of people were willing to pay $20 or $30 bucks for a printed guide of hundreds of pages, a FamilySearch affiliate might try to fill the vacuum.

Short of that, I think you’re going to be stuck with printing your own. You will have to reset your expectations, settling for a much less desirable solution than afforded in the past. Don’t even think about printing all the pages replacing a hardcopy guide. Be choosy. Print only the articles that you need offline, short term.

That’s all I’ve got. Does anyone else have suggestions?


The Ancestry Insider


  1. You are making several assumptions. One is that everyone uses a computer. I know a lot of seniors who don't. The other is that we are always working in a situation where online access is available.

    A few weeks ago I was in the Family History Library in SLC. Wireless access wasn't working at my microfilm reader. I was starting a new country, Germany, and I was looking for a printed guide but couldn't find one.

    I went to the library computer and found the Wiki guide. I never did find what I needed in the Wiki guide, which was primarily translation of terms on a birth record.

    There are still libraries without internet access. And while some of the guide information is general, how to read a document is something that needs to be right beside me while I am reading the document, whether on film, fiche or hard copy.

  2. I think that what Anonymous* meant is that you cannot print the research guides from the website I certainly have tried to print my own and there appears to be some protective mechanism that prevents the page on the wiki from being printed. Please tell how to print a page from


  3. I just went to the wiki and looked up a few different articles and then "printed" the first page of each. I did not have a problem - wondering what the original poster cannot print. The print button as well as the share button are in the top right hand corner and when I opened my printer (either an actual printer and my OneNote program) it printed the selections to both. Am I missing something in his/her question?

  4. Yes, you most definitely are missing something. Of course you can print any web page, including the state and country research guides now found in the FamilySearch wiki. They don't, however, come out in any reasonable format and waste huge amounts of paper by including all the unnecessary navigational links and marginalia. Moreover, it's necessary to print each subsection separately, rather than the guide as a whole. To print the Alabama Research Guide, for example, you'd have to print each section separately:
    # American Indians
    # Archives and Libraries
    # Bible Records
    # Biography
    # Cemeteries
    # Census
    # Church Records
    # Court Records
    # Directories
    # Divorce Records
    # Emigration and Immigration
    # Gazetteers
    # Genealogy
    # History
    # Land and Property
    # Maps
    # Military Records
    # Minorities
    # Naturalization and Citizenship
    # Newspapers
    # Obituaries
    # Occupations
    # Periodicals
    # Probate Records
    # Societies
    # Taxation
    # Vital Records
    # Voting Registers

    What a nuisance! Grandma Shirley is right: FamilySearch is making the unwarranted assumptions that everyone is connected to a computer 24/7 and that computer formatted guides are always the best way to access information.

    It seems to me it should be possible for FamilySearch to provide printable versions of the articles and guides in the wiki. Newspapers and many other websites do it all the time. They have one version for viewing online and another for printing.

  5. Yes, you most definitely did miss something. Of course it's possible to print articles from the wiki, just as it's possible to print any web page. Printing the wiki articles, however, results in output that is awkwardly formatted and contains unnecessary navigational links, marginalia, and white space, resulting in a huge waste of paper. Moreover, it's necessary to print every subsection of an article separately. Thus, to print the Alabama article, for example, one must print separately each of 29 different sections (with white space at the end of each, resulting in more paper waste).

    Grandma Shirley is correct: FamilySearch makes the unwarranted assumptions that everyone is connected to a computer 24/7 and that a wiki version of an article is always the best format to use.

    I don't see why FamilySearch can't create a printable version of its articles. Newspapers, NARA, and even Wikipedia do it all the time. They have one version for online viewing and another for printing.

    Sorry if this goes through twice; my first posting seems to have disappeared into the vapor.

  6. Perhaps the printing problem has been fixed. I got it to work but I spent quite a bit of time trying to print off a word list a couple of months ago with no luck.

  7. I just looked at how Wikipedia does it. They have three options: Printable Version, Downloadable PDF, and Create a Book. The last one allows you to combine several articles into one, which could be used to combine the different sections of a wiki guide into one. Looks good to me!

  8. I haven't a clue to this whole discussion. I am a SENIOR and am self taught on a computer, why can't you just use the print button and be done with it. i don't even know how to use a facebook. give us a break,not so much tech stuff. save it for the younger ones. but i do love your newsletter it does help and old lady.

  9. Well, this isn't ideal as it does appear that the "Printable version" built into the software has been disabled, but you can copy the title of your page into the following link and get a printable version:[INSERT TITLE HERE]&printable=yes

  10. That works. It still requires that you print each and every section of the guide separately.


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