Friday, March 2, 2012

Family History Expo Wrap

Tara Bergeson teaches family history consultants
Tara Bergeson teaches
Family History Consultants
I didn’t get to attend the Family History Consultant training sessions, but I popped in long enough to learn where you can download the handouts.

Go to, login, and click on Family History Consultant Conference Presentations—2012 (New).

FamilySearch Digital Book Collection

I also couldn’t attend Dennis Meldrum’s “Family History Online Books: A New Step Forward.” I wrote about the website change a month ago. (See “Changes to Website.”) Meldrum is manager of Digital Book Processing at FamilySearch.

The FamilySearch collection of family and local history books keeps growing. The size of the collection has grown to “over 45,000.” The collection contains more than just family histories and local histories. According to Meldrum’s syllabus, it also contains “directories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy magazines (including some international magazines), medieval books (including histories and pedigrees), and gazetteers.”

Books come from several libraries. (See this page.) For books copied from the Family History Library, a link is present in the Family History Library Catalog. (See this example.)

The website doesn’t seem to include any help on how to search. Meldrum presented wildcards and keywords that affect the search:

  • ? is a single character wildcard
  • * is a multiple character wildcard
  • Use "quote marks" to match an exact phrase
  • AND, OR, NOT, and parentheses can be used to create logical expressions

On the drive home from the Expo, I tried to view a book (the example, above). I clicked on the title at 5:36. The blue progress bar crawled agonizingly slow. At 5:39, the bar was less than 25%. I went off and did some text messaging. At 5:42 it was about half way, but I wasn’t going to wait 12 minutes to bring up a book.

The last time I reviewed the site, I registered a complaint with FamilySearch support that book viewing was really slow, much slower than the old BYU site. The response was “I tested a couple books and the browsing experience was fine, the image displayed in an expected time frame.”

What!? Google books doesn’t make me wait that long. Internet Archive doesn’t make me wait that long. BYU didn’t make me wait that long. No online book archive that I have ever used makes me wait that long.

The respondent went on to state that “FamilySearch is only displaying the files, which are hosted by the different digital library” and to suggest that I view the same book at the other library and compare.

Isn’t that what I did to begin with? Didn’t I already compare? Didn’t I find that BYU loading one page was hundreds of times faster than FamilySearch loading hundreds of pages?

I can say one thing… Well, two things, actually. One thing is that the new FamilySearch book viewer stinks.

The second is that support organizations are consistent. This isn’t just a FamilySearch problem, but every multi-tiered support organization I deal with. By the time I contact support, the situation is way beyond what a first tier support person can handle. I get a canned response and the case is closed. I have to reopen and ask to be escalated.

I wish FamilySearch support would track how often a person’s cases required escalation, and to what level. If all my issues require escalation to tier 3, don’t subject me to tiers 1 and 2. Automatically route my issue up.

And while you’re solving the world’s multi-tiered support issues, how about finding a way to let me see a page of a book without waiting over 10 minutes.


  1. Thanks for the links to the conference material, I know they will be helpful to many of us. I've never tried to d/l a book from FS and think I'll not try but I do agree about support. I cut them a little slack though, because I think the "frontline" support at FS are just Sisters like the ones we teach, no particular expertise however hard they try. I've had only one problem for which I had to contact them, a login issue. They tried to tell me I was at the wrong site/ URL . In the end I was able log in just fine and the problem was a transient website issue.

  2. Hi, I just tried Books and searched for a Tanner Book of 263 pages. I downloaded the entire book to my computer in about 6 seconds. I might suggest the speed of the Internet connection has something to do with the time it takes.

  3. Customer service is a perennial problem for all large organizations. I must say that there are two companies that I deal with regularly who are outstanding! Every other organization stinks beyond exasperation. Any organization who wants to learn telephone customer service needs to learn from Everbank and from ADP, my payroll provider. They are fabulous. I'm thinking they start with smart people, train them well, and then send me an email evaluation after each transaction. I'm sure that accelerates training exponentially.

  4. I tried a book search. The search form gave no hint about what to expect. I tried different links from a phrase search list of results, and was sort of sent in a circle. Finally tried an obscurely labeled link on the right and something started loading. After 2-1/2 hours whatever it was had loaded about 50%. Was the site loading the whole book (perhaps both thick volumes)? I just wanted to look at the page with the search result. There was nothing in the available site pages that said how to just look at a page.

    This seems pretty useless to me unless you have really fast broadband and want to load a whole book. They could say that's what is happening . . . .

    I think I will stick with the BYU's own library site as long as it is available. You know what to expect, and can navigate through a book with ease.

  5. One of the problems that I have with online book references and catalog's is trying to link them into an associated family member profile. Often times I have to copy down the material (if it's in the public domain) and re-upload. There are file size restrictions on as well. It would be a great feature to enable the online catalog's and to link records together rather than copying. Talk about slow

  6. Last evening, I tried to use the book search to show a NEWBY how she could possibly access public domain texts for free. We were at her house, using wi-fi, a mac and a pc. The site was so slow. After a couple of minutes, I left and went to Mocavo. From there we found and the Open Library websites. The Mocavo search produced results in less time, and we had no difficulty downloading books from or Open Library.


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