Thursday, July 5, 2007

Working in Ancestry's Member Trees - Adding Data

After Gary Hoffman's talk at CGSSD two weeks ago, I decided to test out Ancestry's Member Tree system.

After logging on to my account, I clicked on the link to make a Private Member Tree and created one called "The Descendants of Robert Seaver (1608-1683)." I uploaded my SEAVER database to the system - with 6,963 individuals it took several minutes to upload my GEDCOM file.

The system asked me to pick a "Home Person" so I picked myself. From the [Home Page] you have a choice of "View My Tree," "Add a Photo," "Add a Story" or "Invite Family." Choosing "View My Tree" takes me to the [Family Tree] tab page with a five generation pedigree chart (names and years of birth and death only) for the Home Person. I could maneuver back in time by clicking an arrow button on one of the earliest generation ancestors on the chart. I could maneuver forward in time by clicking on the arrow of the most recent ancestor shown on the chart. There is also a search box where you can enter a name and have that person put in the #1 position on the pedigree chart. There is a link to a list of people that you can choose to put in the #1 position on the Pedigree Chart.

If you click on the [People] tab, you can see the birth and death dates and places for the subject, and can edit this information. This page also has a timeline history of the subject person, with the spouse and childrens names on the right margin, with links to their People pages. You can upload photos and audios for each person in the family tree. You can add stories for each person - either write it online in a box, copy it from a source and paste it in the box, or upload it from some sort of file.

On both the [People] and the [Family Tree] tabs a "green leaf" appears on each person for whom there is an "Ancestry Hint." These hints are usually from census records and public family trees available on You can choose to include the hints one at a time into your database. I will probably choose NOT to include any of them!

One problem I have here is that my GEDCOM file had text Notes for many persons, and none of it was included in the data that is in the Member Tree. It will be a big job to copy and paste information into the Member Tree for thousands of people in the Tree.

A second problem I have is that if I add or modify information on this Member Tree, now it is different from what I have in my FamilyTreeMaker database (which has all of my notes). I don't want to wipe out my FTM database and lose all of my notes, so I will have to create a new Member Tree each time I want to upgrade the Member Tree. But, if I've added photos and audios and other things to this online tree, then I will have to upload them again.

The ideal situation for me would be for Ancestry to accept my GEDCOM, including my notes, sources and scrapbook items, and put them in the right place in the Member Tree. I realize that may be difficult to do because of the many different software packages (Ancestry would have to be able to accommodate the features of each package).

What is Ancestry's goal with these Public and Private Member Trees? Is it to provide a storage repository for subscribers? Is it to replace existing software programs? Is it to tie all of the submitted Trees into a single large database with collaboration?

I will post further comments about some of the other features of the Ancestry Member Trees.

I would be interested in the experiences of other researchers with these Ancestry Member Trees.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,

As a subscriber to Ancestry as well, I uploaded a small part of my family tree, but made it public. Besides the problem you note of not carrying forward notes and many sources, there is also the problem that it is somewhat tedious and slow to use to make changes to an existing tree. As to why Ancestry has given subscribers these trees, I think it must be not only perhaps to offer storage, but to offer storage that depends upon renewing one's subscription in order to retrieve same! But also in general I would think their main aim is to increase the value of a subscription through the knowledge that a subscriber has access to more family trees than are available through Rootsweb WorldConnect. While Ancestry contains all WC trees, the converse is not true.

Also these public and private trees offer a way to generate perhaps more select contacts with other interested researchers, but via the filter of being an Ancestry subuscriber which means those other researchers are more likely to do original research and not just be a query hound with nothing other than speculation to offer in return.

However despite these pluses for Ancestry trees, I think perhaps the WC ones might be better even if they generate more non-reciprocal information requests. Plus since you don't have to subscribe, your information will always be available to you, and will still be available after one is gone to one's relatives.

Regarding transferring notes and sources in general, this is just a failing of the GEDCOM protocal, which badly needs updating. While you can transfer some such sources, you usually have to reprocess them to a degree in another target program.

Mike Ferguson

P.S. Regarding your earlier post about your "elusive" ancestor Thomas Newton, it seems that you lack many records relating to his identity, and that of his wife Sophia and her previous marriage and maiden name, let alone records of his life from 1830-50 or to whenever he died. I presume that in addition to giving their places of birth, the marriage records of his children also give his name as that of their father. Is that correct? Without more and better records establishing his identity, and that of his wife since you don't have a marriage record for them, I think you need to concentrate on his children/granchildren to better establish those identities before spending more time researching his name in various localities, including whether he (or whoever is the father of his reputed children) went by other names.