Sunday, May 20, 2012

GenealogyBank: What are your thoughts, DearREADERS?

Could you please take five minutes today to share your thoughts about GenealogyBank with me? Tuesday morning will find Ol' Myrt here in a meeting with nine GenealogyBank / NewsBank employees, judging by their email addresses. They want to query me about my use of Genealogy Bank.

As an avid genealogist, with some experience and formal training under my belt, I find historical newspaper research immensely useful. Once I have located a person in a specific place using federal and state census records, it's logical to turn to local newspapers (and city directories, not part of GenealogyBank) to find out more about them during the in-between years. It's not just about obituaries or the comments in the social pages. It's about headline news, small-town and regional political commentary, the houses for sale or rent, and advertisements for every day things like clothing and furniture.

Reading old newspapers from an ancestor's time period help me bust out of my 21st century mindset.

Thankfully, GenealogyBank provides many historical newspapers from 1690-2007. I rarely look at GenealogyBanks's historical books and documents from as early as our early days as a new nation, quite simply because I am only now pushing back to my Rev War ancestors in earnest.

The technical problems I have with using the GenealogyBank website are small potatoes compared to the wealth of information I've found about my family. I cried as I discovered information about my maternal great-grandmother, reported in Finding the date of last Thursday and six other challenges last summer. Who knew I had a Forrest Gump ancestor in the making until GenealogyBank's search algorithum pointed me to an article about Lowell Froman in a completely different state than I had anticipated? See: Where's the Shrimp?

Here are my suggestions for GenealogyBank:
  • Pages are in .pdf format, so unless a user is savvy enough to use a screen capture program like Snagit, what ends up in his genealogy software or online member tree are a lot of "not so easy to view at a glance" .pdf files.
  • Citations - genealogists would prefer better formatting.
  • Sorting the book list by keywords would be helpful. It's hard for me to evaluate the GenealogyBank collection with the lengthy old-fashioned titles. 
  • Limiting searches by clicking on a title in the book list, and permitting searches only in that collection would prove useful. The same is true on the documents list. I have a reference for a specific Senate session, and would like to review that page by page. I can only get there by a name mentioned at this point.
  • Update search so that "Lowel" also finds "Lowell" as this is a normal search technique genealogists employ. The existing default search algorithm requires an exact match, too specific in this case.
Now, I am SURE my DearREADERS have their favorite and not so favorite reactions to using this website. Could you please take five minutes today to share your thoughts about GenealogyBank  with me? I will be careful to distinguish my reactions to the site from yours in my conversation tomorrow.

Thanks. It's good to hear GenealogyBank is reaching out to consumers.

Even if GenealogyBank doesn't change, the site provides a valuable service to family historians from my point of view, and has provided an excellent return on my membership investment.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
G+: +Pat Richley-Erickson
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont