Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lack of easy to find source info on FindmyPast continues to frustrate

FindmyPast has a blog post up about Irish Petty Session Registers now reaching 21 million records - it's at

In the past, FindmyPast Ireland - when it was a separate entity before being integrated into the new version of the site - carried a list of all the different courts included which specifically noted the year range available for each. I have just spent ten minutes trying to find that list, and cannot now do so from the home page. The guide at has nothing on this, and although you can choose the court in the main search page (through one of their tedious filters), there is no detail on the year range available alongside each.

Fortunately, with this blog acting also as an archive, I have found the original link that offered this list at - but this seems to be the state of play at 20 million records in November 2013, with no indication as to what is in the current update. I also cannot access this from the site if searching from scratch - although the earlier blog post still exists via this direct link, when accessing the current blog from any of the FindmyPast platforms, it just cannot be found as an archived story.

Similarly, on the Irish Prison Registers page at, there is a section at the end marked Full list of prisons. Except it does not carry even a partial list of prisons. (UPDATE: thanks to @kaffgregory for highlighting a link with this info - it's available at

Despite recently acquiring content like the plague is in town, FindmyPast has seriously diminished as a resource in the last few months in terms of the user experience, as far as this humble genie is concerned. It seems now to have some Borg based mentality that FindmyPast has itself become the source - but detailed information on what is available is ESSENTIAL for those trying to carry out meaningful research, as opposed to thinking its users just want to do a 'lucky dip' search and hoping something might pop up.

One day I hope that someone at the new FindmyPast actually gets it. I really do.

UPDATE: right, here goes - it seems the way to find source info is to click on the box on the home page that states "What's new? Find out about our latest updates." The full list of collections is then accessible by clicking the Articles link at the top, at which point you then get the World records list that used to be so easy to find from the home page. The confusing problem now with the site is that under the Search Records tab on the home screen there are two options - Search all records, and A-Z of record sets - neither is anything like as useful as accessing the collections via the World list, as such source info is not forthcoming.

A lot of work has clearly gone into the new FindmyPast site. But not a lot of thought...

(With thanks to @kaffgregory)


Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.


  1. I have posted this on FMP's Facebook page, hoping they will read, digest and take action. Sadly, there is very little chance of this happening.

    I should be amazed at their lack of response to your mounting criticism but I am not surprised in the slightest. The company is not for turning in its apparent quest to alienate most of its subscribers!

  2. "A lot of work has clearly gone into the new FindmyPast site. But not a lot of thought."

    Sums it up well - but the comment seems to apply to a lot of sites.

    Possibly this is inevitable as the major sites compete - for the "new genealogist". This has to be the market to go for because every series of WDYTYA (and the like) together with the WW1 centenary gets people started.

    When you start (thinking GB initially) you really want:
    1) Something meaty in the early 20th Century to get you across the gap from family memory into "the records" - the 1911 Census and/or WW1 records do this.
    2) BDM data and Census data - which gets you rapidly back to the early 19th century.

    That actually satisfies most people and the major sites all do the census records and BMDs with slight variations in usability that the novice does not initially appreciate and slight variations in scope (such as Scottish records!).

    So how do the big sites then compete for this apparently ever growing market?
    By trying to convince novices that "you have more".

    You do this by buying up records and throwing them at your database and making claims such as "we have made Leicestershire parish records available", "we have digitalised Northamptonshire business directories", "we have made available Lincolnshire memorial inscriptions".

    Once you have got back to the beginning of civil registration / the 1841 census, parish records are then probably your next best bet - but ...

    (the "but" is usually not appreciated by the novice)

    If you "go through 'Leicestershire parish records' on FindmyAncestry (or whatever) and you only find one "Clarke" baptism, the novice will assume that must be the Clark ancestor born in the county per the 1841 Census. The fact that the age is out by 20 years is ignored (because by the time you get round to researching the 1841 census even the novice knows that ages are "not to be trusted").

    But we may not know the scope of "Leicestershire parish records"
    - which parishes (do not assume all, they may not actually even mean "Leicestershire" as it is now understood, they may mean Leicester Diocese) and
    - what level of coverage (are any registers missing) and
    - between what dates?
    - Are we looking at original parish records, recent transcripts or the bishop's transcripts of the time?

    That sole "Clarke" may be the only one in FindMyAncestry's records, but it may not be the only Clark/Clarke born in Leicestershire in the relevant time period.

    But hey, what's it matter? I have subscribed to this massive database, "found" my ancestor, "discovered" his mother's Christian name, so now I can use the same records to "find" his parents' marriage - with a bit of luck there will only be one possible record and I have got back another generation (there may even be a shaky twig "hint" to tell me I have got it right)!

    The big genealogy firms will probably find that "acquiring content like the plague is in town" does get them new subscribers, unfortunately it only leads to poor research (and ultimately disillusion).

    Meanwhile, if anyone can give me any hints regarding the ancestry of James Clark (b ~1824 possibly in Great Bowden, Leicestershire) father of Elizabeth Ann Clark (b 1855, m George Henry Williamson in Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire Q2 1886) please let me know!

  3. Agreed. The biggest danger in family history is people becoming 'conditioned' to believing that access to records is only possible through the online genealogy vendors. This is why source information stating what is available within collections is so important. Vendors often don't like to admit to shortcomings in offerings, however - which is why family historians should also subscribe to genie blogs (including this one!), buy family history magazines and books, join societies, all of that and more. The online world has created some extraordinary advances within family history. But it is also causing an equal amount of issues, which is why people should seek impartial steers from other sources, as well as relying on the news announcements from the vendor sites themselves.

    1. Had to laugh at that, the other day I was looking at a couple of those crazy ancestry trees which so many people on ancestry are obsessed with, one of the two trees was probably uncritically copied from the other no doubt, as per usual.

      They both had the guy that I was interested in, and some correct records for him, he was born in Sweden but had moved to England and they had the correct records for his birth and for his residence in England.

      They also had his parents listed in Sweden, but, he was born in 1880 and his "parents" were born in the 1780's. !

      Don't monkeys live in trees. ? :):)