Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Genea-Bowl

Hey genea-philes, it's Saturday Night again, and time for more Genealogy Fun!

Since it's Super Bowl weekend, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  Score the Genea-Bowl between FamilySearch and Ancestry - how do these two sites match up for:

*  First Quarter:

** Historical Record Collections (20 points max) - consider content: digitized books, newspapers, census records, vital records, military records, immigration records, probate records, land records, etc.

*  Second Quarter:

**  Search Capability (20 points max.) - consider search features, name variations, use of wild cards, presentation of results, etc.

*  Third Quarter

**  Learning Center (20 points max.) - consider availability of articles, wikis, tutorials, videos, etc.

*  Fourth Quarter

**  Collaboration (10 points max.) - consider forums, message boards, email contacts, expert services, social media, conference presence, etc.
** Family Tree Building (10 points max.) - consider breadth, ease of use, accuracy of entries, collaboration aspects, integration with software, etc.

2)  Tell us why you assigned the points that you did, and sum up the numbers and tell us the winner of your 2012 Genea-Bowl.

3)  Post your results on your own blog, as a comment to this post, as a status on Facebook or a post on Google Plus.

Here's mine:

First quarter scoring :  Ancestry 12, FamilySearch 8

Analysis:  In the Historical Record Collections section, Ancestry has a large collection of census, immigration, military, books, newspapers and vital records, but not many probate and land record collections; some of Ancestry's indexes are poor.  FamilySearch has many of those same collections (they don't have all of the census, military and immigration  record images, and have few newspapers), has more vital records indexes and images online, and is adding probate and land records county by county.  Both have an active volunteer indexing activity, but FamilySearch's is larger.

Second quarter scoring:  Ancestry 13, FamilySearch 7

Analysis:  In the Search Capability section, While Ancestry's search engine is the most complex and sophisticated available for genealogy research, with plenty of name variation and wild card capabilities, it is difficult and confusing for beginners to use.  FamilySearch's search engine is not as complex or sophisticated, but it has better wild card capabilities.

Third quarter scoring:  Ancestry 7, FamilySearch 13

Analysis:  In the Learning Center section, Ancestry has a blog, research wiki (with two how-to books), video tutorials, webinars, and an article archive that does not work at present.   FamilySearch has several blogs (TechTips is great!), a research wiki with over 66,000 how-to and locality articles, over 250 video tutorials, and more.

Fourth quarter scoring:  Ancestry 13, Family Search 7.

Analysis:  In the Collaboration section, Ancestry has two sets of message boards, a mailing list archive, offers expert services for a price, has a social media presence, but doesn't collaborate much with other organizations.  FamilySearch has an under-utilized forum for expert advice, a social media presence, and is collaborating with a number of companies and societies.

In the Family Tree Building section, Ancestry has the largest online family tree, but they are isolated trees that are not interconnected.  FamilySearch is in the process of building  the largest interconnected family tree, but has not released it to the public yet.  Both trees, in their present state, have "junk" information in them and they are making little effort to weed the junk out.

FINAL SCORE in Randy's Genea-Bowl:  
Ancestry 45, 
FamilySearch 35.

This may be the last year that Ancestry is a clear winner over FamilySearch.  It all depends on FamilySearch adding more record collections, releasing the source-centric open family tree to the public,

I will do mine later...I'm at RootsTech as I type this and I need to return to my regular schedule.

Updated:  11 February to add my analysis and scoring.

I don't what happened to Geolover's comment with an excellent analysis.  I did not delete it, and he says he did not delete it.  'Tis a mystery who the "Blog Administrator" is!  As far as I know, I'm it, but I have no memory of deleting it.  I will look in my email archive to see if I can find it and add it to the comments.

I looked in my email archive, and I found Geolover's entry dated 5 February at 1:56 a.m. PST:
Here are my ratings:
Q1-Historical Records Collections: FamilySearch 6, 14

Q2-Search Capability: FamilySearch 6, 14

Q3-Learning Center: FamilySearch 15, 5

Q4-a) Collaboration: FamilySearch 2, 8
Q4-b) FamilyTreeBuilding: FamilySearch 4, 6

Q1-Reasons: FamilySearch's quantity of databases, while expanding at a far faster rate than, is still not a match (reserving opinion as to the newly uploaded books on FamilySearch, which I have not yet surveyed). FamilySearch's website is the slowest to load of any I ever visit. Some collections refuse to load at all. FamilySearch has QA/QC issues that are very difficult to get them to address, including a huge range of image file-size. E. g., there is no reason that some Ohio marriage records have to have 8MB filesize per image. FamilySearch needs to fix the layers of extract data displayed in search results. FamilySearch should stop giving only FHL Microfilm Numbers in the FHL Catalog listings for their copies of NARA films (to which they have merely spliced on a FHL film number). FamilySearch needs to stop listing only Digital Folder Numbers in pages that list browsable collections: these are not searchable, and the listings are completely unintelligible.

Q2-Reasons: FamilySearch has made recent improvements, but persists in keeping search-box fields' purpose ambiguous: whether person-identifiers ~or~ record-type-to-search. FamilySearch typically gives many Census entries as results for what the user wanted to be a birth-record search. FamilySearch keeps secret the existence of the possibility of using wild cards in a search. On the plus side, FamilySearch's search engine does pay attention to date-bracketing, which is much easier than on's allowing specifying a large database sector to search (such as military records or newspapers) is a major plus. Such differences will become much more crucial as FamilySearch's quantity of databases grows - it should take seriously the major need to refine searches in meaningful ways, lest it become as unwieldy as InternetArchive. On the other hand, in's NewSearch mode it has needlessly eliminated extremely single-page scrollable lists of database groups, such as military records and births-marriages-deaths.

Q3-Reasons: FamilySearch Wiki is hands-down superior, and improvements are being made in access and intellibility of arrangement. While has added useful information to many pages for single databases, its helpful information for database groups is greatly lacking and group search pages are misleading.'s Learning Center is nearly useless - the articles cannot be meaningfully searched, there is no subject outline, and the dissection of _The Source_ in the so-called Wiki has errors and stupidly omitted the footnotes; another project left incomplete.

a)'s and Rootsweb's message boards are vastly superior, and technical support via email and telephone is better than FamilySearch's. FamilySearch has two different message board systems, both of which are hard to find if you do not know they exist.
b) FamilySearch for the general public has only orphan tree stuff left over from the projects commenced more than 20 years ago. Including the few-year-old "Our Tree," FamilySearch and have tree systems that are equally around 95% junk.'s integration of ability to add citations to its present Member Tree system is superior, as is the ability to download one's own tree as a GEDCOM file.

Summation: 14+14+5+(8+6) = 47
FamilySearch 6+6+15+(2+4) = 33


Geolover said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Geolover said...

Geolover did not remove the post. It had no bad language, no personal attacks, no slander or anything else prohibited.

Geolover said...

Thank you Randy for retrieving the post copy and deeming it worthy of repetition. Your justifications are more comprehensive, but our opinions seem quite similar. Wish there had been more responses!