Friday, August 24, 2007

Genealogy website management revisited

Effective search engines cut bandwidth usage & improve chances of finding an ancestor


Several things have come to mind since writing yesterday’s blog entry. Creative-Gene blogger Jasia also wrote about the behind-the-scenes costs of running successful websites.

Let’s revisit the notion that the volume of IGG database searches was bogging down ISP servers.

What I failed to consider in my original post was that the ISP would have been more overwhelmed if the searches had not gone through Steve Morse’s more efficient search engine. Why?

Without Steve Morse’s search engines, people typically spend more frustrating hours of research on a website, thereby truly bogging down ISP servers.

Researchers and database managers alike are grateful for Steve Morse’s free search engines. Long honored for his work in the genealogical community, Steve Morse most recently received the 2007 NGS Award of Merit from the National Genealogical Society and the 2007 APGQ Excellence Award from the Association of Professional Genealogists. The venerable website recognizes that Steve Morse has a better search engine, and provides a link to his site for our use in sticky Ellis Island search situations.

In fact, I use Steve Morse’s search engine to look at Ellis Island right off the bat, because of the 44 basic search criteria (plus 158 ethnicity options). Contrast this with’s 4 basic search criteria where the ancestor’s last name is required. What if family tradition has it that your female ancestor came through Ellis Island in the summer of 1898 from Greece at age 22 but you don’t know the name? Steve’s search engine can handle it.

Perhaps the IGG should consider using a different ISP to handle the volume of researchers accessing the site. Switching servers isn’t hard and it doesn’t mean the web address needs to change. It only means the servers change.

You know, it isn’t just websites that have problems with ISPs arbitrarily deciding to block access from other websites. Myrt remembers the case of an individual researcher, “Tom” who had RoadRunner somewhere in upstate NY. He reports that his old ISP blocks all RootsWeb genealogy mailing lists for some unknown reason. Can you imagine not being able to receive RootsWeb postings?

The fact that a lot of genealogy activity is going on out there on the web should not cause an ISP to block that activity. After all, they are internet service providers, aren’t they?

The bottom line is – if your ISP doesn’t meet your needs, SWITCH.

Changing ISPs is easy for webmasters. Ol’ Myrt moved her website to a different ISP and discovered it is a fairly painless process. Expect that your website will be down for a maximum of 24-48 hours to give the internet directory time to point to the new servers. In my typical case, there was no change in the domain name

Ol' Myrt here now uses as my web server, and I never go over my budgeted amount. Receiving daily usage reports allows Ol' Myrt to determine the level of bandwidth she should provide to allow free access for her DearMYRTLE readers and listeners. As I mentioned in the original column, it was the internet radio streaming that would have cost me an arm and a leg, not a fault of the ISP but of old technology. Fortunately newer podcast technology has saved Ol' Myrt’s pocketbook in that regard.

As I said in my original post “The the overwhelming cost of bandwidth (usage) is an important consideration when societies and individuals undertake to present information on the web.” The mystery of website mechanics is challenging for entities that work on limited budgets and are focused on collection of relevant genealogical data.

Bandwidth costs need to be factored in to the commitment when deciding to create a website. Prospective website creators might think it is an easy thing to put a database up on a website. That is the least of their worries. In any scenario, if one’s current ISP can’t handle the load, then the webmaster should take his group’s business elsewhere.

Please don’t give up using the web to distribute your information. Ultimately the WWW will be more successful than a printed book on the shelf at your local library if you sincerely want to reach your target audience – namely, serious genealogy researchers who need access to your compiled data.

Be grateful for Steve Morse’s labor of love providing free superior search engine capabilities for genealogists. Long ago I joined the ranks applauding his work.

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

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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