I volunteered at a Family History Center for a year. I met so many people who really wanted to get into family history but didn't know where to go, or what to do next. They really needed a site that guides them through the journey, a step at a time - with the flexibility to move in their own direction. And The Family History Guide was born ...

What it does

The Family History Guide is a free website with three basic purposes: 1) It gets people started with family history, helping them overcome the learning curve; 2) It provides Goals, Choices, Steps, and Resources for the learner in a sound instructional design, with opportunities to explore research around the world; and 3) It provides free training materials so instructors can implement effective training for groups, classes, and individuals.

How I built it

After the basic requirements were gathered, the project was done in the style of Agile development, with rapid prototyping on a test website. There are not a lot of bells and whistles on the site - it's basically just HTML 5 with some Javascript, but many users have commented on how effective and easy-to-use the site is. The technology supports the content, not the other way around. The basic graphic design for the site was contracted out - it will be updated in the next few months.

Challenges I ran into

1) The temptation to swim the Atlantic, genealogy-wise. There is SO much information out there (printing out the Cyndi's List website, for example, would create a double-sided stack of paper on your desk over 250 feet high) that I had to be wisely selective. 2) Patience to keep at a huge development undertaking without skimping on quality. 3) Keeping beginning, intermediate, and advanced users happy and engaged, all on the same site.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

1) QUIKLinks that let users directly access searches on FamilySearch, Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage without having to navigate thru menus on those platforms. 2) Links to over 1000 articles, videos, and websites, all strategically placed to accelerate the learning process. 3) Coordinated Instructor and Student Guides that provide a turn-key teaching system connected to the material on the website.

What I learned

To doubt the doubters. A number of people were pretty skeptical when they saw what we were trying to do ... now people are thanking us for providing them with the resource they've needed for a long time.

What's next for The Family History Guide

1) Site update for better mobile access, plus improved search. 2) Custom platform pages, so learners can focus on learning Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage, as alternatives to FamilySearch.

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posted an update

What's New at The Family History Guide - Update #15:

Added new post on from guest blogger Suzie Kolber of - "Creating a Family Tree as a Family Project"

Added new Choice B to Project 1: Goal 12 for free pedigree chart templates.

Updated content for the following countries/areas this week:

  • Spain
  • Australia
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Also updated the Tracker sheets for each of these countries.

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