Monday, October 18, 2010

Ancestry Labs and Person View - a first look!

The Blog announced the public unveiling of Ancestry Labs website and the Person View project in Ancestry Labs.  Ancestry Labs is at

There are two projects within Ancestry Labs at present - the Person View project and the Ancestry Wiki.  Here is the opening screen for Person View:

There is a short demonstration video of how Person view works at

The screen above has search fields and an explanation of what Person View is about.  Person View is intended to permit a searcher for a specific person to find records and trees which exposes the relationships between records, and that finds records on the Internet that match the query (from outside of’s collections), and then link you directly to them. 
The Search fields include First Name, Last Name, Gender, one or more events (only Birth or Death), Relative (Father, Mother, Spouse or Child) and check boxes for Ancestry Records, Family Trees and Web Records.

I entered my grandfather, Frederick Seaver, added born 1876 in Massachusetts, and clicked on "Search:"

I received a list of ten records that thinks matches my search request.  The first result is my grandfather, and it tells me that there are 8 Family Trees and 4 Ancestry Records for him.  The result shows the birth date/place, death date/place, and family members (parents, spouse(s), and children), presumably obtained from the Family Trees.  The search criteria used is probably the Default settings (meaning Soundex, plus initials and similar names from the Name catalog on Ancestry) with matches on the Event contributing to the ranking.  The other matches on the results page are close, but not exact.  Notice that I input "Frederick" "Seaver" in the search field, and it found "Fred" "Seaver."  Down the list are other spellings for both names, including initials for the first name.

I clicked on my grandfather's name and saw (three screens below):

The first screen above shows 5 birth records (from Family Trees, 1900 census, 1920 census, 1930 census and World War I Draft registration.  It did not find the 1910 census because he was indexed as "Seaner" in that census and I haven't added that change yet.  There is a small map for the first three events on the top right of the first screen.

In the second screen are more facts - 4 Residence facts, a Marriage fact and a Death fact;  in the third screen are 2 more Death facts and one more Residence fact, all from the sources noted above.  At the bottom of the third screen above, there is a list of the relatives - parents, spouse and children found in the Family Tree search.  The user can navigate from child to parent or sibling using these links.

If you click on the link for any of the Family Trees, Ancestry Records, or Web Records you will see a pop-up window.  Here is the pop-up window for the first Birth fact, which was obtained from the Barnes Family Tree:

The pop-up window for the second Birth fact, which was the 1900 U.S. Census:

On these pop-up windows, the user can click on the link for "View this record at" and be taken to the Family Tree person profile or the record summary (which then links to the actual image, if available).  The user can also "Save this record to" a person in their own tree or to their shoebox (Ancestry Records only). 

At the time of this writing, access to Web Records was not enabled on the site.

Some comments about this Person View after working with it for a short period of time:
  • This seems to work well - it finds the right person - if the user puts in a first name, last name, an event and an event place.  It will work well for a common name (like John Smith) with all of those and also  a spouse name and/or child's name.
  • The response time is much faster (at least on my 6-year old computer) than working in Ancestry Member Trees or Ancestry Records. 
  • If the records for the target person are not indexed closely, then those records will not be included in the matches.
  • It looks like only Historical Records are included in the Ancestry Records at this time (i.e., no newspaper, book, maps, directories, etc. are included - anything found by Online Character Recognition).  I chose my grandfather because I know that he is in some of those records. 
  • This Person View is much, much easier to use to search to find and navigate within an Ancestry Member Tree.
I've watched my adult education students try to search for the first time, and it's not pretty.  They usually add too much information (first name, middle name, surname, birth year without a range, birth place, death date, death place, spouse's name), and then are very frustrated when there are no matches.  This Person View system, will, I think, greatly solve that problem!

I'm sure that we will have much more to say about this in the weeks to come.

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