Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Many People are in Ancestry.com Member Trees?

I'm a "numbers" kind of guy - I love to know "how many," "how much," and "what's the most" or other types of numerical questions.

I was surprised tonight to look at the list Ancestry.com Family Tree databases in their Card Catalog and see the entries for:

* Public Member Trees -- Record Count - 128,050
* Private Member Trees -- Record Count = 38,904

Huh? My recollection was that there were almost 1 billion names in these Member Tree databases submitted by diligent genealogists in order to share their family trees with other ancestor-hungry researchers.

Hmmm, I wonder how many there are of the top names in almost any database. I put "Smith" in the Last Name field of the Public Member Tree search box:

And saw that there were over 4 million "Smith" entries in the Public Member Tree database:

I put "John" in the First Name field of the Public Member Tree search box, and found that there were over 44 million in the database:

So there are at least 44 million, and probably closer to 800 million, persons in the Public Member Trees, and likely about 30% of that number in the Private Member Trees. The About Ancestry.com corporate information page says "Over the past three years, our registered users have created over 11 million family trees containing more than 1.1 billion profiles."

How does Ancestry.com come up with the "Record Count" values? Are they the number of Family Trees in the Member Trees system? Not likely, since they claim over 11 million trees. Are they the number of "profiles" in the Member Trees system (can't be, can it? Stupid question)? Is Ancestry.com trying to hide the fact that the Member Trees system is one of, if not the largest, family tree system on the Internet? Frankly, that's makes no sense.

Just what is Ancestry.com counting, and why are the numbers so low for these two databases?

One more numbers question - 1.1 billion profiles, 11 million family trees - so the average number of profiles in a Member Tree is only 100? For this genealogist with an extensively researched family tree (over 38,000 persons) - that doesn't compute either. But it may be that there are millions of Ancestry Member Trees with just two to ten profiles and they are "invisible" to those of us that use the database regularly.

Is all of this really important? In the larger picture - NO. They are "just numbers" but they don't make sense to this "numbers guy." But there is a consistency issue here - if "Records" = "Profiles" for the Member Trees (and they apparently do for the other family tree databases on the list), then the numbers should be about 700 times higher!


Elyse said...

Randy -
Maybe when Ancestry.com says that their users have created so many billion names in their trees they mean that over the course of many many many years (like the entire time Ancestry has had Ancestry.com).

I know I've deleted trees from Ancestry.com before for one reason or another. So who's to say that someone else hasn't?

Anne Mitchell said...

Randy, where did you get your numbers from? I'm looking at the card catalog and I see 766,066,998 for public member trees and 205,844,757 for private member trees.

I'm using the link:

and I see the same numbers in the old search version of card catalog.

Can you point me to where you saw this?


Anne Mitchell
Product Manager, Ancestry.com Search

Unknown said...

I see your point Elyse but it is no secret I have been concerned about Ancestry's direction and priorities for sometime now. I think I will visit their website and see if I can find a mission statement. I really want them to branch out to an ancestryplus level that can be a true serious tool for research, sharing, and archiving. if not them. Then someone else---rootsmagic?? Smart suggestion::: ancestry to hire rootmagic to maintain integrity and monitor this higher level platform. They can charge more but really have something they can be proud of and BE the genealogy site. Like the rolls royce of sites.

Randy Seaver said...

Anne - I made the screen shot yesterday at about 6 p.m. PST from Old Search Card Catalog links using IE7.

I looked just now using Firefox Mozilla and the numbers are there as you noted. I will go check with IE7 in a moment.

I don't know why that happened - but it happened! It concerned me enough that I wrote the post last night.

Randy Seaver said...

I wonder if these were numbers of profiles added over the last week or since the last update? And posted by mistake to the card catalog.

The numbers were "there" since I have a screen shot of it. I don't know how to photoshop stuff like that...

When I take a screen shot, I don't have the URL on the screen. Next time!