Findmypast’s new layout – like it or loathe it?

As a subscriber to Findmypast’s  worldwide package and it being a site I use regularly, I have a pretty vested interest in how the site works, I pay them money every year to access their ever expanding sets of records, but how good is it when they change the layout and the search facility? I know Ancestry recently got rid of their old style of searching, much to some users frustration, but FMP has differed in the fact there is no option to use the old style for a period of transition. There was an option to try out the new style before it became the new way forward but I didn’t get round to checking it out until it had gone live.

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About a year ago I did a survey for them to help them with feedback and to highlight any possible areas for improvement and I was asked again to do one this week after they had a question from someone about the new layout.

Previously it was pretty straightforward, you navigated to the general area of records you were after and could then narrow down your search from there if you wanted to be fairly specific, or you could just type in a name on the homepage and see what results it brought up from all their records and could then drill down further.

The new layout I have to say initially I was a bit frustrated with, I went to look up someone on the census and found that it was all quite different. It took me a while to get to grips with it and the results, but I can see the benefit. Previously if you wanted to look someone up on the censuses you had to go between record sets, which was a fair amount of clicks and back and forth. Now you can search all the censuses together if you want, or specify a year you want to search from or go down to the individual record set.

What I don’t like is how when you bring up the transcription of that record you are only shown that person, the other household members are listed underneath and you have to click on their details to see their information, whereas before you would get a page showing the householders and their details together. So while you may be seeing the information laid out a little clearer, it is still a pain to gather that information as it takes several clicks – especially if you have a large family.

As for the births, marriages and deaths – again it is good that you can search them all together, however not so great if you want to separate the baptism records from the birth registration records. Yes you can select record sets, however you can select the specific parishes, but for example if I was to filter the record set results in order to select what I wanted by typing in ‘parish’ into the filter by record set search box, it only brings up five record sets. I would rather there be an overall collection termed as ‘parish records’ to be able to have more of a catch-all.

I haven’t as yet had much time to try out all the areas of the site with the new layout but I will certainly be feeding this back to Brightsolid – the owners of Findmypast. They do have a guide to using the new style search so I will be checking this out!

Other news from the site is their 100 record sets in 100 days pledge. They plan to release 100 record sets over the coming 100 days and have started this with the release of some records relating to Pals Battalions – further details can be found here – 100 in 100.

So what do you think? Do you use Findmypast regularly? How have you been finding the changes?

EDIT – added 14th April: As a bit of an update to this – I have seen a lot of users are really not happy with these changes. Some people have experienced inconsistencies with search results, sometimes bringing back 0 results on a search that had been done before using the old version of the site. I used it today for checking some parish register entries and I was annoyed that even when specifying a date range to within a couple of years it still brought up results that were outside of those specified years, meaning my search terms were pretty much useless and I still had to filter the results.

I have noticed there is a ‘Churches & Religion’ section – I was expecting this to perhaps be somewhere the parish record sets might have been put into in order to separate it out from the birth, marriage and death indexes. It seems not – checking out the ‘Browse Record Collection’ just brings up a choice of one thing – ‘Religious Ceremonies’. Then checking out the ‘Browse Record Set’ brings up two entries – Wrightington Confirmations 1813-1876 and Wrightington First Communicants 1851-1889. While I’m sure this is great for some people interested in that area, it is just strange to not put parish registers under that collection.

In short, I am finding it pretty horrid. I think there are good points that are time saving, but that time I am saving is then being wasted in grappling around the new format, the weirdness of the searches and extra clicks for certain bits of information. I hope that they will be responding to users feedback and making some changes over the coming weeks and months. I have heard a lot of grumblings about people not wanting to renew their subscriptions and rating the new site with just 2 stars. It is a shame, the records they have available are phenomenal, and I am interested in what new things will be added over this 100 in 100 pledge, but what use is it all if the new layout is giving users more headaches than happiness?

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15 thoughts on “Findmypast’s new layout – like it or loathe it?

  1. Oh that is too bad! I rarely use findmypast so I don’t have a strong opinion on the way the website was designed before. I’ll have to check it out this week when I work my shift at the FamilySearch center. I am not a big fan of the changes ancestry made recently but I don’t feel as strongly as some. I’m learning to work with it okay.

    While you are talking about findmypast I have wondered about some records I found. I came across a whole bunch of records – travel/immigration I think – for family members who left Scotland and settled in Australia. The records are on the Australia side. The index is visible for free. I’ve wondered if the image would contain more info. Have you accessed these types of records on findmypast before? The subscription at the FS center is the UK collections and doesn’t include these. I’ve wondered if it would be worth my pennies to purchase these items. Thoughts?

  2. I know what you mean about Ancestry’s changes, it took me a while to get used to it!

    As for the images, well sometimes they can contain more info than the transcription, but it depends on the timeframe as the earlier passenger lists were quite basic in detail but the later ones will have addresses etc on. I’m happy to check out whichever ones you are interested in and send them over so you can see what they have on them. Then you can decide for yourself if you think it would be worth subscribing in the future for other things. Just send me a mail through my contact form on the About page.

    I have a world subscription which I use regularly (pretty much daily) and I do find it very useful for uk research and Australian too. It’s Irish records are expanding but I think unless they tweak the new layout they may lose some subscribers that have been used to one way of doing things.

    It can always be a bit of a pain to get used to a new format / layout but it is a shame they have not done what Ancestry did with running old and new together for a while.

    I’ll stick with it and see how it goes!

  3. I tried find my genes (an offshoot of friendsreunited) and that came up consistently with nothing and also a local Irish website that looked hopeful but only covered a specific period (early 1900’s). This site sounds like it ‘could’ be amazing! I hope they get it going easily as sometimes it takes too long to figure out how to use these search engines to find they have no results anyway!!

    • It has improved since I wrote this post as they have been taking on board customer feedback and making some changes. I am getting used to it now as I do use it regularly.

      As for My Genes – do you mean Genes Reunited? I never used it for records as it wasn’t giving me anything I didn’t already have access to from other sites. It was good for getting in touch with other people researching the same ancestors or living cousins etc but in recent years I’ve probably only ever had replies from 1 out of every 10 messages I’ve sent and probably about 7 out of 10 aren’t even being read as people never kept up their subscription or don’t update their contact details. So I don’t subscribe to it anymore.

      • That’s the one! Genes Reunited. I think I will try again with Find My Past. Our distant Irish heritage is fascinating although pretty confusing! But then mystery can be fun 😉

        Hope you are having a lovely weekend.

      • I am thank you! After some housework (not house owls as I first typed – love predictive text) and a nice lunch out with my husband, I am now relaxing with the latest Your Family Tree magazine.

        I have one elusive Irish ancestor, no idea what part of Ireland he was from though. Not found a baptism for him as yet and he came over pre-potato famine. Hopefully one day I’ll find out more about him!

      • House owls sounds fun! I love the world of predictive text. You have a fab understanding for social history, so I gather from this that it’s quite curious he came over pre-potato famine. Hm. I love a good mystery. I’m quite hooked to the ‘Who do you think you are shows’ they always pull a surprise out at the end!!

      • Well usually most Irish came over in the 1840s to escape the dreadful conditions back home at that time. But I know he was having kids here in the 1820s but he is only on the 1841 and 1851 censuses and they just say Ireland for place of birth.

        I wonder who they will have for the next series of WDYTYA?

      • I love learning figuring out more about history.

        Yeah I dunno who will be up next. Maybe some sports personalities? I don’t mind watching the repeats of some of them, Griff Rhys Jones was good. His Mum was so nice! That’s the part I like best when these famous people go back to their childhood home and chat over tea with their parents who get out the old photos from a tea caddy and treat them like kids and then they figure out something cool! Can’t wait for the new series to start now!!

      • Me too. I was very jealous of Rory Bremner when in his one they had a whole chest full of stuff for him to look through before he started!

      • Ha! I don’t think I saw that one. Going to go trawling through BBC iplayer. *beaming* Mind you that is a bit of a head start to have a big load of photos! Most people have got a scrap of paper with all the writing faded off it!! 😀 Wicked.

  4. I loathe Findmypast’s new layout and have demanded, and received, a refund of my subscription as it no longer meets my needs as a genealogical resource.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      I’m glad that you got your refund, although it is a shame you’ve decided not to continue with it, as the ever expanding record sets they have are becoming a real boon (well certainly to me!)

      Although I wasn’t overly enamoured with the new layout and system, it has improved and I am getting to grips with it a bit more and finding it a bit easier to use.

      Mainly I use it for the parish registers and newspaper archive and military records, but find that I do often use the breadth of the record sets available. Plus with them recently buying Origins, the National Will Index being part of my subscription is going to be brilliant as it is usually a pretty pricey subscription to use it via Origins.

      I made sure that I cancelled the auto-renew on my sub to The Genealogist as that is just diabolical. Really unintuitive (always has been) and I don’t really have much use for it any more. Originally I was using it for non conformist records and PCC wills but now they are on Ancestry, it seems pointless to continue with The Genealogist. Unless they have a serious overhaul and make some better record sets available that aren’t available elsewhere then I wont be going back.

      I suppose as a professional researcher I can’t really not use Findmypast for the sheer wealth and breadth of record sets they have now, using other sites for subs for some of the things available like the British Newspaper Archive just doesn’t make sense financially if I can still pay the same subscription fee annually for masses more under one umbrella.

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