Irish Roots

May 17th, 2010

John Grenham

Everyone involved in making records available on the internet is aware of the scourge of escalating expectations: a set of records becomes searchable online; there is mass cheering and throwing of hats into the air; some weeks later, a few users grumble that the records they’re interested in have been mis-transcribed; six months on, a steady stream of emails complains that the servers are not responding instantly; after a year, hordes of outraged users demand the right to search for the number of commas in each record.

Exaggeration aside, a process like this really does occur, and is useful. Uncomfortable as it might be for those providing access, the higher the expectations, the better the service is likely to be.

There is of course a specific reason for mentioning this. The pilot Mormon website that includes (almost?) all the Irish birth, marriage and death indexes, http://pilot.familysearch.org, has recently been upgraded, with the addition of much birth, marriage and death information previously only available via the main site, http://www.familysearch.org. Welcome as the additions are, the way they have been added has distorted the index search. The list of event types by which it is possible to narrow that search, which should obviously be just “birth, marriage, death”, instead comprises “birth, death, residence”.

The information is still there, and can still be extracted with a bit of ingenuity, but the reaction from users has been passionate outrage. (I know, because a few users appear to believe that I have some responsibility for the site. I haven’t.) The site is free, and provided by the Mormons when our own General Register Office won’t provide it, but the outrage is still warranted. The problem will be corrected, but only when enough users use the feedback button to let the designers know about their frustrated expectations.



Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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