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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What is free and what is not in genealogy and other interesting questions

I was reading through the comments to a recent blog post on by Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of FamilySearch, entitled "Change can be a good thing," when I read the following:
I’m a senior citizen on a fixed income, and having difficulty justifying your charges. By chance, can you offer financial leanency for low income members?
As I have said before, I don't make this stuff up. (I did not correct the spelling either). Now here is the context. This is a completely free program. Nothing at all in the post said anything about charging for or any of the other FamilySearch programs. Did this person think they were talking to  Even if the site were a subscription site, why would an online website used overwhelmingly by seniors lower the cost to it major customers? Why does this comment appear on a free website?

After reading that comment, I was very interested is reading more. Then I found this one:
I dont know how to do all the research who can i ask to help me learn more.
I dont have a problem with filling names in on the program.
In the post above, Dennis Brimhall says the following:
  • Before we make a change, we often ask hundreds of volunteer FamilySearch patrons to test a new process or a new product. These are everyday patrons like you who are very good at telling us what works and what doesn’t work. These folks are very good at helping us work off the rough edges before we introduce a change to the general public.
  • We have several newsletters and a FamilySearch blog to help announce changes and provide details of what those changes mean. These announcement provide useful information and links to online training.
  • FamilySearch has dozens of professionally trained instructional developers who create hundreds of excellent videos, online classes, printable paper products, and other products to help you learn everything you need to know to get the most out of your FamilySearch experience.
  • We also have an extensive networks of thousands of support people who provide one-on-one help where needed. Many of them are volunteers located throughout the world to help people in their local areas.
  • Anyone using FamilySearch can visit the online help center and discover an amazing selection of useful classes, videos and other help.
  • A volunteer named Leland Moon has created dozens of quick, easy-to-use videos to help demonstrate many popular FamilySearch features. Each video is only a few minutes long and is easy to follow.
It is interesting that the person asking for help is apparently a Family History Consultant in a Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I suppose he could start with the free online Consultant Training.

This next comment was even more interesting. It concerns the International Genealogical Index, which is very much alive and easily searched right now on in the Historical Record Collections.
I think one change threw the baby out with the bath water – discontinuing ALL of the IGI. Many entries were of extracted records, years of hard work by your volunteers. It was much easier to find family members than it is now online. I really miss it.
Mind you, these comments are on a blog post for Do these people ever think to look at the website? Or even read the blog post?

Here is another comment that is really thought provoking at various levels. I have written about this many times, but it looks like I need another round of discussion:
Family search has been the most trusted site I use , but could you please explain the rationale for allowing people to alter what another has carefully researched and documented on your Family Tree? 
I am happy to have my tree public, would gladly answer queries, even discuss evidence and proofs with someone….but I will not go to all the work or load thirty years of research to have someone change my research! 
I’ve listened to the arguments from your staff. Sorry, makes no sense. And is putting you more in the mode with their myriad of copied and completed unsourced trees put forth as “research.”
What do you think the chances are that anyone making such comments has ever read one of my blog posts? My last question is pretty simple: What will happen to this last commentator's thirty years of research when he dies?

Here is the last comment for today. I must say Dennis Brimhall should write more blog posts. He certainly gives me a lot to write about.
To be honest, FamilySearch has changed so much that I no longer use it anymore. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Hope you can gain enough new users in your expanded target groups to make up for the ones you’ve lost.
Where do these people come from?


  1. I think you're being too critical of people's confusions over the IGI. Certainly, you can search (the two parts of) the IGI easily enough - but you have to find them first.

    If you do Records / Browse By Location / UK & Ireland, then there is the IGI, in its alphabetical place in the list. (Frankly, it should say "IGI Community Indexed" - I think - but let that pass).

    Seeing the IGI there was quite a surprise to me - because if I want to see what collections there are for England, I'd do Records / Browse By Location / UK & Ireland and instantly filter down to England, without reading through all the search results. And if I filter down to England - there is NO entry for the IGI. Hence my presumption that it was only accessible through some arcane link known only to the Jedi genealogists. (Needless to say, there are MANY entries in the IGI for England, so it should show in the list of collections).

    My suspicion is that a lot of the rumours surrounding "data has been lost from the IGI" a.k.a. "I used to be able to find this person but now I can't", originate from the community *contributed* entries that (to avoid duplication) resulted in the removal of entries from the community *indexed* collection. Like good genealogists, we avoid the community contributed entries (until we're desperate!) so never find the so-called lost entries. This "loss" (if you keep to the indexed entries only) is mentioned as a limitation in the Wiki entry for the IGI but it's not clear how anyone works out if a parish might be subject to such loss. And, of course, I can't find any lost entries to work through...

    1. I don't think that the bulk of the commentators have analyzed it as much as you have. I suspect that they simply have not asked anyone about where it went or searched to see if it was on the website. Incidentally, if you do a Google search for IGI it comes up almost as the first entry and has a link directly to

  2. It’s really not that hard to find IGI entries. And Family Search is trying to get people to realize that. Go to the main page for FamilySearch. Hit the “Search” button at the top of the page. The top of the search page says, “Our records span …. including… IGI extracted…”

    At the bottom of the Search page, click on “Browse All Published Collections.” Then just scroll down the list until you come to “International Genealogical Index.” Or in the box that says “Filter by Collection Name” type in “IGI” and there it is.

    As the commentator mentioned above, if you pick a specific location, such as UK & Ireland, the IGI shows in the list of choices. It shows up in the list no matter what location you pick. You can click on anything between Africa and the United States and it will be sitting there in the “I”s. Or type “IGI” in the filter box and the link to the IGI becomes the only one in the list.

    There is another place to find the IGI records, also. That is in the appropriate, specific database where you would expect to find them. All of the extracted IGI records for Norway, for example, were split up into the three database collections, Norway Burials, 1666-1927; Norway, Baptisms, 1634-1927; and Norway, Marriages, 1660-1926. These also include all of the Vital Record Index extraction records that were never put into the IGI. I hardly ever use the IGI, because these databases have all of the Norwegian IGI records plus many more extracted records in them.

    There is a third place to find all the IGI records. Since by definition all IGI records have temple work done, all IGI records are in Family Tree. Unfortunately, it is hard to recognize them as such and they do not have any sources attached to them, but they are there.

    1. Gordon - the issue for me is one of usability by people with an imperfect understanding. As such logic may not apply!

      As you say, "if you pick a specific location, such as UK & Ireland, the IGI shows in the list of choices". But my bet is that many people will immediately filter that list down without reading it - if you want Scotland, why would you bother to scroll, scroll, scroll, past the English stuff? And as soon as you filter, then the IGI disappears.

      Further, the database collections that the IGI was split down into, will omit (in some cases) index records duplicated by the Community Contributed stuff. And not having the IGI visible at the England, Scotland, etc., level makes it tricky to find that stuff. It's already bad enough trying to explain that "No data was lost - well, apart from..." I'd just like to make it a bit easier for them.

  3. Don't waste your time on these people.

    1. Addressing the issues raised by this type of response is never a waste of time. We all need to recognize that there are people out there who, for whatever reason, never seem to get the message being sent. This is something we always need to be aware of.

  4. At the risk of taking up too many bytes... One thing about the IGI Community *Contributed* stuff that I never appreciated, was where you had to go to search it. If you search the full IGI, you get the option to search the Community Contributed stuff - fine. Now, my impression of this stuff is that a huge amount of it is basically genealogies - perhaps short ones, but genealogies rather than indexes. That's why FS correctly didn't dump all of the IGI into the new Records Search. And if you enquire on a record in the Community Contributed stuff, it (correctly) comes up headed "Genealogies" not Records or Catalogue, etc.

    And yet if you try to go from the front screen of FS into Search, then onto the screen headed "Genealogies" (not Records or Catalogue, etc.), you can only search Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource File - not the Community Contributed IGI. I could check this time and stuff in the Community Contributed IGI is not in the AF or PRF.

    A touch inconsistent that...

    1. Bytes are free. Thanks for your comments. I will be posting about the IGI shortly to address these issues.