Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ideas for Search Improvements - Show Me My Cousins

I attended the breakfast for some Genea-bloggers on last Thursday, 6 February, in Salt Lake City.  Tim Sullivan (President and CEO), Eric Shoup (Executive Vice-President for Product) and Heather Erickson (Senior Director of Corporate Communications) from discussed the company, the near future, and encouraged questions and feedback.  The Ancestry Insider summarized the meeting well in #RootsTech Blogger Breakfast.

One idea for improvement of the search features that I suggested was:

Create a list of "My Ancestral Cousins" (who are close cousins - say down to 6th cousins) based on the Ancestry Member Trees.  In other words, show me a list of persons who own Ancestry Member Trees who share my ancestors also.

They do this for the AncestryDNA autosomal results.  The top of my "Hints" list on AncestryDNA looks like this:

When I click the "Review Match" link, the comparison of the respective lines looks like this:

This is an excellent use of the Ancestry Member Trees to provide matches for distant relatives with a DNA match.

So my question was:  Why can't provide a similar set of matches to help me find the relatively close cousins to me by comparing my ancestors to the ancestors of other tree submitters?

I know, when you search for a person, they provide Hints for Ancestry Member Trees, but I rarely look through those matches because I don't take the time and rarely find useful information in them.

I was curious to see if the match above was in my list of Hints.  Here is the top of my Ancestry Member Tree Hints for Norman Seaver (1734-1787):

There are 10 Trees with the same person in them, according to the Hints.  On the Member Tree Hints, I don't have any indication that the person in the other trees are their ancestors, only that they are in the tree.

However, the tree from the AncestryDNA Match above is not included in the list of 10 matches for some reason.  So I would not have found this tree if I had searched the Hints.  I don't know why that happened, and I just found it while doing this post.

Anyway, a list of "My Ancestral Cousins" from matches from Ancestry Member Trees would be very welcome.  A chart similar to the AncestryDNA chart with my line and the cousin's line would be great.

Why is that?  Well, it is those close cousins who may have records, photographs, letters, ephemera, etc. that my family sent to them over the years.  For example, I have several personal letters, Christmas letters and cards from my aunts and uncles sent to my parents over the years.  I don't have any of my parents letters sent to them.  We sent them photos and letters but we didn't keep a draft or copy of them.  My first to third cousins are likely to have photographs and letters from my family that I don't have.

I think that a list as described above would be very helpful for those of us with Ancestry Member Trees.  We could see who our shared ancestors are for those who have not done an AncestryDNA test, could engage them via the message service, and could collaborate with them to improve our common ancestral families.

Now I can hear some readers saying:  "How can you be sure that the other person's line is correct?" 

My answer is:  "I can't be sure unless I've done the research and verified their assertions, but I think that most researchers are conscientious about their own ancestral lines, especially for the most recent generations."  Also, if they're wrong, or if I'm wrong, there won't be a DNA match.

What ideas for improving searches do you have?  How could present their results better?  What would help you find cousins?  Tell me in comments to this post and i'll be happy to pass them on to (or they can read them here).

I have several more ideas and I'll write a separate post about them.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

Randy, your suggestion seems like a good idea. But it will be limited in the cases of surname-study trees, trees of persons unrelated to those in the tree (say, a tree of a divorced or deceased spouse who was parent of one's children), or trees where the tree owner is not designated in the tree and there are multiple descendants of various couples.

Still, there could possibly be some fruitful connection among such listings.

Shirley A. said...

This is such a "no-brainer."

Scott said...


I love this suggestion! I've found the cousin hints with links to a common ancestor through Ancestry DNA very helpful in making connections and sharing information with distant relatives. There's no reason this couldn't be extended to ancestral cousins as well. Great idea!