Friday, December 21, 2007

Ancestry and FHL/FHC - what does it mean?

Every time I go on a trip and am unable to post anything, or even read my email, something important happens in the world of genealogy. I left on Wednesday morning, and didn't log back on until Friday morning (my story is here) - and discovered that:

1) will be available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake city and at 13 large Family History Centers, including San Diego. The story is at

This announcement raises a number of questions in my mind - perhaps we will learn some answers before I leave on my next trip (hint - next Wednesday for two days):

* Will the databases available at the FHL/FHCs be the same as the databases that were available before 1 April? As I recall, that was a special set of databases and didn't have some of the databases that were available with a private Ancestry subscription. Will it be Ancestry Library Edition (which has even fewer databases available)? Or will it be the Ancestry US or World editions?

* Will the access at FHCs be expanded past the first 13 listed in the announcement? I certainly hope so...

* What financial arrangements were made to make this happen? Did the LDS pay for these licenses, or did Ancestry provide them free, or for access to other databases available now or in the future from the FHL?

The net effect here is a win-win for everyone involved, I think:

* The individual genealogy researcher in SLC or the 13 cities can access Ancestry databases at the FHL/FHCs.

* The FHL and FHCs will certainly have more patrons that can access Ancestry while taking advantage of the other research opportunities at the FHL/FHCs.

* TGN/Ancestry will get a shot of good will and appreciation from current and potential customers.

2) Ancestry also announced that they will discontinue the "Online Family Tree" (OFT) database as of March 2008 and transfer all of that information to an "Ancestry Member Tree" (AMT) format. There are comparisons of OFT and AMT features in the announcement. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here.

This, of course, raises a question:

* What in the world is "Online Family Tree?" As an Ancestry subscriber, when I search Family Trees I get matches from "Public Member Trees," "Private Member Trees," "One World Tree" and "Ancestry World Tree." I'm pretty sure that "Ancestry Member Trees" are the "Public Member" and "Private Member" trees. Is "One World Tree" the to-be-discontinued "Online Family Tree" database? Or is "Ancestry World Tree" also part of the "Online Family Tree" database? I'm confused, and I thought I had been paying attention.

Did Ancestry just squander all of the Christmas good will from 1) above by announcing this and thereby angering people who have submitted "Online Family Tree" information There will always be some people that are dead set against any changes, and some of them wrote comments on the Ancestry blog. Ouch.

3) Ancestry announced that they have improved the Member Family Trees presentation. Frankly, I don't see any improvements other than perhaps some color on the Family Group Sheet. It is very difficult to move around in the Member Trees - I would like to be able to see descendants reports and ahnentafel reports similar to Ancestry World Tree databases.

4) Ancestry announced that the Learning Center has been modified. When you click on "Learning Center" now you get Megan Smolenyak in a video that takes a while to load. There are many more choices to click on and get lost in on the first screen. You have to click on the "Keep Learning" button to find the library of online articles and newsletters. If you click on the "Keep Learning" button, you can see more choices, and the "Search" box is now on the left of the screen in real small print - that's the only way to find articles about the topic you want to learn about.

All of the bells and whistles are wonderful - but the most useful (for me and my colleagues) feature is the article archive and the search capability. The search results seem to be much more focused than they were previously, and that's good. Waiting for 150 to 200 items (not the links to the articles) to download is a pain in the butt, though - and I can't figure out what is downloading - the artwork and article summaries are already showing when the download starts.

5) My thanks to the Ancestry Insider for doing all of the hard work on these announcements.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Well, the next time you leave, I hope the news is something like, "Footnote completes NARA digitization project. All NARA records are now available online."