Winter Greetings from a very wet and soggy Utah

The first day of winter arrived wet and soggy here.  Not that we don’t need the wet–Utah has been very dry.  Just getting it all at once is something we have difficulty handling.  Seems the dirt along the mountains in the West becomes extremely unstable when it gets water-logged.  Nothing to hold it up.  And if we have had a fire recently taking all the brush, trees, and hillside debris, the dirt seems to melt away in the rain and very wet snow.   California experiences the same melt-down–just more of it. 

And my steep-pitched roof lost shingles in recent wind storms.  Naturally, with rain also melting the snow cover, the roof started to leak, down through the ceiling–remember that catchy song about needing repairs only when it rains?

New Beta FamilySearch

15 December 2010, the Family History Library launched the new Beta FamilySearch.  I copied the “What’s New” page and got a surprise!  36 pages of critical comments dated 14-16 December–one irate woman stated she would “never be able to trace her ancestors again”–in capital letters!

So I spent all day the 16th and 17th December working on the Beta sight.  Oh, I had tried it earlier during the test period and disliked the many clicks required to access the data.  I have since discovered that this is called layering–going deeper and deeper into the databases, each time exposing more details.

And the lack of a filter was maddening–when I asked for an ancestor born in 1700 in England, having to wade through thousands of entries for the 1900 and 1880 US censuses was such a waste of time.  I knew the computer could filter out all but the relevant time period and focus me on those records I needed to track.  Wasting time is costly for a professional genealogist.  Getting the right data quickly is what we seek from the computer.  And sometimes there is nothing quick about it.

Actually, the new Beta version of FamilySearch is amazing!  Giving experienced researchers access to huge amounts of genealogical information–HUGE–without overwhelming the beginning researcher who comes to the site without adequate preparation.  I particularly like the Catalog.  You, gentle readers, know that when I am tired or I need a boost of inspiration for a difficult research project, I read the Catalog.  You can use the ancestor search window to ask for resources that match a specific person.  Or you can browse the records categories by surname, title, author, keyword, film, or book number, etc.  The total number of entries for each record category is given.  And descriptions are expanded in the entry listing so you can determine if that is the record you want.  And actually, there are fewer clicks needed to get to the call numbers for retrieval.

Transition to the New Format

Site managers  assure us that 1) Feedback from users is considered and the site will be up-graded and modified to accomodate more effective use; and 2) User help includes understandable, step-by-step instructions to the new stuff.  Not only that, to ease us all through the transition period, the previous version of FamilySearch is still available to prevent confusion–although all the databases included in that version are frozen.  No new data will be added to them. 

Enjoy this gift –instead of restricting the newly indexed records to users at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City–more than 300 million records were posted online in August 2010, with millions more posted since–the whole world can now access Beta FamilySearch at home or through more than 4500 local centers nearby!   Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  And be sure to send your comments, via the Feedback button on your computer screen.  This is your chance to express what you need in both a search process as well as access to records themselves for your genealogy. 

PPS  I just discovered that many orders have been placed for  my books and publications through Google.  Imagine, you can purchase stuff, including mine, via Google.  Through a glitch, email verifications and orders did not arrive in my own email inbox.  We corrected that glitch Saturday.  And I will now get orders on time.  For those sent in the past weeks, I will process and fill the orders–to be shipped in mid-January.  Please accept my sincere apology for this oversight and know that I am learning, as quickly as I can, the online world.

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