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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Deeper Look at The Family History Guide

Every once and while, a program or a website comes along that makes a significant contribution to the genealogical community. These advances can take the form of opening access to additional records or searching, organizing or presenting those records in a new way. Sequenced or structured learning has been around for a considerable time. See Wikipedia: Sequence learning. The new website, The Family History Guide, is a professional level, sequenced learning program dedicated to learning about genealogical research in general and specifically about the website and Family Tree program. The Family History Guide is free and fully functional. Content is being added regularly

If you are visiting the website for the first time, you should begin by clicking on the "Get Started" link on the startup page. Clicking on that link gives you several options as shown in this screenshot:

The idea behind the program's organization is to provide the user with a structured entry into various topics about genealogy and The best way to start is to watch the short video linked from "The Family History Guide Quick Tour," visible on the left-hand side of the screen. Most users will benefit from the program by following the sequence of resources offered by the program itself. If you watch the videos, you will see that the program is divided into different sections that are accessed through links at the top of the screen, under the logo. If you want more information about the goals and methods of the program, click on the link entitled, "About the FHG."

The developers of the program, have focused on created an environment where the user chooses his or her own goal and then is given a series of step-by-step instructions about how to achieve that goal. The resources of the website are created by links to existing online resources, many that the user would be unfamiliar with. The program contains over 350 pre-selected goals supported by over 600 flexible choices. Here is a very basic example.

Let's suppose that you want to learn more about using your computer. From the Get Started window, you would click on the link for "Computer Basics." Here is a screenshot showing you the location of the link:

The next screen gives you some basic choices. Let's further suppose you want to get to know your computer.

This link introduces you to a ten page introduction called "Getting to Know Your Computer," by Colleen Willis. (In this case, the article is directed at Windows PC users. I hope they realize that there are whole lot of us that use Apple Macintosh computers as well. Hmm, maybe there aren't any Apple computer instructions for genealogists?). Just in case you are wondering, here is a list of online basic introductions to Apple Macintosh computers:

Here is a screenshot of the linked article:

That is the idea of the website. You choose what topics you would like to learn or feel a need to learn, and The Family History Guide, walks you through the process with instructions and links to supporting documents.

Here is another example. Let's suppose I want to get started on First, I can click on the link to Family History Basics:

This link takes me to a number of possible options:

Of course, I can work my way through all of the options, but the program leaves me with the decision as to which option to choose to address. The "Getting Started on FamilySearch" link takes me to an extensive document from FamilySearch on that topic:

Once you get accustomed to the program, you can begin working your way through the 7 projects:

The projects address different parts of the website and supporting topics. For example, the Family Tree Project takes you to a series of 14 Goals that address different aspects of the Family Tree.

Each of the goals is supported by valuable resources about that particular aspect of the Family Tree program.

I certainly suggest that you take some time and explore and learn from this new valuable resource.


  1. The PC material mentions a "start button". Windows 8 does not have a start button . . . though one can download little programs that install one in Win8, one must know how to look for them.

    In a way it is too bad that this site/work is limited to the FS site and subscription internet sites rather than being a research guide. This contributes to the pervasive misconception that "everything" is already on the internet. Even the FS-Wiki is a much more comprehensive approach.

    1. This is a just released product. I am sure that they would appreciate some suggested content. You might notice I made some suggestions in my post.

    2. Yes, James, I did see your suggested links for Apple/Mac computers.

      Perhaps the authors think it is obvious that this is particularly a guide for using FS and FS-Family Tree, but the suggestion for finding family information in FS-FT gives me shivers. In 5 or 10 years, maybe, after experienced genealogists have made corrections without interference from new.FamilySearch, but at present the suggestion could be very confusing for those who are not aware of how FS-FT came to be.

    3. I agree that the Computer Basics section could use some updating, both on the recent Windows side and on the Mac side - thanks for the suggestions.

      As for being a research guide, there is quite a lot of information on research strategies and practices in The Family History Guide, in Project 4: Discover. And many of the resources in the FamilySearch Wiki are linked to in the country-specific pages of Project 4. In addition, there are many links and resources cited in The Family History guide outside of FamilySearch and the subscription sites (Ancestry, etc.) - such as, Find-a-Grave, Kindred Trails, etc.

      Hope that helps -

      The Family History Guide

    4. I realize that the website is new, but being a die-hard Apple computer user, I couldn't help the observation. :-)

    5. The Computer Basics section is now updated to include links on the Mac, Windows 8 and Windows 10 - thanks!

    6. Sorry to make so much work for you folks. :-) Also, thanks for the update.

  2. James I am so happy about this website and all that it offers to both new and seasoned family historians and genealogists. I feel this site encourages self-starters to know how to help themselves learn at their own pace in an organized and enlightening way. I think it has great application just as it is and the fact that the team will continue to add and improve it over time is -thrilling. I think this is a fabulous tool for teachers and trainers. In the past few days I have talked with several people who help others learn how to accomplish this work. Without exception they have all been very excited about it. To me this site is a game changer. It helps people catch the vision of what they can do and it empowers them in the step by step approach. I commend both Bob Taylor and Bob Ives for what they have created and think they are inspired. One of the most valuable assets of this program is being able to give the library patron or consultant something tangible and effective to take away and to continue working and learning on their own. It makes sharing so much better. Now we can concentrate on teaching a person how to fish, not just giving them a meal. There is a lot more to all of this than just clicking when someone shows you where to click. This gives students an opportunity to catch the vision of what they don't know and a concrete path to follow. James thank you for the shout out you have given this App. I know it will reach many through your efforts.

  3. James,

    I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds posts at

    Have a great weekend!