Monday, December 18, 2017

Ancestry Member Trees, Indexing Rules, Cousin Bait, Source Citations and Me

I wrote RootsMagic TreeShare, Ancestry Member Trees, and Source Citations on 31 October 2017, highlighting Marcia Philbrick's observations and conclusions, and added my own conclusions, including:

a)  Sources on an Ancestry Member Tree are divided into "Ancestry Sources" and "Other Sources."

b)  "Ancestry Sources" are created by accepting an Ancestry Hint for a person, attaching an Ancestry Record  to a person profile, or adding a source manually to a person profile, and an event, in your Ancestry Member Tree.

c)  "Other Sources" are created by uploading a GEDCOM file to a new Ancestry Member Tree, or using RootsMagic TreeShare to add a source to an Ancestry Member Tree profile.

d)  "Ancestry Sources" "count" as a source that enables the subject person profile to show up on a search of Ancestry Member Trees.  

e)  "Other Sources" do not "count" as a source for a search for a person in Ancestry Member Trees.

f)  A profile with only "Other Sources" will not show up in a search of Ancestry Member Trees.

1)  Why do I care?  

*  One of the major reasons for putting an Ancestry Member Tree on is to act as "cousin bait" for other subscribers - if they search for a person, I want my Ancestry Member Tree to appear on the match list.

*  But Ancestry, because of their indexing rules that "count" only "Ancestry Sources," does not show my matching persons except for those with an attached "Ancestry Source."

2)    For example: My 2017 Ancestry Member Tree has over 90,000 source citations, but has only 37 attached records ("Ancestry Sources") at this time. 

*  All but a few profiles in that tree will not show up in a search for those profiles.  I uploaded this tree back in July 2017 using RootsMagic TreeShare, and continue to update the Ancestry Member Tree almost daily using TreeShare.

*  Some of those profiles in my Ancestry Member Tree have over 20 "Other Sources" - all of them gleaned over thirty years from Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Find A Grave, Findmypast, AmericanAncestors, FHL microfilms, the local recorder or court clerk, and many other record providers.

*  For example, here is the profile for my grandfather, Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942):

*  This profile has zero "Ancestry Sources" but has 53 "Other Sources," and many of them are not available on

*  With the current Ancestry Member Tree indexing record rules, it will not appear in a match list for a search of this person.  Should it appear as a search result?  I think it should.

3)  Why do I have only "Other Sources" in this Ancestry Member Tree?  

*  The answer is that " provides inadequate source citations for attached records, and adds useless or unwanted Events, to the Ancestry Member Tree profile, so I don't use them."  I've blogged about this many times before - I've worked hard on adding quality source citations and really don't want to "crap up" my RootsMagic tree.

*  I try to add Evidence Explained quality source citations to the persons in my RootsMagic family tree database so that readers of my blog and finders of persons in my Ancestry tree can find the record from the source, and also so that readers can judge the quality of my sources for the profile.

4)  Can I overcome this restriction on researchers finding persons in my Ancestry Member Tree?  

*  I can, but only by attaching an Ancestry Hint to each person in my Ancestry Member Tree.  With over 49,000 persons in my tree, if I attached a Hint to 20 persons every day, it would take me 2,450 days (almost 7 years!) to complete the task.  I choose to not waste my time doing this - it's not a productive task.  I would rather spend my research time searching for more records to source and add to my trees.

*  If I did attach a Hint, what record should I attach?  Another Ancestry Member Tree?  Not likely.  A birth record, a death record, a burial record, a census record, or some other record?  I could, but I already have those in my "Other Sources."

*  If I attach a Hint while in Ancestry, I would not have to accept it in RootsMagic using TreeShare.  This is an option, but I have over 49,000 persons to do it for.  The ancestors are the ones I would concentrate on, but it's the siblings of my ancestors that would probably attract a cousin to click on the bait.

5)  The real solution is that Ancestry should index every person, or, at a minimum, every person with ANY source citation - whether "Ancestry Sources" or "Other Sources."

*  I have devoted thousands of hours to create a well documented family tree with quality source citations, and Ancestry's indexing rules prevents other researchers from finding it.  I am sure that there are thousands of other researchers who have done exactly what I have done with source citations and uploaded a GEDCOM to Ancestry thinking that their tree would serve as "cousin bait" for other researchers.

*  We are encouraged to SHARE our work so that other researchers can be helped by our research. has discouraged me from doing this as a result of their indexing rules.

*  It's unfair - there are whole trees with profiles that ONLY source other Member Trees and those profiles get indexed.

6)  No other online family tree system has indexing rules like has used. should index every person profile, and "count" every source, in the Ancestry Member Trees, and let researchers find the work of other researchers, while evaluating the quality of those trees and sources.

7)  I'm disappointed in, and disturbed by, this situation.  It needs to be fixed by  Will they listen?  Off my soapbox...


Disclosure:  I have always had a fully paid subscription since 2000. has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.

Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at


Linda Stufflebean said...

Randy, I agree with you 100%. It is bad enough when the Ancestry source is a primary document like a census record, but when I look at a "sourced" tree and the only items listed are "Ancestry tree," "Ancestry Tree," and "Ancestry Tree," it is really, really annoying.

Lois Willis said...

I agree with you as well. I have only attached a few Ancestry sources to my Public Member Tree, so it is disappointing that only those people are indexed. Apart from my own website and blog, my only other tree on the internet these days is at Ancestry. It probably explains why I haven't been getting many contacts from family members.

Diane Gould Hall said...

Well, Randy, that was news to me. I had no idea those are the indexing rules for Ancestry. I uploaded my Gedcom years ago and work on my tree almost daily. I do add sources from Ancestry to my tree all the time. But, do I have their sources attached to every single person? I think not. I use Legacy as my primary database the same as you do RootsMagic. There is no syncing between the two which is something I’m very happy about.
Like you I have a lot of source citations created from my database (Legacy) that are derived from trips to libraries, courthouses, family memoirs etc.
Going forward I will keep this issue in mind and check each person as I happen upon them during my research. Thanks for the heads up.
And, YES, Ancestry need ps to fix/change this rule.

John said...

I agree Ancestry needs to fix their indexing rule.

I wonder if attaching a photo by itself gets the person indexed. I know a lot of photographs turn up in the hints.

Ron Hager said...

I have noticed that some people that link to me thru DNA maintain multiple trees, many with duplicate individuals.

Updating a person on one of these trees with the same person from the other tree will provide the ancestry link needed for indexing even if the source person has no source anywhere.

Try it for key people in your tree, it works.

Astro said...

I did not know this. Thank you for the information.
Is this also true for the shared ancestor dna hints?

Randy Seaver said...

Astro, no, I don't think the DNA Shared Ancestor Hints require an Ancestry source citation. I think they search only the trees that the DNA results are attached to.

Good question, though.

Ron Hager said...

Here is another example of a bad idea gone very wrong and why Ancestry needs to change its software and simply index everything and make everything searchable.
All 5 Ancestry Family Tree links in this records 'Sources" will find 0 Ancestry Member Trees and yet this record has been indexed because those source links exist!

If someone can offer a sensible rationale for Ancestry continuing with this current idiocy please post it here.