Friday, February 10, 2012

Answers to Questions from Ancestry.com

Back on 27 January, I posted Questions for Ancestry.com at RootsTech 2012 - Updated and invited readers to submit questions of their own for Ancestry.com.  Several readers submitted questions, and ideas for improving Ancestry.com, and I incorporated them into the Updated post.

I did not have the opportunity to ask the questions at RootsTech 2012, so I emailed my contact at Ancestry.com, Matt Deighton, on Tuesday, 7 February, with the list of questions asking for responses that I could post on my blog.  Matt sent the responses to me on Thursday evening, 9 February.  I really appreciate the effort made by Matt and his colleagues at Ancestry to provide these responses in a very timely manner!

Randy Seaver (RS)  When will you drop the Old Search capability in Ancestry.com?

Ancestry (A.com): Over the past 3 years, we have been listening to users and gradually been implementing improvements to New Search. In particular we have been paying attention to feedback from old search users who are some of our most experienced researchers.

As we’ve previously mentioned, a time will come when we believe new search has reached a point where we will retire old search, however, we haven’t reached this point yet, and we would plan to give users plenty of notice before this happens.

RS:  What happened to the Article Archive on the Learning Center?  Will it disappear?  

A.com:  Article archive will eventually be moved back in. we're still in progress. Numerous articles in the archive included outdated information so those are being removed before the final move is completed. No estimated date as to when we'll move the archive back in but our focus is less on articles and more on research help with this iteration of the learning center.

RS: Why doesn't the Search field on the Learning Center work better?

A.com: The entire Learning Center is a work in progress. We hope to have search working better as the Learning Center is finished.

RS:  Will the source citations created by attaching an historical record to a Member Tree ever comply with Chicago Manual Of Style or Evidence Explained style standards?

A.com: I would certainly never say never, this is something that we would really like to do. On FTM we have already developed a feature which gives us a lot of learning on how we would approach this. However, to get it right on Ancestry Member Trees is a very big project. In our development plans, we have had to make some tough decisions about what our development team works on. We do not expect to launch this feature in 2012.

RS:  Which states will be indexed first in the 1940 U.S. Census?

A.com:  We are not currently releasing the order of 1940 U.S. Census indexing. I can point you back to the press release for information that has been publicly released.

RS:  Why don't you include Fold3.com matches in Ancestry.com search results?  And vice versa?  Especially the FREE collections.

A.com: We do include Fold3.com matches in Ancestry.com search results for a large percentage of Fold3 content, including most of the Fold3 Civil War records, naturalization records, and Birth and Death records. Then users are a single click away from Ancestry search results to the source image on Fold3 for those records.  We also include many Ancestry.com records in Fold3 results (for example, World War II old man's draft cards) and will continue to do more of this where it makes sense.

RS:  Have you considered a "package deal" for an Ancestry.com subscription and a Fold3 subscription?
A.com:  Since Fold3 was acquired by Ancestry over a year ago, we have been offering Fold3 memberships to paying Ancestry subscribers for 50% off.  We have continuously run ads on Ancestry for logged in paying subscribers giving them a 50% off link, and in December Ancestry sent an email to all paying subscribers making them aware of the 50% off option for Fold3 memberships.  Any paying Ancestry member who contacts Fold3 will currently be able to get Fold3 for $39.95 instead of $79.95.

RS:  Why do you charge customers every year for a Family Tree Maker upgrade which has marginal changes from the previous version?  

A.com:  Each year’s new release usually includes major changes and improvements. It is worth noting that FTM users can upgrade for 30% off the regular price.  Obviously some of the new features and improvements may not be of interest to every user in which case they may not feel the need to upgrade.  Our incremental updates between major releases are provided for free.

RS:  Are you working with the BetterGEDCOM group or the GEDCOM X group on GEDCOM-like standards?  Will you adopt a GEDCOM standard and implement it on your websites and in Family Tree Maker?

A.com:  Ancestry has had periodic engagement with the groups working  on these standards, however we are not a formal part of these initiatives. Internally, we are reviewing the standards we use to exchange data between our various tools, and we certainly want to take current thinking on GEDCOM standards into account as part of this.

RS:  *  Are there any historical record collections on Genealogy.com that are not on Ancestry.com?  If so, what are they?
A.com:  This question is currently under review.

RS:  Is www.Mundia.com still a beta website under development?  What are the plans for Mundia?  
A.com:  We are still evaluating our best approach to doing family history outside of our core markets, but Mundia remains a central part of our plans in that regard. 
Alice asked in Comments: Can you add a "private" or "public" options on media for private tree owners? Some people don't mind sharing media but don't want the whole world looking at your tree! 
A.com: That’s a great suggestion that we are considering. We certainly plan to work on upgrading our media upload tools, and this feature could be promising.
*  Shirley asked in Comments:  Why is Ancestry pushing those things [Family Data Collections Series, U.S. and International Marriage Series, Millenium File, One World Tree] to beginners as "RECORDS"? They have all kinds of nonsense like some passengers on the Mayflower were born in Plymouth in 1580, the usual children born before their parents, etc. Beginners are not being taught to click on and read censuses. They're being taught to copy from others. What about starting your beginners off on basics instead of directing them to trees that are often wrong?

A.com:  OneWorldTree and the other collections of this type are certainly controversial. Over the past couple of years, we have decreased their prominence on the site, and eliminated many of them from features used by our newer users (such as hints).  In fact, within our search, we actively promote Census and other historical records over these kind of collections. We believe it is really important that all users (and new users in particular) have the tools to enable them to discover historical records, and use these as the basis for their research.

On the other hand, a number of long standing users have indicated that these older tree systems can be a useful source of ideas to be explored when they hit a roadblock, so up to now, we have retained links to them on the site. The usage of these is dropping, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we retired them from the site at some point in time.

letzelfarm asked in Comments:  Does Ancestry plan to allow its members to merge separate trees that are posted?
A.com:  Another great suggestion we are considering. Watch this space.
Leaves of Heritage Genealogy noted in comments:  What I want to see on Ancestry is better tools. I want to be able to make a note when I save something to my shoebox so that I can remember why I saved it in the first place. Also, I would like better search options and results. I would like to be able to search all but X, Y, or Z, etc. 

Lastly, I wish they had a check mark box or some other way of marking a record that I've already reviewed. You know, maybe offer a red X for those that are not what you're looking for (negative searches), or a green for positive searches. Then when they continue to show up in my future searches, I won't waste my time revisiting the same darn records over and over!
A.com:  These are some great suggestions that we are considering as we plan upgrades to these parts of our site.
Geolover asked in Comments:  Why did they ~just~ change their automatic citations for 1930 US Census?. They replaced the citations bearing the NARA microfilm roll numbers with those *instead* bearing the useless FHL "Digital Folder Number" (keeping the FHL Film Number).  The FHL Catalog and citations do not give the specific NARA Microfilm Roll Numbers.

A.com:  This was not a deliberate change, and was unfortunately caused by a temporary problem last week, following an upgrade we made to the index of our 1930 census. This problem did take a couple of days to resolve, and we apologize for any inconvenience caused. The source citation for the 1930 should (and now does) include references to both the relevant NARA roll number and the Family History Library film number.

Thank you to the commenters who sent in questions, and to Ancestry.com for their responses.

Your observations are welcome in comments!


Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL!! Too Much! Like a Press Relations Coordinator has *real* answers!

His answer to the "working with BetterGEDCOM group or the GEDCOM X Group" is misleading- if not an out and out lie!

Ancestry hasn't had *ANY* engagement with the BetterGEDCOM Goup whatsoever, periodic or otherwise.

Celia said...

Always worthwhile to send good questions to commercial companies, whether or not the answers seem like "full & complete answers". Since they came from someone like you, Randy, I'm sure there was a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion about the questions posed! Thanks for this post of the full response.

Anonymous said...

Ance$try, like Micro$oft, is a company we love to hate. Unfortunately, interviews like this only reinforce the negative. A PR person is there to put a good spin on what the corp has already decided to do (or not to do, in this case. . .) As users, we are really told what they will do, when they will do it, and how it will be done. Our input is basically ignored, or else we would have CMS or ESM citations already---among other things.

Tessa said...

Quick follow up Randy - not only did the citations change in the 1930 Census but they also dropped the reference to the enumeration district - making it a bit more difficult to find it for purposes of the 1940 census - if you only copy the citation and don't remember to get the ed yourself off the page - just another step. Wondering why?