Saturday, October 27, 2007

What new content do you want on Ancestry?

The blog has the results of a survey of 10,000 subscribers about new content on The results are shown in a bar chart here.

I am glad that Ancestry has been taking surveys to sense customers desires. That is always the first step to improve customer relations.

If they had asked me, I would have said my desires for new content would be, in priority order (with my own perceptions as comments):

* Vital Records information - Ancestry has births, marriages and deaths from some states available in online databases, but not all states. Many of these records have been microfilmed but not digitized. They are, by far, the best authoritative resource for direct evidence if they exist.

* Military Records -- complete Rev War pension records, complete Civil War pension records, other pension records from War of 1812 to whenever.

* City Directories -- Ancestry has 1 or 2 directories from many cities, but the real need is for every year available in every city. A big job.

* Court, Land, Probate and Financial Records -- there are very few of these available anywhere online. Ancestry has some indexes but few wills, inventories, deeds, guardianships, court records, etc. A really big job, since the records themselves are mostly handwritten records.

* Newspapers and Periodicals -- Ancestry has a fine collection so far. But there are many newspapers from cities large and small that are not available yet. San Diego, for instance. Los Angeles is another. I'll bet there are others!

* Census Records -- Ancestry has done a great job for US Federal census and the UK census records. State census data, US mortality, agricultural and manufacturing census data, and records from other countries are needed.

* Families and Local Histories -- Ancestry has been adding these quickly, and now has the premier collection with the best search engine. They need to keep adding them!

* Directories and Member Lists -- Ancestry has a pretty good selection here, but the last year for the phone book material is 2002.

* Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers -- Ancestry has added quite a few of these recently. Keep adding them, please!

* Immigration, Emigration and Citizenship Records -- US Naturalization records and Passport applications would be wonderful helps.

* School Yearbooks -- there aren't many on Ancestry, and they are hard to come by. But they give us pictures of young people.

* Family Trees -- There are too many of these out there - somehow they need to be blended into one giant family tree with correct information. Probably impossible. I do like the Public/Private Member Tree concept.

* Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Reference -- images of the actual pages for Who's Who and the others would be nice ... but there may be copyright problems.

Not on Ancestry's list but very high on my list is data in Periodicals and Journals. PERSI is great, as far as it goes. Again, there are copyright problems. Perhaps some deal with publishers to at least index names and places, a definition of the source, and a place to order an article could be made. These are probably the most underutilized source of information because they are not available online.

Likewise, Family Bibles and Family Papers are an area that are not even on the Ancestry list. The DAR has a lot of these (and the FHL has them on microfilm), as does NGS and other sites.

How about a collection of web site data (personal pages, blogs, etc.) that have genealogy data posted? Oops, been there, done that I guess. It was a good idea badly implemented and should be considered with more sensitivity to the web site owners. Not everybody Googles.

The key to Ancestry's popularity and future growth is the sheer volume of records, the indexing and the searching capabilities. They are outstanding now and may improve even more.

What else would YOU like to see Ancestry digitize and index? What is most important to you? Tell them.


Tex said...

This looks remarkably like the list I sent them. :) Especially the City Directories part. Hope they listen to all this good advice. :-)

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