Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ancestry Member Tree Improvements

I received a nice, long email from about their accomplishments during May 2009 and a preview of what's coming in future months.

Part of the email dealt with the Member Trees improvements. The email said:

" Improvements to the Member Tree System: Our Member Tree system has grown quickly since its inception just about 3 years ago. We now have over 10MM trees online and 1 billion people represented in those trees. We will be making improvements on the tree system over the coming months to prepare it for its next stage of growth. In June, we will be previewing 2 such improvements with launches planned for a little later in Summer:

"1. Redesigned Person Page: We are re-building this page from the bottom up to incorporate a number of improvements. Here is a summary of the changes:

"* Context is preserved across pages related to person: Tabs across the top of the page make it easier to access sources, photos, stories, comments, hints and more. General information about the person you are viewing will remain consistent at the top of the page making is easier to always know exactly where you are.

"* Stronger focus on sources: We have moved the “Historical Records” higher on the page. And also the new "Facts & Sources" tab makes it easy to see what facts and events a person has, and what evidence supports those facts.

"* Re-built for speed & performance: We've completely rebuilt it from the ground up. It's faster than ever to load and navigate around your tree."

Here is a sample Person Page that has the features mentioned:

"2. Tree Viewer: The new tree viewer is being built to be more interactive. By enabling you to drag, pan and zoom, it will be easier to navigate through your tree. This will help you get where you want to go more quickly."

Here is a sample Tree page which includes the improvements:

There was some indication back in January that the Person Pages would be enhanced so that navigation was easier and content was added. At the Blogger meeting at TGN (see Day 2 in SLC - A Visit to TGN - Part 3) , Andrew Wait said his vision included an Individual Page for every person being researched (are we thinking of a billion or more pages?). This would be in a wiki format with photographs attached, stories, sources, research notes and proof arguments attached, with attached data records (census, military, probate, deed, family papers, immigration, naturalization, cemetery, newspaper, etc. - whether from, another database provider or from a contributor).

It looks like has thought this through pretty well. We'll have to see how it is implemented.

Because of the sheer volume of already available family trees and the ease of uploading images, or attaching record images from ancestry databases, these improvements may make the preferred "family tree provider" (assuming that they are not that now). They are certainly the biggest gorilla (er, provider) in the family tree forest and size really counts in genealogy databases. Ancestry has the critical mass of subscribers and family tree users (remember - you don't have to be a subscriber to submit a family tree).

I would like to see the Person Pages embrace a true "wiki" format similar to that on so as to ease collaboration between researchers and creating a MOAFT (Mother of All Family Trees). Will it? We'll see when they release it!

Thanks, Anastasia, for the email and the chance to opine about a portion of it.


Taneya said...

Great post Randy - I had not yet seen these details on the enhancements and I'm looking forward to it! However, I'd like to argue that while I'd love to see a collaborative model like WeRelate, I'd hope that they allow WYSIWYG editing as opposed to using Wiki syntax. :-) Can't wait!

Geolover said...

Thank you, Randy, for passing on this information.

At the end you note, "I would like to see the Person Pages embrace a true "wiki" format similar to that on so as to ease collaboration between researchers and creating a MOAFT (Mother of All Family Trees)." already has one of two MOAFTs - theirs called OneWorldTree that is compiled from the existing trees, with a dose of program glitches that erroneously merge unrelated individuals, or some from different generations. It also of course incorporates already- disproved genealogical mistakes and historical impossibilities. Just how the program chose which errors to incorporate is inscrutable. Garbage in, garbage out.

The other MOAFT is the LDS' "New
Family Search" tree, based on a somewhat different set of error-riddled databases. The owner of this one has more of a stake in factual accuracy, but it would take a huge amount of work even to begin to approach an overall 'fix.'

Becky said...


There is another MOAFT, though it is small and young. It was built from the ground up to be truly "wiki" where the user determines who is merged and how and can later decide to unmerge with complete control and no information lost. It is open for editing by all, relying on sources and documentation to let the accurate information rise to the top. It is the Community Tree at Family Pursuit, and it's free.