Monday, December 14, 2015

All Customers Forced to Have Only "New Ancestry" Experience

The Blog post today is titled All Members Now Moving to the New Ancestry, effective 15 December 2015.  This is not a surprise or a joke - we have known the day would come.  For some, it's much sooner than they wish.  For others, including myself, I don't care that much at this time.

The blog post says:

"Over a year ago, based on extensive research into our members’ wants and needs, we set out to build a better website that reinvents the way Ancestry helps you discover and tell your family story. On December 15, we will complete the final transition worldwide to the new Ancestry site."

The post goes on to note that many comments from users have helped build the revised website, and notes they will continue to provide feature improvements based on user suggestions.  The implication is that the new Ancestry "experience" will be much different, with increased capabilities and functionality, than it is even now.

I have gotten used to the black and gray background with white title lettering, especially in the Ancestry Member Tree.  The new "LifeStory" can be useful, and has drawn the most comment in the reactions of user.   I much prefer the Facts list with or without the Family Facts.  The Person Profile now has three columns in the Fact page - for Facts, for Sources, and for Family.  Many of the optional links that appeared when a user hovered over a person in the Pedigree Tree View or Family Tree View  now requires an actual click to see the different options.  

In the main, the Ancestry Member Tree experience is nearly the same on the website on a desktop or laptop computer as it is in the Ancestry Mobile Apps for iOS and Android smart phones and tablets.  There are a few things missing in the mobile apps, like any display of complete source citations.

All in all, my user experience with New Ancestry is pretty similar to that on Old Ancestry - the search algorithms are consistent but require an understanding of how they work, has a wealth of genealogy and family history information, mostly indexed and with record images, provides Record Hints for persons in an Ancestry Member Tree, offers suggested records for the search result of a person for further research, and has the largest collection, by far, of online individual family trees.  All of this happens within a second or two, it seems, of the user clicking a link. stated in More Information on Family Tree Maker Desktop Software (posted 9 December 2015) that:

"We are continuously exploring new options to make the experience better for all users and currently we’re looking into ways to bring desired features from Family Tree Maker into the online experience – such as report functionality or the ability to replace one instance of a change throughout your entire family tree."

That sounds promising, but there are many more features currently in Family Tree Maker and other desktop genealogy programs that are necessary to make the "experience better for all users."  My guess is that 80% of all customers won't really care about many of the changes that would make an Ancestry Member Tree a real quality user experience - one where the user would exclaim "Wow" and "This really helps me in my research."  

What would some of these changes include?  I have a list - here it is:

*  A Family Group Sheet - including all family members, notes, media, sources, facts, etc., with print and save options.

*  Ancestor or Descendant narrative reports with standard numbering systems, option to include notes, media, source citations, etc.  

*  Wall charts, including ancestors, descendants, hourglass, bow-tie, fan, all with font and color options, thumbnail photos, and PDF file saving options.

*  Individual summary reports, with the vital information, options to include notes, media, sources, private information, etc.

*  Relationship reports between two persons, for all relationships and not just the closest relationship, 
*  Useful lists and statistics - ahnentafel list, birthday and anniversary lists, kinship lists, media item list, surname statistics list, tree statistics list, On This Day, Who Was There, etc.

*  To-Do List for each person, sortable by surname, location, repository, etc.  

*  Research Log for each person or surname, with information interchangeable with the To-Do List 

*  Evidence Explained quality source citations that provide a master source, citation detail that defines the actual record location and person identification, and the source of the source (including specific microfilm numbers or NARA publication/roll numbers.

*  Genealogical Proof Standard measures for Information, Source and Evidence, with note space for a Proof statement or argument. 

*  Standardized place names, and the ability to merge place names, and to change all instances of a place name.

*  Duplicate person checks, with the ability to Merge duplicate persons and select the preferred Fact or Name.

*  Data error reports, such as birth before parents birth, birth before parents marriage, birth after mother's death, mother's age between, say, 14 and 50, and more.

I know that my readers can find many more items that would make an Ancestry Member Tree more useful and complete than the present Tree in New Ancestry.

Frankly, I don't think that many of these features that might enhance the user experience will be added in the next six months.  I hope that some of them will be added by the time TreeSync stops working, and all of them, and more, within three to five years.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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Michigan Girl said...

The dreaded day is tomorrow and I don't look forward to it. However, I am leaving town, actually leaving the country for two weeks beginning Wed. Timing could not be better to unplug for a while. Between this change and the LiveWriter failure, I'm ready to take a break from technology. I personally could care less if any of those additions are made to Ancestry trees. I use Ancestry for the records and having a tree on the site is secondary. I use it for the record hints and for family members to view. It will be atrocious, in my opinion, to look at the horrible grey and try to navigate a more difficult interface. But, I will adapt. The goal is to focus on our family research and honoring our ancestors and that will not change for me no matter what Ancestry does. Thanks for the post Randy.

Cormac said...

I thought they "dumbed" down the whole Ancestry experience with the changeover. I left Ancestry because of the changeover. One of the things that I didn't like was "LIfeStory" .

Jharkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jharkins said...

I agree whole-heartedly with your suggestions for "Evidence Explained" and Geneological Proof Standard. A lot of unnecessary and ridiculous errors on Ancestry trees (even those resulting from Ancestry's own indexing) could be avoided when proposed connections and sources have to be properly referenced and supported.

Jackie Corrigan said...

I'm waiting for the day they make the Shoebox searchable. Now that would be an improvement!

Geolover said...

Fixing the incomplete place-names in LifeStory would be less genealogically confusing. But I do not plan to use this for anything.

They could not get FTM2012 and FTM2014 to work well, so I guess this "New Ancestry" is in the same tradition.

Too bad.

T said...

I also left Ancestry because of the changeover. As an unexpected benefit, being "forced" to look elsewhere has produced information ancestry didn't have. If ancestry had not changed I would still be there doing the same search with the same non-results.

Unknown said...

Randy, many of the charts & reports that you're looking for are available in Charting Companion ( Just download a GEDCOM from Ancestry & open it with CC.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Wow, Randy, that's quite a wish list! I'm not sure wears that big red suit you seem to have in mind...

M. Diane Rogers said...

Don't disagree with your list, Randy, but like Jacqui I'm not too hopeful. As Pierre says, downloading Ancestry tree GEDComs into other programmes
could be good, but that will not replace being able to sync Ancestry trees and desktop programme info.

Anonymous said...

The things you have listed are already available in resident database programs. Webbased applications have a long way to go before they will even come close to what a resident computer program can do.

MHD said...

Great list, Randy! If we got all of those (or even most), I'd be very happy.