Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reader Comments on "Does the Ancestry Member Tree Index 'Prune' Trees?"

The most popular Genea-Musings post for the last week is Does the Ancestry Member Tree Index "Prune" Trees?, posted 18 February 2016.  

There are 14 comments on the post, many of them expressing dissatisfaction with Ancestry's indexing rules of Ancestry Member Trees.  Here are some of them:

1)  Russ Worthington said:  "Interesting dialog. Reading your notes at the end, I had to have a 'hmmm' moment. As our friend, The Legal Genealogist would say 'it depends'.

"I am of two minds on this topic. I agree that there are hints in those undocumented trees that may lead us to what we want to know. But, at the Same time, there are times when I DO want to see a Documented Tree.

"Right now, I do not include Ancestry Member Trees in my Shaky Leaf Hints results.

"I would like to have the OPTION to Turn On the Public Member Tree Hints, BUT Only for those Documented Trees. OR to include those undocumented trees. So, three options would work for me."

and also:

"I was talking to some one from the Ancestry Member Tree staff [at RootsTech], may be the same person that was mentioned, with an Indexing issue on an Ancestry Member Tree that is Public AND Sourced that is not showing up in Search Results.

"He was going to look into my issue, but haven't heard back from him yet. I would have thought that we might have mentioned that to me during our conversation."

2)  The DownEast Genealogist opined:  "I find this disturbing. I'd be interested to know just when they changed their indexing rules; when I initially posted my tree in late 2014 -- which has no sources attached -- I frequently saw profiles from my own tree in search results. I hadn't thought about it until I read this post, but now I realize it's been quite a while since I got any hits on my own tree.

"I agree with you wholeheartedly that unsourced profiles should be indexed. I didn't add sources to my online tree because I don't use Family Tree Maker (which presumably would have been an easy sync), and I have no idea how my templated Legacy sources would transfer to an Ancestry tree (but probably not very well). I figured I could provide source information to anyone who was interested enough to contact me and ask. But now it appears they will never even see my tree. Guess I'm going to have to rethink my strategy. As it stands now, the only thing my online tree is good for is DNA matches.

"In my opinion, listing an Ancestry Member Tree as a 'source' is completely worthless and should not even be an option, let alone serve as the basis for deciding to index the profile. I'm not interested in how many other trees give the same unsupported 'fact', citing each other in an infinite loop. (I'd give more credence to a citation to personal knowledge or family lore, than to another member tree.) 

"To maximize the utility of the member trees, Ancestry should index all profiles, including unsourced ones, but the count of sources in the search results should include only legitimate sources, not other member trees. I want to be able to look at the search results and know that a profile with six sources has real sources, and isn't just citing six other member trees. But I also want to see the unsourced profiles, which have provided useful clues in the past. And I like your suggestion that results be ordered by number of (legitimate) sources."

3)  Geolover noted:  "The Ancestry representative did not touch on how the new, restrictive indexing protocol applies to AncestryDNA's scheme of showing 'circles' of however distantly supposedly-related persons. Ancestry creates these 'circles' mostly from trees. Are persons with no source attached, from trees, therefore being excluded from the purported matching in 'circles'? Since Ancestry's DNA-matching routine lacks much of any other tool for seeing matches, this could be a thorny issue."

My response:  This is a really important point - do the DNA Circles and Hints include unsourced profiles?

4)  Bonnie commented:  "I have to agree with Ancestry's approach. 'Genealogy without sources is Mythology' is a saying I have to agree with. Maybe when a person sets up a tree without sources it could be set up as an 'unsourced' tree and searched separately as an option. I'd like to see them add a 'tree type' for other purposes too, like mirror trees used by adoptees and 'DNA' trees."

5)  Linda Schreiber said:  "Bonnie, I fully agree with the concept that 'Genealogy without source is mythology'. But there are a great many people, including me, who have sources, and analyses, more on some people than on others, but do not upload them all to ancestry. Not all are focused entirely on the tree at Ancestry, but mostly work elsewhere. And others want to be *contacted* by people who want the real sources and research rather than just putting it all out there to be 'borrowed'.
The fact that the pseudo-sources of  'copying tree to tree = source' are searchable while the trees clearly labelled as 'Please contact me for source information' are excluded from search results.....
That's a problem, and is actually a serious disservice to subscribers."

6)  Bob Coret noted:  "I think we all agree that sources add to the quality of a tree. So it's wise to add this as a signal when you index trees, but by not indexing people without sources Ancestry may tackle their indexing problem, but they are not proving their members a service. You should be indexing everything and present the user with a result list where the user can determine the quality of the entries! And maybe add a search option 'Only show sourced entries' (which is off by default)."

7)  Barbara added:  "I don't like the idea of unsourced names being totally thrown out of the index/search results. I have found many bits of gold in those names & dates without sources. I'd rather see them, analyze them and decide what my next action will be. Not only could they be the stripped tree of a seasoned researcher, but a close family member who had the inside scoop and is unaware of sourcing protocols."

8)  M. Diane Rogers offered:  "I have many sources for my info - but I'm hoping to get people to contact me so my tree is pretty bare and not too big. Maybe I shouldn't bother with the Ancestry tree. Or I suppose I could make sure that key people in the tree have a source so they get indexed. Before anyone asks, not sure how I'd determine those key people, but I am almost certain I won't be using Ancestry trees as sources for those entries. Trees often provide good clues; I like that part!"

9)  Becky wrote:  "Here is an example of why leaving unsourced profiles un-indexed is a terrible idea:

"One of my brick walls for years had been the name and identity of my paternal great grandmother. I had a surname with initials and general geographic location and that was it. Searching with this information brought up an individual listed in a few trees, and no sources were attached to this individual...just that she was the daughter of a couple who had numerous other children, all of whom were sourced. I contacted one of the people whose tree she was listed in, and after correspondence she explained that while she had no sources or photos of this woman, she had gotten her information from the "family genealogist". This woman is married to one of the descendants of one of the siblings and I asked if he would donate DNA for me. By my reckoning, if this woman was truly my long lost great grandmother, the DNA test for her sibling's descendant would confirm that we were 3rd cousins, sharing 2xgrGrandparents. Indeed the DNA suggested a 2nd cousin relationship (we are actually 3rd) and subsequent testing of other descendants from this family including 1/2 siblings all confirmed my relationship. In this way I found the identity of my great grandmother.... from an unsourced profile entry on an Ancestry tree that today does not show up in a Search (I tried). Isn't genealogy about finding our lost ancestors? Well the truly lost are never going to show up under Ancestry's new Search parameters. This is a terrible move on Ancestry's part."

My response:  This is an excellent example of the value of unsourced profiles and makes the case well for indexing all profiles in all trees.  

10)  On the 22 February 2016 Mondays With Myrt discussion, Danine Cozzens said:  "This sounds like Ancestry programmers making things simpler for 'efficiency' without understanding how genealogists use their fine product."

My response:  Yes it does!  Excellent comment.  

So how do we influence Ancestry.com to do the best thing for ALL genealogists and index ALL Ancestry Member Trees, and list them in search results by some quality measure?  I think this happens only by providing more examples from our own research of how unsourced Ancestry trees have solved our research problems.  I know that sounds "wrong," but I think it's true.  

We also need to know if the Indexing rules prevent unsourced trees from being used to construct DNA Circles and AncestryDNA Hint matches.

On my original post, I provided my own remedies, including:

*  The list of matches should be ordered according to how many sources are provided for the person of interest.  That way, the (presumably) "best" tree information appears at the top of the list.  

*  A source listing an "Ancestry Member Tree" is fairly useless if there is no attached record on the profile.  Why are they even considered?

*  Ancestry.com should provide a summary of their indexing rules, and the date of the last index on a regular basis. 


Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

T said...

Let's have a pool to guess the month and year when ancestry no longer is useful for anything. I'm going to say the first update of 2020.