For the past couple of weeks, I have been teaching classes and helping both missionaries and patrons at the Brigham Young University Family History Library learn about Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com. The classes have focused on the agreements between FamilySearch and these two online genealogy database websites. Many of the missionaries had received an invitation for a free subscription to these two programs as well as findmypast.com some time ago but had not taken advantage of the offer. I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences from this process of both teaching about the programs and helping people, one-on-one, to begin using them.
In many instances, both the missionaries and patrons are finding ancestors they could not find previously. One patron, a very meticulous genealogical researcher with years of experience, ask for help in entering her family names into MyHeritage.com. As she entered the names, I helped her look at and evaluate the sources that appeared as a result of the MyHeritage.com Record Match and Record Detective programs. From time to time, while she continued to enter the names she had carefully researched and documented, I helped with specific questions. At one point, she indicated that she had come to the end of her line of research with a great-great-grandmother. She was entering the name and information she had on this ancestor as she explained to me that she had been searching for years for this particular ancestor's parents. As she typed in the information, a Record Match appeared with a marriage certificate for the ancestor that included her parents' names. The patron was overwhelmed.
This type of experience has happened frequently, sometimes not as dramatically, but I am receiving a constant flow of positive feedback from both patrons and missionaries. Almost all of these individuals have, more or less, experience with genealogical research. Those who are just starting out are sometimes overwhelmed and amazed at how quickly the sources come from both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com as they enter some of their known family information.
Last week, FamilySearch formally announced the availability of the free subscriptions to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See Help spread the word about the free subscriptions. I made a brief announcement in a class on Sunday about the announcement and was amazed at the lack of real interest and the negative comments. I had a conversation after the class with several people, one of whom was quite upset with the offer because of a lack of understanding about what was involved. Despite the fact that the offer has been available to many members for some months now, most had not heard anything about the offer and were not really interested.
The contrast between the lack of interest on the part of some of the members and the experiences I have been having in helping others get involved in the programs is dramatic.
One issue we have been having over and over again at the BYU Family History Library is the registration procedure. Many of the potential users of the programs have been unable to complete their registration for the free subscriptions, usually because of failure to click the tiny check boxes required during the subscription process. Some of that may have been solved with the addition of the subscription to a page in the Help Center of FamilySearch.org. But the page is buried down a couple of levels and is quite hard to find. There is a direct link, but unless you have a way to find a reference to the link, you have no way of knowing how to subscribe. Here is the direct link:
On my FamilySearch.org startup page there is also a link when I sign in. Here is a screenshot of the link: