NGS 2013—Feedback on FamilySearch

May 10, 2013  - by 

While attending the 2013 National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference in Las Vegas, one of the things I get to do is work in the FamilySearch booth. I get to help conference attendees learn how to use FamilySearch. With the recent changes made to the FamilySearch program, I got to talk with a lot of users and hear their comments.

By far, the majority of those who came by the booth were folks who already knew how to use the previous version of FamilySearch and were interested in seeing how the new release was different. With only one exception, they all came with an open mind and sincerely wanted to see how it was different.

Of course, the biggest changes include the new look and feel of the entire FamilySearch website (a new layout, new vibrant colors and more youthful and inviting use of imagery), the ability to upload photographs and stories, and ability to view one’s pedigree in an easier to use pedigree (Family Tree) format or as a fan chart.

As I mentioned before, only one person wanted me to let my boss know that he wanted the old FamilySearch back. He was firm but pleasant enough about his feelings. Everyone else I worked with was pleased with the new look and feel and liked the new features. When I pulled up the old FamilySearch and showed it side by side to the latest release of FamilySearch, the feedback was dramatic. Hand down users liked the way the images on the new site seemed so much more inviting. I heard comments like, “the old webpage seemed so old and institutional” or “the previous FamilySearch wasn’t very interesting.” These are real comments from older, serious users of the previous FamilySearch website.

It was fun to watch the faces of each person as I demonstrated how to use each new feature. As I showed them how easy it was to add a photograph, tag each person in the picture and tie them to their name on the pedigree, they loved it!  One elderly lady laughed out loud and said she had no idea it was so easy. She had heard about this new feature but didn’t try it because she thought it was going to be so hard to do.  What she thought was going to be a many step process was really very simple. She was so happy. The same was true with uploading stories. A few visitors commented that they wished they could just upload a word file and not have to cut and paste but that bump was not a show stopper for any of them.

I have to say that I was surprised at how excited people were when they saw firsthand how easy it was to use these new features. I know that change is hard for some folks and I was expecting to hear a lot more folks ask us to please stop making so many changes. But I didn’t hear these comments at this conference. People loved seeing how easy it is to add photos and stories to their pedigrees. The fan chart was very well received as well. They like all the colors and how nicely it’s all laid out. One man said that he’s going to print them out on a big printer and give framed fan charts to his kids as Christmas gifts.

I’ve worked at the FamilySearch booth before and I’ve heard the comments from frustrated users who came to plead that we make FamilySearch easier to use. But what I saw on my first day of working the booth at the NGS Conference surprised me. Yes, there are still a few layout issues and a few bugs that still need to be resolved. Visitors were not at all reluctant to share their opinions about those fixes with me. But I am pleased to see how well this newest release of FamilySearch is being received.

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  1. I just started to type in my family and made a couple mistakes, there was no tab to edit or delete. Also, the first person, myself was in my married name and asked for my husband, so I entered my first husband, now I would like to quit, everything I put in is wrong. and no way to corrent

    1. Don’t worry, Beatrice, and don’t quit! Everything can be fixed–easily. You can always refer to “Get Help” in the upper right corner for instructional videos, or if possible stop in for live help at a FamilySearch Center. If you had children by your first husband, leave him there. If you want to delete him from your family, click on your name on the family tree you just created and at the bottom of your card, select “Person”. Here on your information sheet, scroll down to the “Family Members” and on your Couple click “Edit Couple”. Now, in the upper right, click “Delete Relationship” and explain and finish. Now at the top of the page, go to your own name. You’re back to your information page and, under Vital Information, can now edit your incorrect last name. Click on your name and the term “Edit” and make the correction. (Or you can do this edit first, then the couple; however you’d like.)

  2. People are always in public. It’s highly likely that their private comments differ from their public ones. Any experienced survey researcher knows that.

  3. I’d like to know how to easily share my family tree with relatives. I tried but they get a “person unknown” error.

    1. If they are on they can see anyone they want who is deceased. Living people are only visible to the people who entered them, so your family members can use the search feature betweenPerson and Watch List to search for an ancestor. Or they can put their own information in and enough living people to link back and connect with a deceased ancestor.

  4. Dear Mr. Tanner: Was so sorry that I missed you at the NGS Convention as I stopped by the Family Search Booth several times looking for you. I very much enjoyed your survey of comparisons of Ancestry, Family Search and My Heritage when it came to census searches. I edit a very small newsletter for my society – Hemet-San Jacinto Genealogical Society and would be very grateful if you would give me permission to repost your article on the comparisons. Of course, not only would I give you full credit for the article but would also refer our membership to your blog site and recommend they become regular readers. Thank you so much for the work you do on behalf of genealogy and I do hope I can repost that article comparing the three. I found it most entertaining and useful for those who use them. Thank you.

  5. New look is great. Now only if it would work. I use the Browse function and select United States. It used to come up with all the records and then I could see what was new. Now there is just a blank page. Tried on 2 different computers and same result. Many other problems as well like: use Catalog button and says it is in old version and click then it gives you the “OPPS” page. These are just a few of the glitches. Basically has shut down my research on your site. I love your site. Just can’t use it right now.

    1. I’m having the same problem this evening. This morning everything was fine, but now it’s doing just as you explained. The “search” button at the bottom says “loading” but nothing is happening. Very discouraging as I was trying to finish up what I started this morning.

  6. I want to echo Lou Walker. I advised another local society member about how easy it should be to find her Uncle in the 1940 census. I gave her step-by-step instruction to easily reach the search page for the 1940 Census. When I was double-checking my steps tonight, search by region” didn’t work.

  7. I found a submitter in family trees who has the same family that I have. The person is missing a few ancestors I have, yet has some too that I do not. Is there a way I can request the submitter contact me? Can I contact them? I have many source records etc.