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Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:21 am

Hi

I am interested to know what peoples thoughts and opinions are on the below.

What do sites like Ancestry, FMP, Genes Reunited etc. versus Hull History Centre online and others have in common?

What are there differences?

What are there shortcomings?

What can't they find out that you would like to?

What are there shortcomings of Parish Records?

How could such issues be resolved?

Has anyone encountered any pitfalls with either way and what where they? How did you get round these?

Many thanks

RS

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:58 pm

Before answering can you tell us the reason you are asking this on various forums?
We have found out it is not just because you are interested.
We have also discovered it is work and you have to analyze the results.
Is this a commission, would it not be better to be open with the users of the forums who may object to supplying information thinking they are helping a private project but in reality they are being surveyed by a commercial concern?

Cheers
Guy

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:25 pm

Thanks for giving us a better insight on what this post is really about Guy - much appreciated.

I have my own opinions about the various commercial sites out there but I'm not sure it's particularly helpful to attempt to compare them to a local history society's site - chalk and cheese come to mind. If you're doing a survey about something then fine, but say so.


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Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:49 am

The company is looking at venturing into genealogy. I was asked to ask on various genealogy forums what the opinions, thoughts and feelings of the public ie you on the questions that have been asked hence the reason it is posted on other forums to do with genealogy. Hull History Centre was the only one mentioned as a colleague has some experience of using this.

RS

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:34 pm

jaykayare wrote:... I would suggest that any company 'looking at venturing into genealogy' needs to first gain a better knowledge of family history research by 'getting out there' and building a family tree, rather than expecting forum users to provide the answers. ....


I'm not sure I totally agree. Primarily because many of the issues with some of the sites indicate that the designers do have basic knowledge - but only basic knowledge. Everything goes pear-shaped when you need to do more complex stuff, like go back beyond the start of Civil Registration. One simply cannot expect software suppliers to spend years becoming experts - what they need is access to experts.

For what it's worth, I didn't answer this before because it sounded like one of those, "Please write my thesis for me" queries. (And don't think I'm getting at students - I get seriously fed up with family historians who effectively write, "Please tell me who my great-grandparents were.")

For what it's worth, the answers are simple:
1. Content is King.
2. Content is King.
3. Content is King.
And ... when rules 1, 2 and 3 do not apply - then "Content is King."

Thus nobody is going to break into the market by simply reproducing the same civil registration indexes and censuses that are already available on umpteen sites.

If your content is sufficiently unique, then, within reason, the user interface and even the pricing structure are just what I'd refer to as nice-to-satisfy and not essential.

Identifying that potential content might be interesting. You would need to go into partnership with the record office holding the content - and I'm actually beginning to wonder how many record offices are not already in some sort of partnership over their parish records. In which case, it might be useful to consider things like poll-books, tax records, militia data, and most importantly, court records such as Quarter Sessions records, especially that containing Poor Law stuff, though this can be found in several places (you know, it's the stuff that makes them cry on WDYTYA!). There is, however, a reason why people have generally left court records so far - they can be ##### complex and there's a lot of text compared to the names - you might say that its power-to-weight ratio is poor. But it's gold dust if its your relative.

I suspect getting hold of experts would be better done by starting with the Record Offices (the content holders, generally) and understanding what they want. Then use them to find some researchers who can talk....

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:15 pm

Whilst agreeing that content is very important it is definitely not King.
Content is no use unless it can be accessed, one failing with many of the online sites at present is the way they present much of the content.
Individual records are all well and good but context is also very important in genealogy, especially if the name being researched is a common one.

I would also suggest that no company is going to compete with the current crop unless they also carry the census, BMD indexes and a good quantity of parish register amongst their offerings.
I say this simply because genealogists have to be careful how many subscriptions they take out and are drawn towards those sites that give the most bang per buck.

I do agree that such sites now have to look at the less popular records now in order to attract and keep subscribers.
This unfortunately for the companies raises the cost per page accessed ratio as few subscribers will access each page or image.

In addition there is an ever growing number of sites that offer free access to various records and the public is more aware of those sites than ever before.
Cheers
Guy

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:58 pm

Guy wrote:Whilst agreeing that content is very important it is definitely not King.
...


Actually, I think we do agree - it's just that I over-simplified by throwing everything under "Content", without specifying what the term might mean. I did that to stop newcomers thinking that it was, say, crucial to interface to social media. Indexing by sensible items, describing content type explicitly - including context, etc., - all these things are crucial. One useful test is to ask - "Is it obvious what a nil return means?" For instance, if you say, "We have all the surviving Workhouse records for Borsetshire", that's virtually meaningless. If I search for "Archer" in "Ambridge" workhouse, what does a nil return mean? It might mean that the Ambridge inmate records don't survive. Or that they do survive but there's a gap in the era when the Archers hit bad times. Or that the discharge records survive but the admissions registers were lost.... Yes, it is complex, Mr. Provider - that's what we pay you for!

Where I would disagree with Guy is over the need to include censuses and BMD indexes. And it's precisely because genealogists have to be financially careful. I believe it's quite common that people buy a subs to (say) Ancestry, do all their Lancashire parish register queries (say), let that subs lapse and switch to FMP to do their Staffordshire PR queries (say). And if people work like that, I would suggest they can hold off their census queries for a few months. (I'm talking about people where most of their research is before 1837). If people do work like that, then the provider would do better maximising their Borsetshire records quickly, rather than redoing a census that people can interrogate in their previous (or next) subs. All of which is also moot if the site works on pay-per-view.

Having said that - I realise that I am talking about niche providers. If you don't see yourself as a niche provider, your view of censuses and BMD indexes must be different from mine.

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:22 am

AdrianB38 wrote:
Where I would disagree with Guy is over the need to include censuses and BMD indexes. And it's precisely because genealogists have to be financially careful. I believe it's quite common that people buy a subs to (say) Ancestry, do all their Lancashire parish register queries (say), let that subs lapse and switch to FMP to do their Staffordshire PR queries (say). And if people work like that, I would suggest they can hold off their census queries for a few months. (I'm talking about people where most of their research is before 1837). If people do work like that, then the provider would do better maximising their Borsetshire records quickly, rather than redoing a census that people can interrogate in their previous (or next) subs. All of which is also moot if the site works on pay-per-view.

Having said that - I realise that I am talking about niche providers. If you don't see yourself as a niche provider, your view of censuses and BMD indexes must be different from mine.


Certainly if the company Ribbonscream is working for is looking to become a niche provider then I agree with your statement. If they are looking to be a player in the general online markets (i.e. appealing to the widest possible customer base) then I disagree.

The problem is because we have only been given a very vague idea of what is contemplated we can only give general answers.

I would also suggest if they were targeting pre 1837 researchers census and BMD’s could be ignored.
Having said that there is a reason why all the main internet companies target the post 1837 researchers.
That is where the largest customer base exists.

There is and always has been a good opportunity for an online site providing for the medieval market, the drawback to this is that market is considerably smaller than the post medieval market and the records available cover smaller areas than for instance the country wide appeal of BMDs.
This means more records have to be digitised to appeal to the same sized customer base.

Re: Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:39 am

I would agree with you Guy - as you say, too many options to come up with definitive comments. I happen to be thinking in one direction - there are plenty of others.

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Genealogy Sites versus Archives

Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:08 pm

Would it be an idea if Ribbonscream developed a questionnaire? The original query does not want us to compare like with like (archives & websites have different functions) and we all have our preferences, as seen above.
The WDYTYA magazine did a good website comparison recently which would provide a good staring point.
Comparing an archive like Hull History Centre with websites is somewhat daft, in my opinion, as for instance HHC does not have the local BMD's these are held in Beverley at the Treasure House. Generally most people will only have experience of a few local archives so even comparing these would be problematic.
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