Thursday, August 18, 2011

Change is good. Quit your belly-achin'!

Today Footnote announced it has changed its name to Fold3 ( There is also a slight rearrangement of the web site. Reactions from the public have ranged from "how dare they!" to "I don't like it because --fill in one of several reasons--." Some of the reasons are about the new look, the search function, and possible problems when trying to find things on the new site.

My reasons for concern over news like this are usually very different from others. The first thought I have is, "Oh no. Broken links." I checked and learned that the only change is the domain name and title name, so I can do a relatively easy update on that. My second thought is about the identity of Footnote as a genealogical resource. The name Footnote always felt scholarly to me. It feels solid. And my first knowledge of Footnote was in regard to their unique relationship with the U.S. National Archives. The identity of Footnote, in my mind, was "U.S. government records source." As such I've always held a private wish to eventually see the U.S. land entry files on the Footnote site. Today's news indicates that Fold3's genealogical identity will now be focused on "the finest and most comprehensive collection of U.S. Military records available on the internet." I'm not crazy about the new name, but it isn't a life-altering issue for me. My two questions/concerns were answered, so I'm fine with things.

Getting worked up about a commercial entity online that changes their look, their name, and their functionality doesn't do you any good. They are a business. Of course they are going to periodically switch things up. If they didn't their business would go stale. I'm not concerned with the search function or the arrangement of the web site. I've seen so many changes to so many sites throughout the past 15 years that I've learned there is no point in worrying about them. Changes come. It is part of life. And sometimes changes on a web site are a good thing. It shakes up the way we do things, makes us a think up a new routine, and gives us a new perspective. That new perspective often leads to good things for our research. Falling into a monotonous routine means we stop seeing new things and possibly miss seeing something we really need.

And the final thought I usually have when I see the uproar over things like this is about perspective. Does anyone remember when we didn't have the Internet? Does anyone remember driving to a cemetery/courthouse/library/archives to do research? Does anyone remember that in the old days getting a specific type of record might take you months, postage, shipping, and patience? How spoiled we have become. My great-grandmother lived in a sod house. She raised children, cooked meals, and lived daily in a house made of DIRT. My grandparents all lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. I try to remember them when I find myself unhappy that my microwave light-bulb has burned out or when my cable TV isn't working. Similarly, we need to remember just how far genealogical research has come thanks to the Internet. And quit belly-achin' about changes on a web site that serves up digitized records many of us would never have access to in the old days.


Dale Mower said...

...and Cyndi, I must say I like your perspective on this!

Judy Schneider said...

Well said and so true but, always a but, change is uncomfortable and on the Internet there is so much change, so often. Change doesn't always mean better.

Regarding your recent site change, I thought your old site was excellent and that your new site is also fantastic. The change didn't disturb me too much. I'm a "if it's not broken, don't fix it" kind of person though.

desiree said...

All you have said is so true - I don't think most of the people complaining have any idea of what we went through trying to get records before the internet and the additions through the years. I see people complaining about the 1940 census being releases "so late". They don't realize that the census was not designed for genealogy - and having to go to a NARA facility can be a pain, I remember having to take a number and have only 2 hours for research during the first month of that release! Complainers need to stop and think!

Anonymous said...

I like your post,& your perspective on name change. Change will happen weather we like it or not. I will miss, as it was easy to remember and made logical sense. I suppose some day I will have to dig deep in my memory what it was once called.