Thursday, January 26, 2012 Revamps Their Learning Center

I love the Learning Center, and often refer beginning genealogists to the site, which is free. recently changed the format of the Learning Center - but the old links to it still work as of today (

Let's take a look at the new Learning Center.  On the Home, Family  Trees, Search, Collaborate or Learning Center tabs, clicking on the Learning Center tab leads to this screen:

There are four main sections to this Learning Center (with the light green background in the screen above), and we'll look at each of them in succession:

1)  The What's New page:

The "What's New page has five main links:

*  New Content - links to selected new historical record collections
*  New Features - links to selected features for using the site
*  Our Social Network - join the online community and learn about education opportunities
*  Ask Ancestry Anne - Anne Mitchell writes on the Sticky Notes blog, and answers submitted questions
*  Livestream Videos - watch Desktop Education videos prepared by family historians

2)  The First Steps page:

This page has four sections:

*  Getting Started - links to selected articles about starting your research
*  Learn More - links to selected articles about using to grow your family tree
*  Links to a video on Why Start a Family Tree?;  a pedigree chart at Start with Paper and Pencil?; and the app at No Matter where you go, your tree can grow.
*  Links to videos two First Steps webinars.

3)  The Next Steps page:

This page has three sections:

*  Census Records - links to three articles about census records
*  Immigration Records - links to three articles about immigration records.
*  Links to a webinar on Finding the U.S. Military Heroes in Your Family, an article on Vital Records on,  and a link to a page for Free Research Guides.  There are 12 links to illustrated articles for specific research areas (e.g., Irish, UK, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Immigrants, Passenger Lists, Census, American Revolution, Civil War, World War II, and black Sheep).

4)  The Family History 101 page:

There are three major parts to this page:

*  How-To Articles - links to seven selected articles on different topics
*  Beyond Family Trees - links to four selected articles about family history topics
*  Links to pages about joining the Facebook page, the Livestream Videos, the Sticky Notes blog, the YouTube Channel,  the Twitter feed, and the Blog.  

There is also a link to sign up for the free monthly newsletters by email.

5)  There are links to all of the Webinars, to the Help - FAQ area, and Family History Wiki  in the Learning Center button on the top menu dropdown list, but those links are not on the Learning Center pages.

6)  A user can search for articles by topic in the search field at the top of each Learning Center page.  Searching for "census records" comes up with 289 matches; for "immigration records" comes up with 261 matches; for "military records" brings up 258 matches.  However, not every article that comes up with these searches seems relevant.  The first ten matches for "military records" do not mention military records in the titles.  Most of the articles do not have publication dates.  I tried searching for authors like Michael John Neill and George G. Morgan, and got a lot of matches.  Again, none of the first ten articles mentioned them.

All in all, it's a pretty decent makeover.  I am concerned that the search doesn't return relevant matches, and that there are no apparent links to the Ancestry Article Archive that I value.

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copyright (c), Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

1 comment:

Geolover said...

Nice rundown, Randy.

I share your frustration concerning the articles.

The search engine has always been nearly useless: a very simple and stupid keyword searcher, with no built-in relevance ranking.

There should have been at least a subject-matter outline finding aid for the articles. There are hidden gems that are found by accident if at all.