Monday, January 30, 2012

First Look at Results - Post 1: Searches and Transcriptions

brightsolid has announced the United States management team for their website - see Brightsolid Hires Top Genealogist D. Joshua Taylor To Support Move Into US Market.

I highlgihted the site yesterday in Is the new brightsolid USA Venture? and Tamura Jones did the same in Brightsolid Introduces the night before.

The United States Census records available on the website are listed on

I took a quick look at the search capability on the site with the current set of census transcriptions (1790 to 1840, 1850, 1880, 1910 and 1930).  Unfortunately, since I don't have a subscription yet, I cannot access the 1850 and later transcriptions.  So we'll make do with the 1790 to 1840 transcriptions for this exercise.

1)  Here is the home page of, with my search fields filled in:

Because I was looking for census records for 1790 to 1840, I entered firstname = "benjamin" lastname = "seaver" and a state =  "massachusetts" (selected from a dropdown list).  I kept the two boxes to the right of the name fields unchecked, so I received "exact matches."  Checking the boxes results in a search for the name with variations (the site says "Selecting this option will include variations of names, as sometimes spelling mistakes or nicknames are included in the census.").  That is different from every other site, which requires users to check the box to obtain exact matches.  The description of the name variations does not say it includes sound-like names that might use a Soundex algorithm.

2)  I clicked on the "Search" button (I could have pressed "Return" on my keyboard too) and obtained 11 matches:

If I had put checks in the box, I would have received 22 matches.  There were no variations on Benjamin.  However, the variation in last names for Seaver were Heaver, Leaver, Deaver, Feaver, Weaver, and Seavey.

I expanded the search to look for Seaver (no first name, not exact) in the 1830 census and received 80 matches.  The last name variations included Seaver, Feaver, Heaver, Seavers, Leaver, Searer, Seager, Staver, Seavey, Beaver, Sever, Shaver, and Weaver.  So it appears that the search algorithm lists the exact matches first (which is good), then systematically checks for changes in each letter in the name.  It also removes one letter at a time, and adds the plural also.  That list of names found is significantly different from what searches on finds - it finds the sound-alike names but not the "one letter off" names - a user must use a wild card for that.

3)  What about a wild card on We'll look at them in another post.

4)  An 1830 U.s. Census record transcription looks like this (two screens):

The transcription of the 1830 census record includes only the first and last name of the head of household, the census year, the state, county, and city/township for the record.  There is no listing of the number of males or females in each age group.  The user will be able to see the additional tick marks when the images are available.

I like the presence of the Bing map on the transcription page.  However, the stickpin is located in Middlesex County, not in Suffolk County, Massachusetts for that particular match.  Clicking on several other matches on the list, the map showed several street names in Boston rather than the towns outside of Boston.  Some towns were found on the map, but many were not, and some were in the wrong place (e.g., Roxbury in 1830 was in Suffolk County, but the map puts it in Norfolk County southwest of Dedham).  This feature needs to be improved.

Since I cannot access the 1850 to 1930 census record transcriptions because I don't have a subscription, I can't comment on the transcription format.  I hope that the transcriptions for those years will include every member of the household and not just the target person.  A pay-per-view feature that shows only the person searched for would be cheating the customer, in my opinion.  The only way to find a census record for many  persons is to find the person included in a family group.

At this point in time, I'm going to take a "wait-and-see" attitude towards the website.  I see no point in subscribing until all of the transcriptions are available, until all of the images are available, and the map feature is fixed.

Frankly, if the site provides only the U.S. census records that FamilySearch has, I don't see a reason to subscribe at all.  At this time, FamilySearch does not offer the 1790 to 1840 U.S. census, but they have claimed that they will add it.  They offer 1850 to 1930 (not 1890, of course) with images for 1850, 1860 (on, 1870, 1900, 1910, and 1920 at this time.  All for Free. also searches the FamilySearch records behind their subscription wall.

Where is the discriminator for  What makes them different from FamilySearch or  I don't see it yet!  hopefully, brightsolid will make a convincing case for U.S. subscribers.

1 comment:

//al said...

Randy, the big difference with is the ability to quickly link to an image of a particular page. I've been using them - for that specific purpose - to document some of my family.
Two years after your blog entry, the returns from are still, at best, inconsistent.
I have a hard time handling inconsistency from a computer ...
One thing that you might note, that aggravated me, was that AFTER I completed the transaction (registration for a month, non-recurring) I found a "foreign fee charge" on my bank statement from - you guessed it - CensusRecords. Either the transaction I agreed to was complete or it wasn't; had I been told that any further fees might apply, I'd have suggested several things they could have done with it.
Do I sound aggravated? Possibly more than just a bit!