"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 28 June 2001

“New Development with GenConnect Boards”

On June 14th, GenConnect, RootsWeb and Ancestry.com announced they would be pulling down all of the query and data boards for every county, state, country and surname. We were promised a “new and improved system” to post our queries and data! Instead, on June 21st we were served, in my opinion, a homogenous bowl of slop!

In reality, all of the query and data boards (i.e., Obituaries, Pensions, Wills, Biographies, Bibles, & Deeds) from GenConnect, RootsWeb, Ancestry.com and FamilyHistory.com were rolled into one massive board without any context to its original structure or format. In the “new message board” system, you cannot tell a query for an obituary from a Bible record from a deed.

The previous system allowed for the orderly organization of data into groupings. You knew if you went onto the Obituary Board for Milam County you would find obituaries and not Wills. Now when you go to the Milam County Message Board, you don’t know what you have in the way of data or queries! And this is the same for every county, state, country and surname message board!

The biggest complaint about the new system is many folks feel they were mislead because there was nothing in the announcement that informed anyone that the structure of their data boards was going to be destroyed! No one had the opportunity to copy their information off for safekeeping before they were pulled-down. For example, on the Milam County Obituary Board, we had over 1,500 obituaries posted. Now, they are all co-mingled with other data entries and queries on one board containing almost 4,000 entries! What a mess!

The search engine and instructions are not very clear. For example if you are searching for San Saba County, it will never appear because the search engine only recognizes SanSaba, without a space between the words. The same goes for any two-named counties, i.e., SanJacinto, TomGreen, etc. And of course, there is nothing telling you about this little quirk!

Additionally, the new system no longer allows the Message Board Administrators to manage or edit queries. In the past, administrators could edit postings to insure they were appropriate and met the requirements. Now anyone can post anything without any controls or supervision. The only option now available to board administrators is to totally delete a posting!

Administrators are not being given any instructions or "how to" for the new system and the URL addresses for the message board change without any notice! Ancestry.com took a perfectly good system and solely, in my opinion, made it into a vehicle to increase the number of hits on their website, to increase their advertising rates and increase the exposure of the products it sells to those who visit the new message boards.

Another failure of the new system is that it no longer sends you a direct e-mail to alert you to new postings on the boards you are interested in researching. Now, you have to go directly to the board to determine what new postings have been made as the notification system only notifies you when you log-in the system. Gee, another opportunity to increase the number of hits on the website by forcing you to have to visit them to see what’s new!

Therefore, in my opinion, the new system does not have its roots in establishing a better research system for genealogists but instead is just another commercial vehicle to make money off folks who are interested in family history research.

We can only hope another group will step forward and fill the vacuum that Ancestry.com has made with its “new and improved system.”

“Genealogy.com Now Charging for Support”

Genealogy.com has announced that it will now begin charging $2 PER MINUTE for technical support for the genealogy software, Family Tree Maker they own as well as other genealogy software that it markets. This means you will pay Genealogy.com $120 PER HOUR for help and technical support. They require payment in advance by credit card only.

Family Origins users can still obtain FREE software support by contacting the software owner directly at http://www.formalsoft.com. Family Origins also has an e-mail list where other users can help with information, comments and suggestions. Additionally, Family Origins now has started its own Message Board Forum at http://formalsoft.com/forums/ for users who have questions and need help!

“Social Security FOIA Fees to Increase”

Effective July 1, 2001, the Social Security Adm. will increase its fees for requesting a copy of a Social Security Application for anyone found on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The new fees: $27 if the Social Security Number is provided; $29 if the Social Security Number is NOT provided; $16 search for death information Social Security Number provided; and, $18 search for death information Social Security Number NOT provided. For additional information regarding new fees for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the Social Security Adm., visit http://www.ssa.gov/foia/foia_guide.htm#_Toc517745425.

To read a past article in this column related to the importance of using the SSDI in genealogy research, visit: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-003.htm.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 27 June 2001 and was last revised on ___________ 2001

Copyright © 1999, 2001 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604