Reference Centre, Planning, Website Review
Find My Past
Since its inception, this site has grown tremendously in offerings that are valuable to all of the British and Irish family history research community. Its offerings in U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand records, however, have a long way to go to meet those offered by the Ancestry group of companies. Yet, a thorough examination and comparison of titles offered by FindmyPast as opposed to those offered by Ancestry in respect of non-British data sets really needs to be undertaken before one can really say which of the two web sites would be better suited to any one researcher's particular family quest.
FindmyPast originally began life in 2003 as 1837Online and was to be a vehicle through which to provide the GRO civil registration indices of birth, marriage and death searchable online under a pay-per-view platform. During the intervening years, many changes took place in structure and ownership and in online offerings of this web site. Between April and June, 2014, the then branded Findmypast became the first family history website to launch 100 new record sets in 100 days. In July, 2014, Findmypast launched Findmypast Fridays - a pledge to release thousands of new records online every week. Throughout 2015 Findmypast has continued to work on a new project to publish online the 1939 Register for England and Wales - the only surviving survey of the population between 1921 and 1951 - after being awarded the contract by The National Archives. For the time being, I would speculate that Findmypast will be the only web site granted the permission to offer this valuable British collection to its subscribers.
FindmyPast is one of the genealogy conglomerates on the net, today. Findmypast (previously DC Thomson Family History) also owns The British Newspaper Archive, GenesReunited, Movaco, Lives of the First World War, Scotland's People, and the Who do you Think you Are? Story. The purpose for including this little bit of corporate history, here, will become obvious by the end of this review.
FindmyPast claims to have over 2 billion records and newspaper articles and 1,000 exclusive collections of original records for you to search. However, there is no explanation as to how these numbers have been calculated. Regardless, the site is well laid out, very easy to navigate around on and very easy to determine what it is that one is looking at with short succinct descriptions of the data sets included at the top of each search page for a particular data set.
Concerning memberships on FindmyPast: There is a choice of memberships for access to the "World" collection or for access to just the "Britain" collection.
The World subscription, per month, is £12.95. But, if you subscribe for one year there is a single payment of £129.50, which reduces the per-month fee by approximately £25.00 per year. The World subscription includes access to their Irish, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand records, which, if you already have a world subscription on Ancestry you may find largely duplicative.
The Britain subscription, per month, is £9.95. But, if you subscribe for one year there is a single payment of £99.50, which reduces the per-month fee by a little less than £20.00 per year. The trick here, though, is that records from Ireland are treated as a "world collection" rather than with the British collection. So, if one needs access to records from Ireland, one will have to anti up the higher subscription price. This feels like a bit of a cheat to me.
So, what is included in the Irish records, according to Findmypast the following:
- Millions of Irish census records, and birth, death and marriage records;
- The most comprehensive online collection of directories;
- Exclusive land records and Irish Prison Registers dating from the 18th century; and,
- Exclusive Court records and Petty Sessions Order Books from 1842 to 1913.
From a simple comparison of records unique to Ireland on FindmyPast to those on Ancestry, I can say that many of the records are identical. There are differences, though. FindmyPast does appear to have more in the way of directories and parish registers whereas Ancestry does cover the 'big' resources such as census, Griffith's Valuation, Irish Wills indices, Famine Relief Commission papers, civil registration indices of births, deaths and marriages as well as various BMD compiled records.
Concerning the "Pay as you Go" subscriptions: 60 credits are valid for 90 days and cost £6.95. Alternatively, 280 credits, which are valid for 365 days cost £24.95. In my opinion this credit system is steep and somewhat unfair considering that 10 credits are used to view a mere transcription of a record and 20 credits are used to view an image of a record. At that rate 60 credits would be gone after viewing just 3 images. So, unless one knows for certain that only a 60-credit payment is required as few records will be required to be searched and very few images will be needed to be gathered for proof, I strongly suggest going with the one month subscription.
Under "My Records" a system reminiscent of Scotland's People has been implemented whereby one can revisit and re-examine past downloads of data. Speaking as one who has had numerous computer failures over the years and experienced massive loss of saved files, this facility is very valuable and provides quite a relief to know that one's hard work and money spent can be recouped easily enough by revisiting the "My Records" section of this web site. FindmyPast has the categories of past purchases set out as two columns, one each for written transcripts and images. The purchase method for each individual record is marked by a small checkmark placed in the top right-hand corner of the image depicting the applicable method. If both the transcript and the image were previously purchased the same checkmark appears on both preferences. I would like to see this checkmark made somewhat larger as I would imagine that anyone with visual difficulties might have a hard time spotting it.
A third column is added by which one can edit a record already viewed for their own private reference and mark that entry with notes and certainty ratings. This is a nice addition and provides one with a method for ranking the records that have been viewed over time.
In closing this review I would like to return to that little bit of corporate history given at the beginning. Because FindmyPast Limited now controls several of the previously big but independent players such as Scotland's People and the British Newspaper Archive, I feel that more flexibility in their subscription system needs to be put in place. Why is it not possible to subscribe for one month, for instance, and have that subscription and sign-in credentials accepted on all of their other sites? After all, it's not as if one can visit and research on more than one site at a time. People with diverse interests and goals in family history - which includes the vast majority of us with British ancestry - should be able to visit FindmyPast, Scotland's People and the British Newspaper Archive all under the umbrella of their one subscription on any of those other sites.
So, on one hand, FindmyPast has gained points with me for having a good clean and clear web site with easy to understand navigation, searching, subscription and image retrieval systems. But, has lost points for belabouring the pay-per-view system with steep charges and failing to provide flow-through subscriptions to their sister sites.