Sunday, May 13, 2007

Product Review: World Vital Records Reconsidered

Sometime ago, I came across World Vital Records, a new site started by Internet guru and rich guy Paul Allen. He 's the fellow was behind the initial launch of which has now become The Generations Network and includes, Rootsweb, and World Vital Records, in Allen's words, was striving to become the "number two" company in the Internet genealogy market. The promises for World Vital Records sounded good. I signed up.

I was not impressed with WVR at first. There was little on the site that wasn't available elsewhere. I didn't like the look and feel of the site, either. Then, WVR began to send me annoying e-mails about the site and asking my opinion about this, that, and the other. As annoyed as I was, for some reason the other day, I decided to visit the site again. And, well, well, well, Paul Allen is about to be number two!

WVR has added a tremendous amount of content in the last couple of months, enough to impress me that they aren't just puffing about the rate they intend to pursue. Not only that, but the look and feel of the site has improved greatly. Searches are simpler. I like the fact that they've tied maps to search results. For example, if I search for "Pansy Warren," my great aunt who lived in Midland, Texas, I get her Social Security Death Index listing along with a map of the Midland area and listing of a nearby cemetery.

I also like the "book" feature that lists books containing the name you've searched for. It's powered by Google Books. I was searching for the name "George Birdsong" and a book about the Upson County railroad turned up. It was a practically seamless operation to go from WVR to Google Books to; I'll have the book in a few days!

One thing that doesn't especially impress me is the newspapers database. To be fair to WVR, I'm not really enamored of any of the newspaper search products currently in existence. The current technology is not that great. None of these products seems to be able to search efficiently for an exact phrase.

And I do have a bone to pick with WVR's "Genealogy Blog Planet," which claims it "collects the most recent blog postings from many of the top genealogy bloggers on the planet." While outstanding bloggers (see the 23rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, for example) are overlooked, WVR has links to uninformative blogs, including one that hasn't been updated in nearly two years!

But WVR is getting better. It may be worth the price of some of its special deals, like its current two years for $48 promotion.


Jasia said...

I submitted my blog URL early on to WVR but they wouldn't add me to their list. I think they were just looking for the big players, the commercial bloggers who get paid to blog. At least that's who they seemed to be including at the time. I didn't subscribe and haven't been back since. I'm guessing they still haven't added me.

Thanks for the review. I still don't think I'll subscribe but it's nice to know they're getting better :-)

Craig Manson said...

No, Jasia, they still haven't added you and that's a shame. Curiously, they don't just have the big commercial bloggers. A lot of the blogs are every-day family historians. But a lot of them (with exceptions) are not updated (or read) very often.

Frank said...

Nice post Craig! Vital Records

Anonymous said...

A late comment, but not 'least.' Today (9-8-09) I was solicited via phone by WVR for a paid subscription, presumably since I had responded to an earlier in the summer free use deal. The person who called quoted chapter and verse of the look-ups I did on their site. A perusal of their privacy policy makes no mention of this collection, but until now I had no reason to look for it. Needless to say, I will not be subscribing to their service--ever!

Denise said...

They simply don't have the information I'm looking for. As far as finding books a search with Google usually comes up with a few relating to the family or information one is searching and many are old and in pdf so can be downloaded.

They have repeatedly sent me emails even after I used their unsubscribe link.

Anonymous said...

Joined world vital records on Feb 15 specifically for the Newspaper archive. On Feb 18-19 the search engine wouldn't work on the archive. Worked ok on the 20th so I figured they had a glitch on the weekend and thing would be fine - then on Feb 21 again, you could not access any newspaper in the archive, so I called tech support (which is not avaialable on the weekends) and was told that they were aware of the problem and it would be down a couple of hours and then back up) No problem - right. Well now it's the 22nd and I still can't access the archive, so I call tech support and now I'm told that it will be a couple of days since they are NOW updating the archive to give me more newspapers - RIGHT - I can't access what they currently have now - so I asked for my subscription to be cancelled and my money refunded per their guarantee. The customer service rep responded that all she could do was cancel the auto renewal!! Yeah right, I told her that I wanted the full refund that was guaranteed per their 30 day satisfaction garantee - so all of a sudden the refund was being taken care of. Don't fall for the hype - in order for a site to be a help in your research you need to be able to access the information.