For some time now, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had "free" access to four major online family history database programs. In case you have been ignoring family history completely during the last two years, the four programs are;
I recently taught a class on MyHeritage.com and the difficulties experienced and expressed by the class members seems to be a general issue with first-time users who try to get access to the programs. Mind you, these are not problems with any one of the programs themselves but reflect basic problems with accessing the "free" accounts. I put the word "free" in quotes, because, in reality, nothing about these or any program is free. The user has to have a computer, some basic computer skills and access to the Internet. All of this takes time and money. In addition, effectively, the members of the Church have paid for this access with their tithing and other contributions.
Here is the list of challenges I commonly observe and a brief explanation of the solution to each one.
1. The potential user of the programs has a basic problem with his or her own email account.
When the user registers for FamilySearch.org, they fail to add an email account or after registering for FamilySearch.org, they change their primary email account and do not change it on their FamilySearch.org Settings. The Settings are found in a pull-down menu that appears by clicking in the user's name. The selection tab in the Settings Menu is called "Contact." The new user needs to check to see if the email listed in this Contact section is the one they are currently using. The issues I encounter most frequently, include the fact that the person trying to sign up for the Partner programs has changed their email and not updated FamilySearch.org or has forgotten how to access their email program. All of the Partner programs use the email account registered in FamilySearch.org, either to verify access to the free programs or as the main login. The email used to register for the accounts must be the same as the one used to register for FamilySearch.org.
This leads to the next issue.
2. The potential user has forgotten one or more of their passwords and does not have them written down.
FamilySearch.org has made it as easy as possible to restore a lost password, but if the person is trying to restore a lost password from one of the Partner programs, they then need to access their email account and many people have forgotten the password they used to access their email account. There are many ways to record and recall passwords, but the need to have passwords available is somehow lost on a huge percentage of the people. I suggest either having them in a password protection program or recording them in a code fashion on a piece of paper you carry with you in your wallet or purse. I have had whole classes of people come to the Family History Library and almost none of them could access FamilySearch.org or any other program because they had registered and could not remember their passwords.
3. When potential users register for the Partnership programs, they fail to check all the boxes and do not completely register for the free LDS Access.
I have literally had hundreds of people who have gone through the registration process, or so they thought, and had the Partner programs advise them that they needed to pay for an account to access some features. There are parts of some of the programs that are not available with the LDS Access subscription, but these messages are for the regularly available features. The only solution to this problem is to go through the registration process again (maybe more than once) and make sure to check all the right boxes and agree to the provisions of the program. You also need to remember that if you have ever been into one of these programs previously with your same email address, they program will consider you a previous user and you must make that selection upon re-registering.
4. The potential user has no idea what they are going to do with the program once they are registered.
I get endless questions about the reasons for signing up for these programs at all. It takes me sometime to explain to potential users what they have and how to use the programs. Even when they do overcome all the sign-up problems, they still have no idea why they have gone through that procedure. This is a common reaction among those who have done little or no online family history research or are even interested in doing so. I get all levels of experience in my classes. Most of the people are eager to learn, but there always seem to be a number of participants who came for reasons other than learning (dragged along by a wife or husband perhaps) and simply refuse to become interested.
5. The user's computer skills are so lacking that they cannot find the menus or follow the instructions.
This is really one of the most common problems and it is not necessarily limited to "old timers." In groups of young people, I often find them off looking at websites on the Internet or lost and unable to locate the programs. Just because a person can send text messages with a smartphone does not mean they can do family history research.
These are the most common problems. I can tell that FamilySearch and the Partner programs have tried very hard to minimize the difficulties experienced by the users, but they will likely never get the process down to the level of those who have these kinds of problems. Meanwhile, I will keep teaching classes and helping people on an individual basis.
See Partner Access to get started. See also "FamilySearch Partnerships: Some Questions and Answers."