Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

FamilySearch Beta Review

With the addition of over 300 million records to the FamilySearch Record Search website and the same records to the FamilySearch Beta site, it is becoming apparent that the now-traditional website will likely be totally revamped in the not too distant future. The FamilySearch Beta has the following statistics for the website:

Launch date
24 May 1999
Number of names in searchable databases Over 1 billion
Number of hits since launch Over 15 billion
Number of visitors since launch Over 150 million
Number of pages viewed since launch Over 5 billion
Number of hits per day Over 10 million
Number of visitors per day Over 50,000
Number of pages viewed per day Over 1 million
Number of registered users Over 1 million

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. FamilySearch.

The new website has a much simplified homepage with the invitation to "Discover Your Ancestors." The historical records are divided into three categories; Trees, Library Catalog and "All Collections." The Trees link opens the advanced search and takes you to the Ancestral File, a "collection of genealogical information taken from Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records submitted to the Family History Department since 1978." FamilySearch.

The second link takes you to a modified search screen for the Family History Library Catalog. While the third link, All Collections, is a modified search of the present Record Search, however, without the map showing the geographic areas of search. The All Collections search has a useful option to show only collections with images. Otherwise, the collections with images are marked with a little camera icon.

In addition to the search options, the homepage has links to learning resources, directly to the Family History Library catalog, to Indexing and to the Blog. It turns out that there is also a link to the FamilySearch Wiki. The Wiki is not identified as such, it is incorporated into the basic design of FamilySearch and does not seem to exist as a separate entity until you sign in. There is nothing on the homepage that gives any hint that the Wiki site has been incorporated. The websites all use the newer consolidated sign-in identification only recently introduced. I found it somewhat too simplified, even though the site had vast resources the availability of those resources was well disguised by the simple interface. In my experience with Google, for example, many people never get past the simple interface and never realize that there are a lot more resources available.

Previously, the Blog was seldom, if ever, updated. With the new design and updated site, there have been new articles every day for the past week or so. It looks like FamilySearch is now committed to blogging.

FamilySearch encourages feedback and has a prominently featured feedback link. In my experience they are super responsive to almost any concern or question. They have the best support system I have ever encountered, hands down.

I guess I am impressed with the new website. I do think is a little too understated and it takes a lot of clicking to figure out what is going on with the site. It is very useful to finally have links to all of the research sources in one consolidated website.

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