Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Should I Say About Ancestry.com?

One of my next society presentations is for CGSSD on 16 May and the subject is "Ancestry 101." The purpose of the talk is to summarize the features and capabilities of ancestry.com to a group of fairly capable computer users and genealogy researchers (with experience levels ranging from novice to expert). I have only 75 minutes for this talk and I know that I could talk for that time just on databases and search techniques alone. But there is so much more to the Ancestry.com web site for genealogy researchers.

I'm conscious that I may not know "everything" about Ancestry.com. I only know what I think I know. Therefore, I want to ask my loyal and astute Genea-Musings readers for their opinions about Ancestry.com. This is your chance to praise or razz Ancestry.com features in comments to this post or in email (rjseaver@cox.net if you wish to write non-public comments).

Please tell me (answer one, some or all if you want):

1) What features on Ancestry.com do you use the most? Use the least?

2) What features on Ancestry.com do you like the most? Like the least?

3) What FREE features on Ancestry.com do you use most?

4) What "hidden" features on Ancestry.com do you like and use?

5) What features or capabilities would you like Ancestry.com to add to their site?

Thank you for any responses. I may summarize responses to these questions in future posts.

11 comments:

Jeannie711 said...

I do like Ancestry.com due to the fact that I recently traced my family line back to King Henry III and also to Ireland dating back to 100 BC. This was through the one tree world.

I do think they need to add more tabs at the top and also open the trees for others to view and send a e-mail to the owner if they want.

Sharon said...

1> I want to be able to return to my tree or the Home page from any and all pages, even when viewing documents.
2> I want to be able to download Ancestry photos into Family Tree Maker (they are the same company)
3> I want to be able to merge trees in Ancestry
4> The new search parameters will be nice
5>I want to be able to print descendant lists including spouses and children of each
6> Full report printing would be great
7> I think a US subscription should be an American subscription and include Canada
8> It is still the best online program.
9> Tell me via messaging when and who has used information in my tree to merge with their tree. maybe we then could help each other better if we knew who to contact

Jennifer said...

Like the most: Copies of original records, like death certificates. e.g., the South Carolina Death Certificates. With a lot of people to research there, this database has saved me LOADS of money.

Any introduction should cover the vagaries of ancestry search: noting that just because a database SAYS it covers a certain year span, there are almost always egregious gaps; lack of decent wildcard search; how to get around terrible census transcription work by using first names, last names, parts of names, birthdates and places, etc.; what time periods ancestry is best for, and what time periods it is useless for; how awful the newspaper search is.

Also, since you're in California, I would say that the coverage for California data isn't the best. I find myself going off-site from ancestry for California research more often than not. There is the CASDI, and some decent newspaper coverage, but more than not, ancestry is not the strongest in California data.

I know you know about most of these, since you've noted them in the past!

manners22 said...

Ancestry.com is an incredible site which I have used since it began. I would love to see more original records added. I like the old search experience better than the new one which I find terribly confusing.

I am having a large issue with some of the new enhancements to attract customers. Unfortunately these are helping to create the propagation of mis-information.

Many people who are new to genealogy do not understand that without the proof, they do not really have the truth of their heritage.

Some of the "leaf hints" are so off base it is amazing. Others, have similar names, etc. and yet are totally wrong. If they are added, unknowingly people
create a tree which is incorrect.

In turn, people are thrilled to find their family in One World Tree. They just click and add the wrong facts thinking it was so easy.

I am currently working on a friend's line and am shocked at the wrong information repeatedly copied from tree to tree. The source, of course is another tree or a totally mismatched census.

I wish Ancestry would work on this problem. There has got to be a better way!

cstaats said...

Hi Randy:

1) Most: Census by far is what I am generally doing on ancestry, followed by newspapers, other original source documents (military, especially), and digitized abstracts,indexes, books, etc.
Least: World tree, or any of the other user-submitted/compiled trees

2) I think the search interface is flexible enough to do some creative searches and find people that might otherwise be hidden in a printed index. Along those same lines, a straight-forward variation can cause search problems. For example, I have one family name, McGinnis, that is spelled in some of the indexes with a space ("Mc Ginnis), and a search won't find them unless you put the space in there.

3) I think I use their blank census forms, research logs, and other forms frequently. I also learn a lot by reading the full database descriptions. Not only does it often tell you what the database contains, but it gives pretty helpful information about the original source information

4) I'd be interested to see what others post here - I have no idea :)

5) I'd like to see Ancestry worry more about the growth of their collection than about the growth of their business. I think if they provide quality images of a large collection of original sources, the business end of things will take care of itself.

Brenda said...

Hi Randy, Did you get an email from ancestry telling of the improving of their search engine? This is the most needed thing imo.

I like: Ontario and Quebec with actual documents being available.

I like: The State Census for those that are available.

I like: finding people that have submitted family data. BUT, people HAVE TO LEARN each item without a doc must be researched and proven correct for any reliable research.

I am not really excited on the new format vs the old.

All in all, if you can justify using it for the $$ it can be very very useful site.

Many of our local newspapers are on ancestry.com and I love being able to access them.

Thanks Randy, Brenda

Cindy said...

Loyal reader yes - astute? not so much :-)
There's a lot I could say about ancestry but I'll try to keep it short...

Loves: amount of info available, ability to view copies of original documents; England + Canada records are great, like the stories and publications area but would like those hits to show on the main search screen. I like the ability to correct incorrect entries - this also brings me to one of my 'dislikes' - they don't review the corrections - someone should really look at them before just adding them to the site. There's one out there that actually says "CORRECTION" as the person's last name - an obvious attempt to get someones attention that didn't work.

I like the message boards, although I'm not sure they're used as often as they were in the beginning - at least the ones I'm visiting aren't.

I don't use any of the 'community' stuff (profile etc.) - I'm sure it could be useful, but no one has ever contacted me through ancestry other than a message board post. I probably should update it more often. I don't have my tree loaded on Ancestry.

The learning center has videos of all past seminars - great tools when you're new to the hobby or need help when venturing into a new area.

Absolutely dislike the new search -hate when it comes up on it's own. If they're promising something "better" I hope it groups the results in the same manner as the old search, which I use exclusively.

Jerry Blakley said...

a) I often get messages from others who share a person in my tree, but I can't figure out how I'm connected to the person in my tree. Some facility for showing this would be nice (here's how you're connected to person X).
b) I know I have duplicates in my tree; I would like some utility to point them out and allow me to merge them (a drag and drop merge would be great!). I probably have unconnected people in my tree; I would like to be able to find them and deal with them.
c) Adding a whole family from a census entry is way cool...too cool, perhaps, as I find I put people in my tree who aren't that important because it's easy, then get the message saying who's new in my tree, and I can't remember who they are ;-)
d) I agree with Sharon on #9, I would like to know who merges info or photos from my tree and let others know when I merge from their tree
e) It is really tedious to have to page through pages to get to places, like finding and adding someone as a mother/father, etc. Ancestry has done a great job improving this; they need to keep improving it.

GeneaDiva said...

Hi Randy,

I've used ancestry.com for many years and here is my favorite list: Any original record such as census, death certificates, WWI records, etc.

Specific data bases I use almost on a daily basis are: Tennessee marriages, Missouri Marriages, SC death Certificates, WWI Draft Records, and census records.

For fun I enjoy my private tree which I started to keep my immediate family with pics and to attach their original documents. This tree has grown much more than I ever imagined. I have met new family members and I have really enjoyed the pictures others have kindly shared.

I also like the newspapers, which I use with New Search only. I use old search for everything else.

I have completed every ancestry survey that has popped up and I consistently ask them to add more Southern United States original records as well as southern newspapers. The south is very much under represented on ancestry.com.

Additionally, I think ancestry.com should do away with the one World Tree. There is just too much incorrect information listed and absolutely no way to get it corrected. I used to try to write to people with incorrect information and I've just given up on it. I could go into a rant here about people collecting ancestors rather than doing research, but I will refrain.

Ancestry is still the number one best source online for original records and I really appreciate having ancestry in my home 24/7.

Keith Brown said...

With ancestry.com world subscription I use the searches to the other home countries collections to assist with other searchers on various mail lists that I am part of. my way of being a SKS. Unfortunately when doing a search a overload of names can occur, ie ask about "william Brown" b date d date and place brings up all "William" then "Brown"
then date range and places that I didn't ask for.
but if you use the "exact" box results are narrowed to small and some times no results returned.
If Ancestry would allow seamless
updates without having to remove and repost the new data from the FTM program or any program would be great.
Also enjoy the ability to limit the access to my private tree to family yet allows others to contact me if they were interested in my info.

EllenB said...

Ancestry.com... Love the information. Thanks. But HATE the search engine. It actually may drive me away finally, and I've been a member for seven years.