Misled by FindMyPast

I had an email this morning from the Helpdesk at Find My Past regarding my query about the 1911 Census and their Explorer subscription.

Dear Ian

Thank you for your email.

The 1911 census will  be coming to findmypast.com under subscription later in the year.

We have at no point claimed that the 1911 census will be available under the Explorer subscription.

Further details entailing what subscription this will be available under will be communicated once these have been determined.


So while, I agree, they did not specifically state that the 1911 Census would be available under the Explorer subscription, their email offering discounted subscriptions implied it.

Their email advertising the discounted subscriptions contained:

Why join now? 2009 is going to be a big year!

2009 will see us finish our new versions of the last two England & Wales censuses (1851, 1901), add images to the 1881 census, and most importantly, will see us add the brand-new 1911 census later in the year.

We will be the only website to include the 1911 census next year, meaning findmypast.com will be the only place to find the complete censuses 1841-1911.

This implies that a reason to join them will be to get access to the 1911 Census. As it will be available on a separate subscription, this is not a reason to take out a discounted subscription, therefore this is, in my opinion, confirmed false advertising.

Their (newly revised) subscription usage terms still state that “The Explorer subscription entitles you to unlimited access to all records on the findmypast.com website, excluding Living Relatives.”

I have now contacted Consumer Direct with the details and will await their response.

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43 Responses to Misled by FindMyPast

  1. John says:

    I have had problems with findmypast also.
    WHY is on line search dominated by big companys out to grab money now.
    Few years ago,there was a lot of “free” info,to show you got right person…not any more.

  2. Ian says:

    Thanks for your visit John,

    Ah, but now it’s big business. Family Tree research is the thing to do and so you can make good money out of information.

    Ancestry.co.uk are good if not cheap. Their search engine is really good and the records are clear.
    The majority of the large databases are made available due to the investment of the big companies, so I have to give them credit for improving the information available online.

    I must admit, I can’t think of any resources that I have used for free in the past years, that aren’t available now. Maybe I’ve missed an opportunity.


  3. Rosalind Batchelor says:

    Sorry – put this on wrong part of your site.

    Hello Ian

    I gave them three months before asking last week when the 1911 Census was going to come through the Find my Past Explorer sub. as promised.

    I have had exactly the same responses as you. I am glad you have the wording of the original offer because I could not find the pertinent e-mail in my saved files.

    I am thinking about approaching my local Trading Standards Office and/or Which.

    Have you taken this any further.

    Ros Batchelor

  4. Ian says:

    Hi Ros,
    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    The same day I posted this, I received an email from a manager at Find My Past Ltd, who told me that he would take it up my issues regarding the 1911 Census personally with brightsolid management. Despite emailing him twice for an update, I haven’t had any further communication.

    I did contact Consumer Direct, who gave the following advice:

    “In the first instance, it would be a good idea to check any terms and conditions that the trader has in place. By going ahead with the service, you would legally be regarded as having read and agreed to abide by the terms and conditions. As such, you should check these to find out what obligations you and the trader have in this contract. These terms should clarify exactly what will be included in the subscription; if the 1911 Census requires an additional payment for existing subscribers then by going ahead you may be regarded as having agreed to this.

    However, terms and conditions should be presented in clear, intelligible language; if you feel that this is not the case you may be able to argue that you have gone ahead with the subscription on the basis of the information given in the email. In civil law, if there is a dispute regarding the understanding of information stated in the terms and conditions then it is generally regarded that interpretation most favourable to the consumer should apply. In this case, it may be possible for you to argue that the trader is in breach of contract as you have agreed to the service on the basis unclear or misleading pre-contractual information. In the event of a breach of contract, a consumer would be entitled to pursue a suitable remedy; in this situation one suitable remedy may be that you are offered the 1911 Census when it becomes available. Alternately, it may be possible to seek a partial refund as an appropriate discount to account for the fact that you are not receiving the full service that you thought had been agreed.

    When you have a complaint for an issue of this nature you should ultimately put your grievance in writing to the trader and follow their complaints procedure. When sending a complaint letter to a trader it is advisable to send the letter recorded delivery giving a full outline of the events to date and the remedy you are seeking. You should state that you are making ‘time of the essence’ and give the trader a time limit within which you expect the matter to be resolved, such as fourteen working days. It is also advisable to obtain proof of postage for any letter you send and retain copies for your records.”

    To be honest, I haven’t taken this any further. I was busy trying to resolve another internet order issue at the time and couldn’t face getting sucked into another. They got my money this time, but they’ll never get my business again.

    I hope this helps you if you try to pursue it.

  5. Joyce says:

    A web-site that promises UK coverage, but does not deliver that, unfortunately cannot be trusted with promises of the 1911 Census.
    When they first got up and running, I got sucked in for Welsh searches, not realising that they only have a few English counties. Looking again this evening, that still seems to be the case.
    As you say, these companies are just after your money without delivering the goods.
    Good Luck!

  6. Ian says:

    Hi Joyce,
    Sorry you too got sucked in by their offer. I am very disappointed by their attitude, but at least I can vote with my feet; they won’t get a renewal or future business.

  7. Edward Hawkins says:

    I also got conned by FindMyPast. I only took out the explorer subscription because I thought that it included access to the 1911 census.

  8. Don Cameron says:

    My complaint about Findmypast or Brightsolid, otherwise part of the Scottish National Archives, is that they don’t take any real notice of complaints – all you get is some glib reply and nothing is done. I’ve just subscribed for the first time, and it will be the last time. Their website is one of the most difficult to navigate, with constant “time outs” which they say will happen if no activity is detected for more than 30 minutes, but in reality, it happens within 5 to 10 minutes – very frustrating when you are looking at other records to confirm information, or when entering information into your own genealogical database. This site also can’t cope with simple search requests – requests that one can make on Ancestry.com without any problems. Overall I’m pretty ticked off with the whole experience on Findmypast. I’d NOT recommend anyone to take out a subscription. Brightsolid is only interested in getting their hands on your cash. I know the Scots are canny business people (My grandparents were Scottish) but this is just a rip-off!

  9. wendy howard says:

    Findmypast is not a patch on Ancestry. FMP did mislead people by implying they had all the census returns when they hadn’t actually completed putting them on. Also, it did seem that if you joined you could get the 1911 census. You can’t correct name errors which you can do on Ancestry which I feel is much more value for money. There’s much more flexibility when searching the census returns because you can put in minimal info, if that’s all you have, and you will get, let’s say, all the men name Thomas born in Lambeth in 1812, so if you aren’t certain of the surname it’s possible to find it. Ancestry are also keen on squeezing every penny out of your pocket but at least you get a lot more resources to search through.

  10. ruth illingworth says:

    i also shall not be renewing my subscription in january,i also assumed that the 1911 cesus would be included in the explorer sub , there seem to be less and less sites to use without taking out more subscriptions,

  11. yvonne says:

    was thinking of joining changed my mind! I1m looking for records pre 1799 therefore parish records all sites suck u in then cannot go back further than 1837. A lot of my family are scottish and scotlands people are not canny they are ‘reevers’! Now I know fmp part of them no thanks. I have no choice but to use scotlands people as they have the monoply.

  12. Sandra says:

    I have just been taken in my FindMyPast. They were supposed to have the largest collection of parish records, but only have a few parishes listed so the service is rubbish for a lot of people. Even the censuses are incomplete. What a waste of money. Ancestry.com are far better and are at least up front with what they offer.

  13. lana says:

    hi Ian
    all i can say is ..they are money grabbers
    and thats exactly what i said 4 years ago..fmp was good to use then..lots of free stuff and i found heaps …..but sorry guys i refuse to pay for it when it should be free…the whole b***** lot..
    what is wrong with them, an ancestor i will go to great lengths to find but will not pay for a subscription to find a missing ancestor that is rightfully mine and my right to look for in any place or country.. so why are they allowed to continue scabbing money off people…because we are and always will be suckers when it cames to finding our families…… do they have that right to use our census that was complied for us in the first place.. i don’t think so!
    but the big question remains… how many of us are willing to give up on the companies that use us and milk us of our money……me im one as i dont have a subscription to ancestry or find my past
    i will search somewhere else …thank you very much! and there are lots that are free and are pretty decent..volunteers.. heaps of them around in diffrent countries that are really neat people will do searches for you and are free..watch out for the ones that work for companies that claim they are experience researchers and have been at it for 30 years plus…….bull! keep your money you just might need it to buy a bdm certificate as thats the best way to find any of your ancestors another thing ask if they do printouts instead of full certificates different price with the same amount of info..
    good luck…. and keep your money..

  14. Ian says:

    Thanks everyone for your views.
    While it would be nice to get things for free, I can understand why we have to pay for the data that the likes of Find My Past and Ancestry provide us. After all they have had to go to the expense of scanning, indexing and hosting the data.
    What I objected to was being told a lie in order to get me to subscribe in the first place.

    I wonder how many other people didn’t renew. I received a few emails just before my subscription expired reminding me of the discount when renewing and have had 3 emails in the last 3 weeks offering me a 15% discount if I re-subscribe. Hopefully this means that their greed and less than accurate advertising has hit them in the wallet.


  15. wendy howard says:

    Hi Everyone

    I did not renew with FindmyPast. It is a very limited site, poor in comparison to Ancestry. FMP acted quite scandalously over the 1911 census which ends up costing a fortune as a Pay as you Go facility.

  16. Ros Batchelor says:

    I have read the recent posts with interest.

    I too was very annoyed by being misled in 2009 about access to the 1911 census and Find My Past subscription.

    In the end, I have renewed subs to both Find My Past and Ancestry. They are both useful in different ways, for the research my husband and I want to do into our families.

    Being objective, I have to admit that the search facility on Find My Past seems better, and I like the layout of their transcription print-outs. Ancestry is better for searching BMD transcriptions, and has some useful newly added military and London church records.

    So here I sit, often with them both open simultaneously! Quite a financial outlay, but better than pay as you go for us, but family history is currently one of my main hobbies.


  17. Dierdre says:

    Hi, not sure if this is the right place to leave a comment but I have tried for over 2 months, and sent 5 emails, to get a response from Find my past, I took out a full subscription including the 1911 census which cost me over $240. Is there some body I can make a fromal complaint to?
    thank you Dierdre

  18. Ian says:

    Hello Dierdre,
    Sorry that you are having trouble getting a response from Find My Past. Unfortunately, none of us are anything to do with FindMyPast, which is part of Brightsolid; we are mostly just annoyed ex customers.
    I guess if you aren’t getting responses to your emails (which they say they try to reply to in 2 days), you might have to write to them or phone them (ouch – international call).
    Their contact details are:

    38-41 Fourth Floor
    Broadgate Court
    199 Bishopsgate
    EC2M 3TY

    Email: info@findmypast.co.uk

    UK: 020 3326 6300
    International: +44 20 3326 6300
    USA: 1-866-279-4013

    Office opening hours:
    9:00-18:00 GMT (Monday-Friday)
    9:00-17:30 GMT (Saturday)

    All the best,

  19. Joyce says:

    I have just read through all the comments, and all I can say is that we all have different requirements. I find it best to subscribe to three sites and flit between them. Including the free sites, I have managed to time travel back to 1605, and I think I have had my monies worth.

  20. Peggy says:

    Perhaps this is not the site to ask but would be interested to know where Ros gets her data for 1650 from.

  21. Peggy says:

    Sorry it was Joyce, still interested

  22. Ian says:

    Hi Peggy,
    I’m not sure, but if Joyce has ancestors from a location that the parish records have been put up on someone’s website, that might be it.


  23. Hazel says:

    I was going to subscribe to find my past, but after reading all these negative comments have decided not to. what are the free sites called that joyce says she uses? please

  24. Ian says:

    Hi Hazel,

    I’m afraid I don’t know the free sites that Joyce uses. Maybe if she’s reading these comments, she could post a couple of them.



  25. Hazel says:

    Thankyou very much Ian, not sure wether it is worth paying for information that should be in the public domain. we will see.
    thanks again

  26. wendy howard says:

    Familysearch is free for the IGI and 1881 census. However, they now offer a facility to search other census records and link you thru to a pay-per-view site.

    There’s also FreeCen. FreeReg and UKBMD.

  27. Hazel says:

    Thankyou Wendy for that information it is much appreciated

  28. wendy howard says:

    My pleasure. You should certainly be able to go back a long way on Familysearch and if your family is on there it could be as far back as 1600s. Free BMD is great for searching for BMDs very easily.

  29. P. Richmond says:

    I too have been very disappointed with findmypast. I recently purchased ¬£24.95 of pay-as-you-go credit. I have used the site on a very few occasions in the past (mainly to briefly access passenger lists which weren’t already on ancestry.com). I used all of my credits this time to access the British Army records and was certain that I would be able to view each record more than once – as their website clearly stated that pay-as-you-go credits were perfect for those ‘dipping in and out’ of records. The next day I found this was not the case and I had no way of looking at the records again to transcribe them fully. I emailed findmypast with the very reasonable request of being emailed the 6 soldiers’ army records as attachments but I received rather snotty and accusatory emails in response. The customer service team seemed to have spent more time tracing my previous usage of the site (to infer that I ‘should’ have known that I wouldn’t be able to view the records more than once – how dare they attempt to second guess what I do or don’t know!) and attaching various blurbs from their website to exonerate themselves than actually resolving the matter.
    A simple reply email with the 6 images (which I’d fully paid for already!) would have placated me instantly and resolved the matter in minutes! Instead, they have left me with a serious disliking for their website and zero chance of any repeat business.

  30. Ian says:

    Thank you for posting that information Wendy. Sorry I didn’t reply before, I didn’t get a notification that anyone had posted comments.:(
    I had a lot of success in the early days using Familysearch, but haven’t revisited for a while. When I get the chance to get back to family research I’ll have another look. I had also found Free BMD useful, but hadn’t come across the other two.

    I’m sorry you also had a poor experience with FindMyPast. I wonder what their retention rate is; I know they keep emailing me with last time chances to renew at the discounted rate. I agree with you, if, after having paid for an image, you are no longer able to view it, it isn’t much to ask that you have access to it again. I guess ‘dipping in and out of records’ is fine providing they are new ones each time.


  31. Don Cameron says:

    Findmypast = miserable sods.

    When I first started using the Findmypast website I was sending in corrections to records that were, in many cases, obviously incorrect. In most instances, the reply I got from them was less then satisfactory – i.e., they had no intention of correcting their poor transcriptions. Since then I have not attempted to make any further corrections on Findmypast, knowing full-well that other researchers will have a great deal of difficulty locating these records – as I did!

    My lack of interest in making any further corrections relates to the fastidious, outdated and officious attitude by Findmypast in dealing with my requests for corrections. Why should I go out of my way to write to these miserable sods, correcting their poor workmanship, when they should have been more diligent in the first place.

    I doubt that it would come into their orbit of thinking, that I might actually know more about my family then they do. At least with Ancestry.com anyone can add additional information, correct or incorrect – it’s then open to the researcher to determine the veracity of such additions. At least with Ancestry.com you are not forced to deal with some unknown gatekeeper, hiding behind a corporate shield of anonymity.

    In adding additional information and correcting census and other records on Ancestry.com, I have also left a trace of myself which has allowed countless relations to contact me. Findmypast has a long way to go to come anywhere near the value of a subscription to Ancestry.com – in my humble opinion!

    Humbug to those officious Scottish bastards!

    Donald Malcolm Cameron.
    New South Wales

  32. Wendy Howard says:

    I agree with Don Cameron. I have corrected many mistakes on Ancestry and you always get a thank-you e-mail. I research the surname Sexey and have found it under Segey, Seney etc., and I’m happy to correct the mistakes so other researchers can actually find the info. There’s no such facility on FMP which just adds to the reasons not to renew – which I haven’t and don’t intend to in spite of their entreaties of a discounted subscription.

  33. Peggy says:

    I subscribe to both Ancestry and Find My Past and feel that they both have good qualities. For example, Find My Past has better census transcriptions than Ancestry but Ancestry has better BMD transcriptions than Find My Past. Find My Past does have a correction for census errors and when I have corrected anything they always come back to advise me they have made the correction. I have also been in touch with their Customer Services Dept and have only received a polite reception from most of them. We only give vent to the impolite people we meet and not to the polite ones. You cannot tar everyone with the same brush.
    Certainly they are in the business to make money but aren’t we all. If these sites did not exist we would find it very difficult to collect the data. I can vouch for this having started researchig over 40 years ago by visiting all the parishes in Dorset to locate the ancestors of my late husband.
    Be happy with what you have got and stop complaining about what you have not.

  34. Don Cameron says:


    I think we all accept that both Findmypast and Ancestry are in this business to make money. I’d also suggest that most people accept that the Internet and sites like these two, have given most people unprecedented access to records otherwise unobtainable – especially to people like myself who live so far away. However, I’d suggest that if more companies had access to the 1911 census for example, competition for your kopek, dollar, pound etc., would find most of us paying far less then we do now, and there would be a greater willingness to accommodate simple requests by customers. As it stands Findmypast have no competition in this area and accordingly seem ruthless, not only in their pricing, but more importantly in their willingness or I should say, unwillingness, to meet customer expectations.

    Another thing that annoys me about Findmypast is that they advertise they provide access to so many millions of records, when often these records are just indexes of records, not the actual records. Ancestry on the other hand, generally provide images of the actual documents. If it were not for the 1911 census – I’d have nothing to do with find my past.

  35. Peggy says:

    As I understand it from my conversations with Ancestry they have been in negotiations regarding 1911 census for months now but assure me they intend to add 1911 census to their site but I do not know when, I first spoke to them about it when Find My Past added it to their site.

  36. Ros Batchelor says:

    With regard to corrections my experience is totally different from two recent commentators, and similar to Peggy’s experience. When I send corrections to Find My Past, I get a prompt e-mail saying they are looking into it within 28 days. Often within in 2 days or sometimes on the same day I have received confirmation that the correction has been accepted. They actually do acknowledge and correct the transcription errors, and a real person has clearly actually looked into it.

    By contrast Ancestry merely add a note and perpetuate their own transcription errors, some of which are extremely bizarre. They also seem to only provide a very limited facility for actually making corrections and comments, and the whole process is so automated that it feels as though no actual person has looked at the matter, which may well be the case.

    I do have subscriptions to both because they provide different information, which I want. Ancestry does provide access to the transcribed BMD info and recent London Parish records info. Find My past has a good search facility and fuller transcriptions, and of course the 1911 Census. It does cost money, but family history research is currently a major hobby for me and my husband. In the future, I might drop back to Pay as You View on one of them.

    The various companies clearly are in competition to get information that no one else has on their site. There are other sites I access occasionally for Irish and non-conformist records, which also are subscription or Pay As You Go, but I find them less easy to search and access. The Free BMD and county BMDs are increasingly useful but by no means complete. The IGI is free and can be useful but is labourious to search, and has to be treated with extreme caution as to accuracy. In Lancashire, the On-line Parish Clerk is good too, but only as good as the particular records which volunteers have transcribed. I wish I could offer to be a volunteer, but just can’t at the moment.

    Like Peggy, there is no way I could accomplish the research I have done, and enjoy doing without these various facilities.

  37. Susan says:

    I realize I am posting much later, however I am wondering if others have had a TERRIBLE time with brightsolid’s Verified by Visa demand. I have tried TWICE to pay for access to Scotland’s People. The first time, it simply would not let me pay. Yesterday, Visa took my money, but the Scotland’s People site says I haven’t paid. So, apparently, I have paid for good money nothing! My experience with brightsolid is that they are rude, dismissive and curt. Before they acquired Scotland’s People, the site was great. Now it’s impossible to even access. It’s very discouraging, considering that I live in Canada, and so have no opportunity to visit the archives in person.

  38. Ian says:

    Hi Susan,
    I don’t know what people’s current experiences with Brightsolid are. I longer have a subscription or use them, so I don’t have any input on their current business practices.

  39. Don Cameron says:

    Hello Susan,

    Like Ian, I keep well away from Scotland’s People. I guess if they
    refuse to give you access to their sight after paying for it, then the
    only action I can suggest is that you contact a lawyer and get them to
    contact BrightSolid on your behalf.


    Don Cameron.

  40. christine says:

    BE VIGILANT AT RENEWAL TIME WHEN SUBSCRIPTION ABOUT TO END WITH FIND MY PAST!! I took out the 6month explorer subscription with find my past. As my 6months was nearing expiry i was thinking id try ancestry next time rather than renew with find my past (mainly to see if they offered anything better than find my past) I was away on holiday for 3weeks when my renewal date arrived, unable to access my emails while away i didnt get email with 48hour warning that they were about to debit my account using my original payment details to renew for a further 6months!! Cheeky or what!! Now im stuck with them for another 6months!!!

  41. wendy howard says:

    Christine, all the companies do this. If you join Ancestry they will renew automatically after one year. Genes Reunited did that too when I was a member. We must all be vigilant about these family history sites as they do this automatic renewal and take money from your account. If you want to cancel you have to let them know in good time and take the name of the person if you are telephoning. I once cancelled with Ancestry but they still took it and then denied I’d telephoned. Although I am still a member of Ancestry as I think they are the best.

  42. wendy howard says:

    Christine, all the companies do this. If you join Ancestry they will renew automatically after one year. Genes Reunited did that too when I was a member. We must all be vigilant about these family history sites as they do this automatic renewal and take money from your account. If you want to cancel you have to let them know in good time and take the name of the person if you are telephoning. I once cancelled with Ancestry but they still took it and then denied I’d telephoned.

  43. Hilary says:

    No, Wendy. Ancestry give you the option to renew automatically or opt out. FMP do not? Trying to contact or get a reply from FMP is a non starter. Plus if you change your mind, but forget to opt out and missed the emails saying soon renew etc, Ancestry will sort the problem out and refund you STRAIGHT away, no questions asked.

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