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Monday, June 28, 2021

The Revised Help Center

The website has evolved into a complex collection of different resources. How and why you might want to use these resources depends on your experience and interest in genealogy and family history. Once you register and begin using the website, you are confronted with a confusing list of personalized topics including a list of contributions made by your relatives if you happen to have relatives using the website. You only recourse to learning more about the content of the website is to begin looking through the various menu items. 

The website contains a number of resources. These resources include the following main areas of interest:

1. The FamilySearch Family Tree

2. Billions of digitized genealogical records available in different locations on the website as listed in the Search tab at the top of each page: Records, Images, Family Tree, Genealogies, Catalog, Books, and the Research Wiki. Some of these resources act as finding aids and do not contain actual records. For example, the Catalog, the Records (Historical Record Collections) and the Research Wiki will provide links to the actual records but do not contain the content of any of the records. 

3. The Memories section of the website that contains user contributed photos, documents, stories, and audio files. 

4. A section on volunteering for an ongoing Indexing Project that has its own website and instructions. 

5. An Activities section that seems aimed at creating interest in learning to participate in family history but with no real structured instruction about how to do the actual work of finding your ancestors and relatives. 

There are also sections of the website that are directed at ordinances done in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are only visible if you are registered as a member. 

Instructions for using the website that are scattered around the website with no clear links to any central location. Most of the helpful information is found in the Research Wiki. There is no place on the website where you can see a list of all of the resources available. The usual place for this type of finding aid is in a site map. However, the site map for the website is not specific enough to find many of the existing pages on the website. Here is a screenshot of the site map.

You may be surprised at some of the pages you can find through the site map that you may have never known existed. 

Now, we have a "New" Help menu. What does this Help menu help you do or find? The answer is no much especially if you have a specific question about where to find something on the website. 

Here is the dropdown help menu. 

If you want to contact FamilySearch, you can click on the link for "Contact Us" and get a long list of international telephone numbers. If you do call the one of support numbers, they will create a case number for you inquiry. Previous to the current revision, you could then check back on a list of your previous and current inquiries to see if there now answers to your questions. This option and list has entirely disappeared. 

If you click on the Help Center link, you get the following web page. 

This page requires a significant amount of further exploration. Searches will provide you with long lists of suggested topics. This has always been the case when searching for help about a particular topic. In short, the new Help Center is not an improvement in the user's ability to find help but merely a revision of the interface with new icons. Here are all the search topics

More icons does not equate to more help. 

The real issue with large websites such as is that there is no real way to link all of the resources in a centralized way. If you need examples of huge websites that are impossible to use, all you need to do is look at a few of the websites put up by the United States Federal Government, such as the website. 

You might want to start a help center for one of these websites with a question: What do you want to do? and then start categorizing the responses. Right now, the new Help Center on the website is not an improvement and the loss of an list of previous inquiries is a serious step backwards. 


  1. I could not agree more with you! It is a mess, designed really nice, but way too much stuff to get through. I have no idea how they could improve it because there is just too much stuff.