Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Genealogists' Revenge

For those who use Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome, and, in the last couple of months, have downloaded the new Google toolbar you may have seen a little writing pad icon, usually at the bottom left of a page. This is the new Google Sidewiki, click it and one can enter a comment which will remain attached to that page.
If there is an entry in the Sidewiki on a page then the icon on the left, which turns yellow on hovering over it, will be seen at the top of the page. One can also use the Sidewiki icon on the Google Toolbar.

Visitors and webmasters may have different views as to the benefit, or otherwise, of this facility, and I am not going to enter into this discussion, but rather look at how by correct usage it can advantage both. However, it is initially necessary to look at some of the controversal aspects:
  1. Can a webmaster switch it off? No, although I understand it does not appear on secure sites
  2. Can a webmaster edit a visitor's entry? No
  3. Can a webmaster delete a visitor's entry: No
  4. Google says that it will check for inappropriate entries - if flagged
  5. Entries are entered in a priority list as determined by Google
The potential pitfalls for webmasters are  obvious, but there are some steps which can be taken to minimise these.

Take part-ownership of the Sidewiki 


It is necessary to first register your site with Google Webmasters, you will need to register yourself with Google for this. You will then be given the option of including a meta tag in your script (see my Web Creation Blogs) or uploading an html script to the root of your site. There is also an automatic link to Blogger. Once done your own entry can be permanently entered to the top of the list on every page - although I have not been able to get the "all pages" check box to appear on my sites using Firefox!

Check all entries


The entries which visitors make can also be read by the webmaster using either your Google Profile or from an RSS feed using the URL: DOMAIN.COM%2Ffergys%2F/default?includeLessUseful=true, replace "MY DOMAIN.COM with your own domain name and delete the "www." if not included in your URL. Using this is somewhat messy, so I suggest that you use a feed generator.

What use is it?


If used properly then the Sidewiki offers an opportunity for commenting on, and discussing, individual entries in a genealogy website, such as: whether Joe Blogs has the correct parents. This can be done in a most convenient way compared with having to go to a comments page or sending an email, and it is open for other interested parties to enter the debate.

And why do I title this piece the "Genealogists' Revenge"? Well, when we now see our research published on a website by someone else, and without attribution, we can now claim it back! If the cap fits I advise caution.

© Ron Ferguson 2009

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Genealogy Searches - What Now?

The publishing of the complete England/Welsh 1851 census by raises the interesting question as to whether to subscribe to that site or, particularly since the former includes the English/Welsh 1911 census. I hope that the following may help you decide (For England, in the table, please read England/Wales - with apologies).

Comparison Table

For the purpose of this comparison I have chosen to compare the Ancestry Premium subscription with the Findmypast Explorer.

Full English Censuses
Complete BMD's
Family Trees
Parish Records
Irish Records
Scottish Records
Full WW1 Records
Other UK Military Records
Complete Eng. Emigration Records
Annual Cost UKPs++


Ancestry does not include the 1911 census
* Not directly searchable before 1984
** transcript only
+ Scotlands People is a sister site to Findmypast
++ Ancestry Essentials subscription at £84.40 excludes Parish and Irish Records
*** Findmypast Explorer costs £89.95 but excludes the 1911 census (available [you've guessed!] at £59.95/annum)

Both companies offer vouchers, but, as might be expected, comparison is not easy! Ancestry offer 12 record views for £6.95. valid 14 days, and Findmypast 60 credits also at £6.95 valid 90 days. It should be noted that to view a Findmypast image usually costs up to 10 credits, although the top rate is for the 1911 census - 10 credits to view the transcript, but a massive 30 credits to view the image!

I know that the above will not answer the question as to which is the most appropriate, and it is clear that the choice will depend on your particular circumstances. It seems that it would be best to take out a subscription with the company which has the majority of searches which you will need, and buy vouchers for the other - but note Ancestry's very short life-span.

The assessments which I have given are based on my own use of these sites, rather than on the owners' blurbs, and I have only included their major databases. Both sites have other data of more specialist interest.

© Ron Ferguson 2009