FindMyPast have unveiled a new look in a bid to make family history researching feel more personal to their users.
The popular family history website FindMyPast has rebranded itself, switching from the familiar blue, green, and white colouring to a dark blue, dark cream and orange instead.
Gone are the leafy greens reminiscent of most family tree sites, and the focus really does seem to be tuned up to the personal and human level. The ‘my’ is emphasised here in an orange handwriting (and there’s a ‘you’ on some screens too), and there’s new hand-drawn logos to help build on that personal, less corporate feel.
I guess with their expansion into building trees, sharing tree-to-tree info, and their recent venture into the highly competitive DNA testing, they need their audience to feel like their site is about personal information – ‘your’ family history.
Change is always hard to embrace, and maybe you’re outraged. Maybe you don’t really mind. I’m in the latter camp. If this change helps shift the emphasis towards encouraging users to build trees, then I think that’s great.
Another popular family history website has a lot of ’empty’ users that have no trees, and seemingly no interest in researching – having been brought on board by a DNA test. If these changes by FindMyPast can help turn that tide for them, then I hope it does.
In their own press release (issued today), FindMyPast reveal that through research they’ve conducted, 12% of Brits can’t trace their family tree beyond their own parents, and 38% can only trace it as far as their grandparents!
I think I was lucky, as I’d already got beyond those % by the time I was about 7yrs old.
Here’s the new look site in desktop (logged in)
And here’s the site on mobile (logged out). Note the ‘my’ changes to a different handwriting for some views.
For those of you like me who have been following this site for a long time, you might remember how their homepage looked back in 2009.
For those of you with longer memories, you might remember FindMyPast arriving as a brand in 2003, having previously been 1837online.
What have the first 2/3rds of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 been like? Here’s my findings..
This year I decided that I would visit the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for just two days, rather than three. For the last few years I’ve done the full show, but with lots of other things competing for my time at the moment – packing up my house, and moving in 2 weeks time, and a load of pots and trays of seedlings in need of my attention (see my gardening blog), I’m pre-occupied.
It was great to get to meet up with some familiar faces – friends who i’ve made from my previous visits, or who I’ve got to know via Twitter conversations and the likes of #AncestryHour. It’s also great to meet with some new faces too, and that includes companies.
As soon as you step into WDYTYA? Live, you can see exactly who the big sponsor is – Ancestry. Their stand seems to get larger each year, in floorspace and height. Still, it’s packed with information-hungry researchers all looking to smash through a brick wall with the help of their research team.
Ancestry’s big sell here is obviously their AncestryDNA kit, and even if you somehow missed this whopping great big stand, you’d soon be looking for them as their tests are a hot topic of the many talks in the orbiting theatres.
Once again they had their own mini theatre to help curious family historians to learn more about autowotzits and mitre comicals or something like that. If only more test-takers would add family trees to Ancestry!!
I swung by the FamilySearch stand, which like previous years seemed very busy, and also like last year, was running series of small demos and tutorials. I managed to join the back of a group of people watching a demo of researching my beloved 1851 census.
My favourite talk by far on the 2 days was Debbie Kennett‘s talk ‘Autosomal DNA demystified‘. I’ve keenly followed Debbie’s articles and advice on DNA over the year, and so I knew that I’d be a fool to miss this. Her talk clearly lead us into the topic of DNA, the types of tests that are out there – including their benefits and shortfalls – and then led us through how to analyse the data.
She also reminded us that whilst DNA is the ‘in’ thing right now (and her stage was surrounded by DNA testing companies), that you should go into it and prepare for the unexpected.
I always find Debbie’s advice to be very clear, even when it’s technical, and her approach to advice always feels impartial. There’s so many companies out there vying for your DNA test money, but it’s hard to pick out what each one can give and how they compare. Debbie seems to be the voice who talks about this.
DNA test price war?
Stand of the show clearly goes to LivingDNA – which really stood out with a big screen and swish stand.
Living DNA are currently running a test for me, so I hope to report back on this in the near future.
There was definitely what seemed like a price war on this year, with AncestryDNA having slashed their usual price of £79 (excluding that annoying £20 P&P) to £49 (i bought 3 more), and with FamilyTreeDNA pitching at £40, and with newbies LivingDNA pitching at £99. Other tests were also available, but I didn’t spot the prices.
I wondered whether the DNA Test ‘price war’ simply indicates that the main players have finally recouped their product development and marketing budgets, meaning they can now discount their tests, mixed with the surge of competitors making the price more volatile. It feels a bit like it’s a race to the bottom (so to speak), but I think there’s also a need to be clearer about the differences between the tests.
I was really pleased to see that Dr Turi King was back at the show, talking about the Richard III case. I first saw her (as a VIP!!) back in 2013 when it had only recently been revealed who the mystery skeleton was. It was great to hear some of that story again, and also pick up the factoid that poor Richard is missing his feet still. Maybe he had good boots on that day, and someone took an easy way of getting them!
I mentioned this revelation on Twitter, which annoyed Richard III, who despite being somewhat lifeless of late, seemed to get a bit annoyed at Dr King for revealing it. I guess we should all tread caref…. Oh.
I was really pleased to bump into Paul Carter and Pam Smith – two more of my regular show chums – and I was really interested to hear about their new Name&Place project which I’m really looking forward to seeing at next year’s show (no pressure!!).
Speaking of ‘where’, I think that this year was the first year ever that Genes Reunited’s stand has been absent. Obviously, as a company, they have been passed from pillar to post, but seeing as they’re now part of the same product family as FindMyPast, then I guess they’re slowly being absorbed out of existence.
It was great to see Twile on the FindMyPast stand, and their infographic idea really strikes a chord. I think infographics are great at giving bitesized pieces of information in a memorable and eye-catching way. Family history needs this, because I’m all to familiar with just how exciting it can be… but not to the person I’m telling it to. Their eyes glaze over as they get confused by the distant cousins and multiple greats.
Once again, I caved in at the Pen & Sword stand following what is probably now my annual papping of it. I love books, and I’ve got loads of them. I tried to resist, remembering that I’ve got to pack all of mine up into boxes and move them in a couple of weeks… but I was finally lured back to the stand and bought just one more – the final copy of Stuart A Raymond’s ‘Tracing Your Nonconformist Ancestors‘.
I also popped along to see the team from MacFamilyTree, not because I’m really thinking about replacing my Reunion software, but I wanted to see what theirs was like, and whether I could finally hunt down a family history software that doesn’t have printable charts that look like they were last designed in 1997. I find that a lot of these modern on-device software releases (as opposed to online subscription websites) are great, but the printable chart options really let them down. I’m not 100% sure I’ve found what I’m looking for still. Maybe I just need to begin a start-up company.
Anyway, that’s it for my two days at the 2017 WDYTYALive show. What did you make of it?
I think this year I went with little expectation or preparation, aiming only to get 2 more DNA kits, to sit in on some more DNA talks, and to catch up with those familiar faces. I did all that, and enjoyed the show.
As I look at my show purchases, I’m trying not to think about how much money I spent – more of how much money I saved on waiting for the show to get the show discounts, and how many more relatives this will enable me to connect with.
I don’t think my feet or my bank could handle a third day, so I’m glad to be at home with my feet up and a cuppa in my hand.
Enjoy Day 3 of the show, and as ever, happy history hunting!
Blog post from Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015.
Well, here we are, the end of Day One of the 2015, re-homed Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, at Birmingham NEC. Its been a long day, involving driving from Cambridgeshire to Coventry (where I’m staying), then onto the train for the token £2.10 return trip to Birmingham International station, which adjoins the venue. I spent the entire day on my feet, wandering around, sat in on some talks, and then went to the 1939 Register launch celebration by the team at FindMyPast. Then, train back, a gym work out, and now to my hotel room to write this.
The new venue
I’m new to the NEC and it seems perfectly adept at putting on shows. Briefly, due to the volume of posters as I walked towards the show, I thought I was about to arrive at a Transit Van show… but thankfully, no. The familiar tree logo was in sight and I arrived about 10:15am. Once in, I wandered in, and over to the FindMyPast stand where I sat in on a talk on Military Records and the extra features of the FindMyPast tree (audio!).
Having soon gotten my bearings, I found myself checking out the Society of Genealogists family history show section of the event – the bit where the Societies come together and have stands. I was pleased to see Carol from my home team (Cambridgeshire Family History Society) was busy at their stand, but noted the absence of neighbouring Societies from Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire.
Right at the end of the hall were two great additions, one was a beautiful statue of a soldier, commemorating the First World War, and the statue was within a wind machine, that periodically would blow poppies upwards and you could then watch them drift down over the still, silent, soldier. Very poignant.
The other, was the 1939 Find My Past tea room, set up to promote/celebrate the forthcoming release of the 1939 Register – the nearest thing we’ll get to a census for 30 years, due to the destruction of the 1931 census and the cancellation of the 1941 census, both due to war.
It was also in this tea room, that an aftershow party was hosted, with various speakers, Society representatives and experts… and your humble bloggers, were treated to live wartime songs, and 1939 style food (I enjoyed the corned beef hash cakes more than I thought).
Anyway, that’s some bits from the first day… So how better than to end on a song…
Taking a look at the new Beta Hints that have been launched at FindMyPast.co.uk – how do these differ from those on Ancestry? Were they worth the wait?
New functionality has entered into Beta on the FindMyPast website that suddenly makes their Tree Builder much more useful – Hints have been added.
Those of you who have used another popular online tree builder will know, Hints aren’t new, so rather than strain my brain over the ‘what took you so long’ bit, I thought that I would take a look at this new functionality.
Hints should make this easier – sifting through records for you (although of course, always go looking too!), and these will no doubt encourage you to grow your tree.
In my test run, I found the hints to be very clearly indicated (an orange circle with a number suggesting the number of matching Hints).
These appear in a number of places, ranging from the tree itself, to the Profile Page of your relative:
..and they appear on the Profile Summary (when you click on a linked relative for example):
When you click through on the Hints you get a nice visual style to show you what type and some basic details before you decide to click for more information, or click to accept, maybe, or reject it.
I’m pleased to see Hints reach Beta. As someone who has spent a lot of time using FindMyPast and Ancestry, I know that the Hints on the latter have been very useful.
I’ve already uncovered a few new things whilst playing around with the new tree builder and the hint suggestions. Therefore, I’m looking forward to continuing this, to see how they can help me further explore their ever expanding range of data sets on FindMyPast.
What I can’t tell yet, is whether these Hints will ever alert me to the appearances of my relatives in other FindMyPast trees.
That, in Ancestry, has been available for ages, but whilst that allows members to connect and build upon their family knowledge, it has also helped others to ‘rob’ and ‘butcher’ family trees, allowing me to see information that is complete rubbish – along the likes of how a grandfather, who lived all his life in one place in an English county, and whom I knew well, had spent 40yrs living in Indiana, married 3 times, appeared on the correct 1881 UK census, but which was listed as a UK village, in a UK county, in England but which in turn is situated within Detroit.
Will FindMyPast go down this route? I’d like to think they won’t. Ancestry’s hints have already alerted me to too many rotten trees out there, with swathes of nonsense information that’s all too easily and/or accidentally just one click away to being added to your own nurtured mighty oak.
In what is the last few days of 2014, I’m thinking back through to last January and my 2014 genealogy resolutions (more on their progress or otherwise, and my 2015 ones to come).
This year has been a busy one for genealogy as an industry, and history as a whole, what with some significant world war anniversaries.
Meanwhile, I’ve continued working on my trees, undertaking a couple of bits of free detective work for a friend and also in response to finding a family bible in an antiques store, busily updating my Family Tree UK site with some nice Structured Data for the benefit of Search (yes, my inner nerd has been binging on that), finding a ghost, and joining a one-name organisation that’s found its way through somewhat of a sudden unexpected and perhaps turbulent period of change, I’ve been merrily receiving emails about the latest new sets of hundreds of thousands of newly-available records.
That list of newly available records has kept on growing and growing and that kind of leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve dropped the ball and let my genealogy badge slip.
Perhaps I should just draw a line, and start again?
Only joking, I’m not about to throw 20yrs worth of work away.
But, there’s so much ‘new’ out there, that I feel a bit lost in the noise again.
This is why, if you’re only just starting, or you’re toying with the idea to explore your tree, or to find out if your old grandmother’s rumours were in any way true or just romanticised whimsy, then this is the time to start it.
Book yourself into a session with your local archives, or talk to your oldest coherent relatives, find out the photos.. but make sure you use the sites that carry the ‘human’ bits of genealogy and record them too – not just the number counts of a census return, but the newspapers, the scraps of info from war records, and the scribbly notes in parish registers.
How does that help me?
What I need to do is climb back down my tree branches and stand at the bottom of the family tree, look upwards, and then slowly learn to climb it again. By doing so, I should find new information that helps to make those old branches grow a little bit more.
In my random casual looks for records against close relatives, these new record sets from the likes of the British Newspaper Archive and FindMyPast, have allowed me to fill in more of the everyday lives of people I thought I had already.
I’ve only just dipped my toes/fingers/nose into their millions of records that they’ve been steadily releasing this year. Kudos to FindMyPast, who despite taking a massive backlash when they altered their website, on a scale that was a-kin to the Ancestry Search Change Disaster (remember that?), I think they have led the way with getting the more numerous and more interesting records into their data-sets.
Of course I should expect to see ‘new’ information turn up – and I’ve enjoyed this immensely spending more time exploring the Ancestry ‘Hints’, and only recently found some photos of my Great Grandfather – Alfred Newman, aged about 28 (youngest I’d ever seen him previously to that, was in his 40s). I never met him.
I’ve yet to delve into School Records, but really hoping to find lots of notes on my Great Grandmother as being a mischievous little devil (I always felt she had a rebellious streak in her).
How are you handling data privacy in your family tree research?
There’s some pretty big data privacy issues hitting the news lately – with some of the largest organisations seemingly taking a lacklustre approach towards the importance of security of individual’s private information.
How does data privacy affect genealogy?
We’ve all got our data backed up, right? (right?) and that’s sitting somewhere, perhaps online so that we can easily access it from an account like Evernote, Dropbox, or Google Drive?
I’m guessing that you’ve got names, dates, and locations for a wide range of people through the centuries, but probably a few photographs, maybe some contact details for modern relatives/researchers, and maybe some copies of emails or letters in there too.
There’s some personal data there. How are you handling that? How do those big online storage sites handle that data?
I like a papery office
One of my favourite things about researching a family tree, is having documents, objects, papers, letters, photos etc in a real tangible form. Even if they are just photocopies, or photo reprints. I really enjoy having these items around me, and find them useful. I spend too much of my day staring at a screen already – ‘real’ objects are a welcome break.
Filing is of course important, but no-one is really going to hack my paper files. The worst fate they can meet is fire, flood, robbery, or a stray firework.
Thinking about privacy
I’m fortunate with my Reunion 10 software on my Mac, in that I can flag anyone as ‘private’, and when I do, they are then excluded from any data exports that I do, until i un-flag them.
So I can happily share my data with anyone, knowing that I won’t be about to give personal details away.
Building a tree in privacy
If you’re wanting to build a tree online, but want to retain privacy, then there are a few sites that allow for this.
One site that takes data privacy as its main point, is Famberry, whose online tool specialises in allowing you to build a tree in collaboration with those you specifically invite, and no-one else, from the out-set. Whilst they’ve seen success in the US, where data privacy has been a big issue/challenge/problem and therefore a key topic for web users, they’re busy building their UK presence.
Sites like FindMyPast, GenesReunited, and of course Ancestry, also include options to set your tree as private, and also to make living relatives anonymous to those outside of your invited tree viewers.
However, that note above from FindMyPast has got a point… sharing IS a great way to learn from those who have the same interests.
So what IS privacy? What is the bare minimum that you can share, and what you should share? What happens if someone asks you to hide/remove their data? A lot of our basic information is easily available via Facebook, Google+, electoral records, LinkedIn, telephone directory services (print and online), newspaper clippings, and even headstones give away information.
I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below:
How do you handle privacy in genealogy?
Have you ever asked to be hidden/excluded?
Have you ever been asked to hide someone’s details?
Historic Newspapers have asked me to share their special offer with you – buy a Birthday Newspaper, and get FindMyPast search credits for free!
Do you like reading old newspapers?
I can spend hours looking through them – reading the old adverts (cake advert below is from my Cross family’s Ely bakery), the fascinating insights given by village micro news (along the lines of ‘Mr Roberts played the church organ to a packed crowd’, or ‘Miss Chivers won the flower arranging competition’, etc), those heart-wrenching stories of lost loved ones lost in action, and the scandalous headlines of newspapers from 100 years+ ago.
I’ve got a few old original newspapers on file, although those mainly relate to the early 20th Century British Royal Family – with the death of the current Queen’s father, and her subsequent transformation from a Princess. I also have a few more genealogically relevant ones including a rather horrible account of when my Great x4 Grandmother Mary Clarke appeared in court and was charged and imprisoned for child abuse in 1841. The report includes the words of her and the abused children, and makes for hard reading.
Credits for old news
I’ve had an email from the team over at Historic Newspapers, who have been reading this blog and very much love old newspapers too. In fact, they love them so much, that they asked if I would share a special offer with you, where you can earn free FindMyPast.co.uk search credits when you purchase any original Birthday Newspaper right back to 1900.
Their offer runs until the end of December 2013, and details about obtaining the credits will be included in your Newspaper order (probably best if you read the full offer info on their website for the full terms).
Which date would you pick, and why? Let me know in the comments below! I’m toying with one of my grandparents’ birthdays – which sees me looking at somewhere between the years 1914 to 1932.
Day Two of 2013’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event.
So, I’m just back home from my third Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.
The show, now in its second day, seems to be about the same size as in previous years. Thankfully the heating was on, as I’d already experienced the gentle flurry of snow adding to the shivvering I had done on the drab Earls Court station platform.
At one end of the hall were all the local Family History Society stands – brought together by the Society of Genealogists, whilst the rest of the hall is filled with the behemoths of genealogy – the magazines, the suppliers, and the online datashops – Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, and GenesReunited etc.
Upstairs, once again was the legend that is Eric Knowles, along with military historians – some in period costume. This whole area was packed with people clutching medals and photos, seeking information on relatives or identification of uniforms.
Following on from last year’s Titanic themedFindMyPast theatre, this year it was the turn of the Crime and Punishment theme (coinciding with their huge launch of fresh C&P records online). Their presenters were informative and entertaining, particularly period policeman Myko Clelland‘s search for Wombles.
The WDYTYALive Tweetup!
I had really wanted to attend what i think was the first ‘tweet-up’, and had been looking forward to meeting up with fellow genealogy twitter users, but awkwardly I was double-booked with the Richard III talk, so I had to bail, although did manage to meet a few twitter friends.
I arrived before 10am, so had plenty of time until my first booked session – the Celebrity Interview with Samantha Womack (or Janus if you remember her in Game On or Eurovision). Interestingly, interviewer Tessa Dunlop led Sam to reveal that she had not watched the broadcast episode as she felt that it was a personal journey and wanted to keep it that way for herself… plus she said she hates seeing and hearing herself.
That aside, we saw a few broadcast clips from key moments, and also a clip that wasn’t in the programme (something seemingly Sam had wanted kept in the show), which revealed much more about her ancestor Jesse Rider being in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ in the USA before she ever married or had children.
The Two Kings
Dr Turi King‘s (University of Leicester) presentation was fascinating, and detailed the archaeological dig from the outset right up to finding and identifying King Richard III via DNA testing and genealogical research. She also gave an insight into what is still going on with the data and the all important skeleton. Dr King told us that there was still a lot of work to do and a lot of information to write up, and also a modern Y chromosome to follow up on. She emphasised that funding is a major issue in this project and in general in archaeology (a subject which Tony Robinson and Helen Geake also emphasised the other week at the University of Cambridge), and whilst this dig has been back-filled, there were still plenty of things to explore further – including a stone coffin which was left untouched.
The talk buried a few rumours (see what i did there?) circulated by the press – including free DNA tests via Who Do You Think You Are?, and also the rumour that Richard III was buried beneath the letter ‘R’ painted on a carpark. He was not.
Searching for Surnames with SoG
My third and final workshop was one with the great Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists (affectionately known as SoG). She showed off the Society’s forthcoming much improved website, and also gave an insight into the work and vast collection that the Society performs and maintains. Sounds like the Society has a huge legacy of great and valuable historical sources but they are tied up in a range of formats making them a challenge to see. Still, it sounded like plans were afoot to change this, and the new site would at least make searching those items that are already indexed/catalogued much easier.
All in all, this was probably my most enjoyable WDYTYALive. After my first one being somewhat uninteresting, and my second one (last year) seeing me attend workshops for the first time and getting more value from it, this one built on that but with the added meeting of twitter friends old and new.
I look forward to WDYTYALive 2014 (i’m pretty sure I saw a stand selling next year’s tickets).
What motivates children to take an interest in genealogy?
I remember being about 11 or 12 and sitting in the front rooms of both sets of maternal Great Grandparents and being completely bored by tails of the war years. Whilst one Gt Grandfather saw action in Egypt and other places, whilst the other was with the Home Guard, yet to my child ears, they were so utterly boring.
As a child, I didn’t want to know about ‘The War’. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t comprehend the date, why people would want to fight each other, and certainly not the scale of what actually took place. My mother was the same – she too had spent many hours listening to the very same stories as a child, and had not been interested either.
Now, as an adult, with those Great Grandparents all deceased, I’m left with a gap. An unrecorded gap in oral history, in personal history, and with only a few pay-to-view scanned documents sitting in sites like Ancestry or FindMyPast.
I was in Cambridge earlier today, picking up a few last minute Christmas presents when I spotted the following book from the Who Do You Think You Are? brand. I generally don’t buy genealogy books, as I rely on online information, but this one was different – it was aimed at children.
I picked it up and flicked through, to find that it was full of colourful pictures, flaps to reveal information, and more along the lines of a pop-up book (without the pop-up bit).
I wondered what it was that inspired me to start (although admittedly i was 16/17yrs old) – knowing that it wasn’t anything like this. Had it have been, i would most likely have been hooked and written down the stories (or at least listened and perhaps remembered some of them) at a much younger age.
I also got home to find that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine had also landed on my doormat – the January edition – and inside was a great tree chart from FindMyPast – encouraging people to fill in their ancestors. What a great way to help inspire kids to think about the past lives of their family?