Wednesday, February 13, 2013

FamilySearch.org Disengaging Young Genealogists

Is it just me? I seem to have problems using FamilySearch.org several times a week. It runs so slow, it is hard to use. But last Wednesday night at my local Family History Center? It was embarrassing. And it was excruciating.

We had a youth group come in to learn about family history. There were three leaders (who did nothing but talk among themselves) and five young men. I tried to teach them how to use Family Tree while doing research.

Everything we did required five or more refreshes. The pedigree view wouldn’t show up. Or expanding a branch wouldn’t work. Or clicking on a name would bring up a blank person card. Or View Person would bring up a form with no information filling in the blanks. Or the right half of the merge page would be blank.

Trying to interest a group of teenage boys in genealogy is tenuous at best.

One of the boys didn’t have a Family Tree login account and was quickly lost to his cell phone. A second one sat behind the rest and unswervingly wrote in secret code in a small notebook.

The third boy showed the most interest. With much diligence he got to the point where he needed to merge two people in his tree. I worked with him for several minutes but the merge page kept coming up empty. I left him with standing instructions to hit Retry every 15 seconds and holler when the screen came up. I never heard from him again.

The fourth boy was able to push through far enough to find a man in a collateral line that listed a wife but no children. I had the fifth boy bring up FamilySearch.org historical record collections. (The All Collections list takes upwards of 30 seconds. If I scroll down while I wait, I find the first 30 entries area listed, but it takes forever for the remainder to show up.) He found the man in the census, complete with children.

But it did the fourth boy no good because the system was so slow, he couldn’t get to the point where he could add the children. He finally gave up so I sent him off to Ancestry.com where he enjoyed finding a portrait and a gravestone photograph of this ancestor.

Engaging another generation in genealogy is tricky. Last Wednesday night at my Family History Center, the FamilySearch.org website did more disengaging than engaging.

14 comments:

  1. Should have run a speed test to see what the actual Internet speed was. A lot of FHCs only have 1.5 mbps DSL.

    We have less problems with familysearch.org being sluggish at mine where we have CenturyLink 7 mbps DSL. I think anything above 5 mbps will work much better than the bare minimum, as 1.5 mbps is the 'new' dialup speed now based on all reports I have of it.

    I think there are some good deals out there where you could get very good DSL or cable speeds for a bit less than what people may have gotten only a year or two ago, so it may be worth looking into to see what FamilySearch, working torugh facilities management people, can find for Internet service in a given area these days that can alleviate speed and access problems.

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  2. Think they are updating. Noticed a switch option in merge so that the membership info is on the left and then they can be merged. We have had to use the ole F5, refresh, and it works sometimes.

    Another option is to sign in to familysearch.org, then learn, then wiki and pull up "this is the place" wiki page. It was designed to be used in wards and family history centers to teach. It has a complete familysearch page map, with videos, papers but especially the Reference Manual by chapters with videos. It seems to work when familysearch.org isn't. Enjoy. Nan

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  3. One of the more recent glitches I have noticed has to do with images. Sometimes Family Search will report a problem loading an image. It then displays a message asking me to try again later. However, when I click on the save link, the image downloads without a hitch.

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  4. Not that it's a good thing, but I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this. I thought it must be my pc or connection. Truly frustrating.

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  5. I agree with the posting about the Family Tree website. It is very frustrating because it is slow. This isn't just a FHC problem. It happens in our homes too -- doesn't matter if we are on our main Internet connection or the wireless.

    Searches spin and spin but never show results. Not always but more often than not.

    Then I have to close the website and start over.

    Sometimes I am working and researching fine but then ... suddenly ... it happens. The website bumps me out. I have to start over with the task I was doing.

    I still use New FamilySearch when I trying to print out a Family Ordinance Request (FOR) because NFS has sorting capabilities which FamilyTree does not.

    Sometimes I spend so much time trying to get the system to work but it doesn't. I wonder why I am wasting my valuable research time.

    If these situations happen for confirmed genealogists, the same situations will not only discourage our teenage genealogists but the newbies of any age.

    It won't matter if Family Tree can do all sorts of neat tricks if the website doesn't perform properly.

    P.S. FamilyTree can post photos for LDS researchers but there is no easy way to get to that part of the website. Not sure if you published an article on posting photos but would like to read your insights.

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  6. In trying to give a presentation in Florida about Family Tree, I found the program to be inoperable most of the weekend. FamilySearch.org is often cranky and at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, where we have a really fast Internet connection, it is often very slow or does not work at all.

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  7. I work in the genealogy room of a public library and have been experiencing many of the same issues listed above for the last week. I also thought the issue was with our computers and the security settings. It seems like the 'Search' button is non-functioning most of the time.

    I did not realize how much I have come to rely on the FamiilySearch website to teach patrons how to search for their family. Patrons are more likely to use a site if they can practice on it from home, and then stop by and ask more questions once they are familiar with the site. The 'Pennsylvania County Marriage' collection is the most used source thus far.

    I hope this issue is resolved soon.

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  8. We have had and are having similar problems with FamilySearch.org. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether we are at the church trying to teach others, in their home or in our home. All have high speed internet, which seems to work fine for other sites. In our home internet speed is usually around 5.5 mb which shouldn't be a problem. The problem is either with the servers or programing at FamilySearch. Whatever the issue, it impacts every area of FamilySearch. Even the almost daily issues with Indexing lately are hurting FamilySearch's creditability to find and fix these problems with the reliability and speed of the system.

    It frustrates us when we teach and assist others in our church calling as they get frustrated and discouraged and lose much of their enthusiasm. As FamilySearch gears up for the public opening of Family Trees, we fear that the problems for all of the FamilySearch resources will only get significantly worse.

    FamilySearch is doing great things, but these ongoing system issues are not helping!

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  9. Same for me and my speed is 25Mbps.

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  10. Me too! Refresh, refresh refresh. ugh. Back to Ancestry.com for awhile.

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  11. I have used Family Search . Org for the 1930 and 1940 census and used Ancestry . com, and they both work well together. So, I will continue to use the website.

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  12. The site loads poorly when using the catalog or doing basic searches on a PC and even more so on iPods and iPads. There may be server issues, but IMO the way the site is coded perhaps needs to be reviewed.

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  13. I also have been having problems. I tried to teach a class to the ym recently and had the same results. I called the Family search hotline and the person I talked to said it would probably be better to wait until after March. Family Search and Family Tree are having some problems with the program and are working on it and hope to have it fixed by the end of March. Very Frustrating. I know if they ever get it fixed it should be great but in the mean time it leaves my group having no where to get work printed out for temple baptisms. I also had problems with a member trying to load her GED COM and we were totally lost. Hope they get it fixed.

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  14. I had very few problems with FamilySearch/Family Tree in December, but since the first week in January it has been very frustrating. I keep getting error messages... things like "Possible duplicates unavailable at this time." Or "We are unable to display page content due to technical difficulties. Please try again in a few minutes." Or "Save Failed." OR "Error loading image please try again later." I was told it was probably my brower, but after being on the phone tech support, and we tried IE, Google Chrome, and Mozilla... the same errors keep coming up no matter what browser we used. That also happens quite frequently at our local FHC. And yes, the website is grindingly slow. Unfortunately, the almost universal comment (at least from FHC patrons who have worked previously with new.familysearch.org) say they feel so discouraged because they are having to correct their data all over again in Family Tree. I had one patron almost in tears because of the amount of time she felt she had wasted doing corrections in NFS, and now seemingly having to do it all over again in Family Tree. I know the process we need to use to work with others who change or add to data, and that is understandable, at least for the time being. But I can't disagree with patrons who say they are very discouraged at this point in time because data doesn't seem to be static when they log in and go to "their family tree." Those who have previously depended on the Family Search ID to get to the "correct" ancestor, are lost in Family Tree because the Family Search ID's are not on the pages they need to be, like the "family tree" page, or on the view person pages next to spouses, children, parents, etc. I myself had to search page by page through 28 different set of parents to find "my record" with my ancestors' FSID number, where I know the data is accurate and sourced. I know patience is something we all need more work on... I just don't want to lose current and potential family history patrons before they see what Family Tree will eventually be able to do.

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