Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where Did 567 Databases on Ancestry.com Go? An Answer. UPDATED!

After I wrote Where Did 567 Databases on Ancestry.com Go? on 18 September 2015, I hoped to receive an answer via email or a blog comment or a Facebook comment from Ancestry.com.

After ten days without a response, I posted a note on the Ancestry.com Group on Facebook, saying:



"What happened to 567 databases on Ancestry during the week of September 14th? There were 32,682 in the Card Catalog on 13 September; on 18 September there were 32,222 (which included 7 new databases between 9/13 and 9/18). So 567 disappeared? What happened? Why doesn't Ancestry tell us, or warn us so we can work in them, when a database is removed from the list? See my blog post in http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/09/where-did-567-databases-on-ancestrycom.html."

After several days, and a prompt from me to some of the Ancestry personnel I know, I received this answer from Kristie Wells:

"Randy, we run regular maintenance on our collections and the databases that were removed were really old, low use records that were in a format that is not currently supported. Much of this data is also available in other collections. 

"We are not able to provide more details, but as you know we add a lot of content each week and regular maintenance has to be done. This one just happened to be a large batch."


Well, that's interesting, isn't it?  Ancestry.com had some databases in a format that was not supported by the current website programming (probably the "NEW Ancestry."  These databases were really old and were "low use" records, and much of the data is available in other collections.

I appreciate that Kristie responded to my question, and provided an informative response.  

I, and other researchers, would like to know which databases they were, but it appears that they cannot or will not provide the list of removed databases.  

This may happen all the time to one or two databases - I've noticed several times that the number of databases added in a week, according to Ancestry, does not match the change in the total number of databases week to week.  But it's impossible (it seems!) to tell which one or two were removed.  Oh well.

UPDATED 8 October 2015:  Kristie Wells commented on the earlier post today saying:

"I wanted to state it would not be in the best interest of Ancestry to remove collections that provided a good user experience or aren’t available elsewhere. As noted earlier, a good portion of the collections were duplicates of other collections we have available in improved formats and others are still being considered for re-keying. 

"Among the collections that were removed, were some text-only city directory indexes that were deleted as we now have indexes and browsable images of those very same directories. Many other collections were text-only local histories and other books that are now duplicated with images of the actual publication and an improved browse. 

"For example, the United Empire Loyalists series was text-only and difficult to navigate. We now have the volumes posted with browsable chapters and an index like this one: http://ancstry.me/1LjTzAo 

"Other examples include reference books like “The Source,” “Red Book,” and Juliana Szucs' “Family Historian’s Address Book.” The first two are now available free on the Ancestry Wiki: http://ancestry.com/wiki/ and Juliana's “Address Book” was last published in 2003 and most of the links in it and many of the addresses are out of date. There are much better ways to find a society or library now. 

"After nearly 20 years of publishing data and reference materials, it is important for us to audit our content to ensure it works with current technology and that customers are getting the best version of the data and reference information that they can incorporate into their family history.

"This is as much as I can say on the matter, but I hope most will see this was required maintenance to ensure the data we provide is reliable and actionable. "

Thank you, Kristie, for the explanation.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/10/where-did-567-databases-n-ancestrycom.html

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Or contact me by email at randy.seaver@gmail.com.



25 comments:

Pat Richley-Erickson said...

I consider this a bad businessbusiness practice.

1. Why is info being duplicated in other Ancestry databses?

2. When people make decisions about purchasing a product or service, they want to know what they are getting.

Sharon said...

I suspect that the probate records for New Jersey may have been individual "databases" although they were grouped together for search purposes.

I have still not had a response from Ancestry about the NJ probate records that disappeared, but I keep following up with them.

Geolover said...

Speculation: among what was removed were some of those ratty old central-NY Lutheran and Reformed church records that are so hard to find unless you already know they are there. I am thinking of some poor copies of mimeographed or dittoed typescripts that were OCR-reproduced, a goodly portion of which were badly or not-at-all indexed, and for some of which Ancestry could not even manage to enter the compiler/author. I am going to check on this . . . .

In response to Pat's no. 1, this duplication is at least partly in indexes copied from FamilySearch, and the cynical among us suspect that the duplication is in order to add to "record count" for marketing purposes.

Geolover said...

I find Kristie Wells' statement, "We are not able to provide more details," [about what was removed] rather inconsistent with her assertion, "Much of this data is also available in other collections." Experienced genealogists know that seemingly similar databases may be actually quite different in data type and quality. And it would be a sad organization if someone did not have a list of what was deleted.

Michigan Girl said...

I am a long time user and defender of Ancestry. Until recently. What with the new format, which I personally dislike and now this vague answer to a very easy question, I believe this website is headed in a dangerous direction. Geolover said it well "it is a sad organization that doesn't have a list of what was deleted."
Good business practices are basic to the continuing success of any business whether large or small. As a long time user I would like a list of the deleted databases, if for no other reason, than to update my source references in my Legacy database. I could at least note that the record is no longer available on the site.
Thank you for pursuing this matter Randy.

Claire V Brisson-Banks said...

I would like to add my thoughts on this. I have found that multiple copies of the same records coming from different companies is done differently which makes all the difference.

I have found census records for an individual on one site but not on the other site just because of the way they were indexed and presented.

The fact that 'they' are somewhere else doesn't add up and we don't know what those databases are and if the other locates are easier to access or not easier to access.

Definitely this is poor business practice.

Bill West said...

Given the large amount of files at this time so close to the "switch-over" to New Ancestry, I suspect this is all about that new format.

Tracy Minsterman said...

As a programmer, I'm not sure I really buy their explanation of why they did this, but let's say I take it at face value and there was no way to avoid it. Why not just leave the link to the collection in place with a note in the collection description that states why the collection's records were removed and a reference or link to the other collection(s) in which they can be found.

Programming 101 - Wherever possible, disable - don't delete. Otherwise, you lose the audit trail.

Puzzled Researcher said...

Though the timing of these removals seem to overlap the transition to the "New Ancestry", the latter is about web pages and programming PHP to produce HTML and javascript and all sorts of bells and whistles for the end user web pages. The back end database management software will be something else, so I suspect the timing in this case is not caused by web page re-design effort per se.

However, i do wonder how much of ancestry.com's resources are being sucked up by the web page redesign. Software engineering hours will accumulate quickly and perhaps the bean counters are pressing to reduce how much is spent by the software teams. They don't publicize what goes on in-house as far as system development, but I bet that there is pressure to reduce the number of staff. I also wonder if there are changes to the database management systems (this being independent of the web page redesign) that might be being cost constrained.

Regardless, I seriously doubt this is the last time we will see a company delete information that they decide can no longer be profitable.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

Dislike that. Dislike that one clue that might have broken a brickwall might have been deleted without my knowledge. Dislike that the answer was hidden far down on the newsfeed in Facebook and I can't find it! Thanks for posting this, Randy, or no one would have known you received an answer!

carol Lynn said...

I'm surprised that ANCESTRY isn't being a bit more foresighted. I thought ALL of the collections are OLD??? I also thought? FORMAT is something that can be fixed. THEN the collection can be reactivated. AND while it's being reworked...just change the collection color in the catalog. If this is done 30 days BEFORE the rework....we all know to focus on THAT collection before it is disabled.

carol Lynn said...

I'm surprised that ANCESTRY isn't being a bit more foresighted. I thought ALL of the collections are OLD??? I also thought? FORMAT is something that can be fixed. THEN the collection can be reactivated. AND while it's being reworked...just change the collection color in the catalog. If this is done 30 days BEFORE the rework....we all know to focus on THAT collection before it is disabled.

Tony Proctor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T said...

It really looks like ancestry is going to concentrate on DNA and "health" and leave the research area more and more unattended. I can not in my wildest dreams understand why anyone would put their health information on ancestry! You're giving it to them to sell! They don't do a very good job on the DNA and health in the first place so while they transition everything is going to be poor quality. Wonder how many years it will take them to get rid of the research side. Wonder if that had anything to do with the For Sale sign that went up for 3 Billion dollars.

The New Ancestry is horrible and I won't use it. As soon as the Old Ancestry goes away, so will I. I've found so many other places that do the job just as well, the only reason I even go there is because I have (had) a 5,000 member tree there. Since I already have it on my computer I will just drop ancestry all together. I'm liking findmypast pretty well. The break with ancestry wasn't nearly as painful as I expected. The bonus is that now that I've "branched out" in my research I'm finding things I never found on ancestry.

Sign me,
Fed Up

Prairie said...

Ancestry has shown over and over a real disrespect to its subscribers. Your subscription doesn't guarantee anything. We cannot assume that anything on Ancestry will be permanent as they keep changing all the time. Need to be proactive and save whatever you can elsewhere. I'm sure Ancestry knows what databases were deleted they just don't want to share it.

Midwest Ancestree said...

I don't think the counts on Ancestry's Card Catalog are correct anyway.
If you filter by location and choose North America, it says there are 27,204 records.
Included in that number are:
USA: 25313
Canada: 1994
Mexico: 49
Those 3 alone total 27,356 - more than they show for all of North America!
So I think Ancestry should look at their calculations. Am I missing something?

Midwest Ancestree said...

If you filter by language, the counts don't equal the 32,272 record collections that Ancestry's catalog says they have:
German 1999
English 29150
Spanish 109
French 702
Italian 139
Swedish 29
Total 32128

Midwest Ancestree said...

If you filter by collection:
Filter By Collection
Census & Voter Lists 583
Birth, Marriage & Death 4003
Military 1221
Immigration & Travel 465
Newspapers & Publications 1478
Pictures 38
Stories, Memories & Histories 23495
Maps, Atlases & Gazetteers 184
Schools, Directories & Church Histories 4611
Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal 1274
Reference, Dictionaries & Almanacs 1343
Family Trees 10
TOTAL 38705

German Genealogist since 1979! Karl-Michael Sala! said...

Difficult it is to adjust, alter or change Ancestry Hall. http://www.germangenealogist.com/about-us-lynell-karl-michael-sala/

Dona said...

I have noticed that certain databases I have used, and continue to use, change their names from time to time, get merged with other (similar) databases, and generally screw up my source citations. I think it's ok to continue to add to a database as the collection is digitized and new records from later years are released for publication (like the censuses), but that should not change the nature of the database itself, just its extent and range. Merging similar databases, as others have pointed out, can result in a loss of data or confidence. I say Ancestry should publish a database, then leave it be other than extending its range. Redo a database's design and how it looks in the (html) package behind the scenes, just notify people of the redesign.

Geolover said...

I am glad to see the small reply from Kristie. What she mentions makes sense, but some 550 deleted database items remain to be disclosed.

P said...

Ancestry has a whole lot of changes going on- in addition to the Canadian version now having switched to the 'New Ancestry,' Fold3 just got a new interface as well.

The state of Colorado removed their online death certificates a while back, and none of our family researchers had actually downloaded the document- just kept the URL. They recently took our $25 for a copy but said that a great-grandson did not qualify so we did not get it- one has to be immediate family for a 1901 death certificate. (They are all underground...) So it taught me to download copies of everything important. I don't always do that in the heat of research, but am going to make that change after seeing what Ancestry has done with databases.

The internet is truly more ephemeral than any of the thin papers I have floating around...

Guess I need another external hard drive.

Jan Murphy said...

"Among the collections that were removed, were some text-only city directory indexes that were deleted as we now have indexes and browsable images of those very same directories."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I used BOTH the text-only indexes and the images themselves. Sometimes the image is not so wonderful, and having someone's index gives you an alternate reading. Knowing what was indexed in that text-only index is also valuable because you know what directories the indexers have seen. Having both databases on Ancestry allows you to cross-check what entries are in the index, and which images you've already looked at. And given how crappy Ancestry's indexing of the City Directory collection is, having someone else's index is useful.

One of the tools I use is an add-on for Firefox called Scrapbook -- it allows you to save a copy of the web page you are looking at. I try to capture copies of the text-only indexes and Ancestry's 'abstract' pages for just this reason -- there's no guarantee they'll be available when you go back the next day. But I don't know if I have the information for a lot of those index-only directory entries, because I collected them when I was first starting out.

So -- caveat emptor. If you want copies of the information you've attached to your tree or stuffed in your Shoebox, capture it and download it -- or else.


Marge Drisko said...

Print out what you find immediately!! I found some great information in October/November that I thought I would go back and find and print out. Now it is gone. There were 2 Marriage Databases for Manchester, NH. Some of the information was the same, but on one of they was information I couldn't find anywhere else. I found a marriage made in 1955, now the only database only goes to 1947. So frustrating.

Marge Drisko said...

Print out what you find immediately!! I found some great information in October/November that I thought I would go back and find and print out. Now it is gone. There were 2 Marriage Databases for Manchester, NH. Some of the information was the same, but on one of they was information I couldn't find anywhere else. I found a marriage made in 1955, now the only database only goes to 1947. So frustrating.