Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NARA Suspends Ancestry.com Scanning Operation

A NARA staff member retrieves documents at the Lee's Summit, Missouri location.On 16 March 2015, Twitter user “RM Cooper” posted, “Ancestry’s doing a digitization project with our WW2 records. Person caught ‘improperly handling/attempting to destroy’ attachments to WW2 registration records. Ancestry canned them and they’ve been barred from NARA. So they’ve suspended those projects while they attempt to assess what’s been done and how/if they can fix it…I just hope it was an isolated incident and the person didn’t really get to destroy anything.”

In a copyrighted story on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website, Tim O’Neil reported that the Ancestry.com employee was behind in productivity and attempted to catch up by throwing away some records. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) staff recovered all the lost records. NARA suspended Ancestry.com projects at five sites, including the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, where the incident occurred. NARA has since allowed Ancestry.com to resume operations at two sites.

You can read O’Neil’s entire article on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Last Day for #NGS2015GEN Discount

Don’t forget. Today is the last day to get a discount for this year’s annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. The conference is 13-16 May 2015 in St. Charles, Missouri. Early bird registration saves money. For more information see page 15 of the registration brochure.

The AncestryInsider is an official blogger for the NGS 2015 Family History Conference.

Monday Mailbox: Home Access to HeritageQuest

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

We can no longer get Heritage Quest at home on our computer.  We must go to the Library to check Heritage Quest.  That is a real loss for those who are homebound.

Gwen Boyer Bjorkman

Dear Gwen,

This may have been a misunderstanding by your library. Have them check with ProQuest and they will find they can still offer HeritageQuest for home access. Only the Ancestry Library Edition is prohibited from home access.

Or this may have been a temporary problem.

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, March 27, 2015

Darned Wonderful Color Images

A scanner company recently published an interview with FamilySearch’s Michael Benson, an imaging services operations Manager in their Record Division. Some interesting tidbits:

  • The Genealogical Society of Utah, as FamilySearch used to be called, helped pioneer standards in the microfilm industry.
  • They are using nextScan FlexScan microfilm scanners when they can digitize microfilm on site in archives.
  • In one case FamilySearch is utilizing a volunteer who uses his motorhome as a mobile scanning center.
  • They recently adopted the Nikon D800 digital camera for taking color images.

Read the entire article on the nextScan website.

I’m glad that FamilySearch is moving towards color. Color is an important part of genealogical record analysis. Take this marriage license from FamilySearch.org. (Click to see a larger image.)


What can be learned from the colors in this certificate that would have been lost if this had been photographed in black and white?

As long as we’re in analysis mode, what parts of Percival and Alberta’s story does this record tell that could easily be overlooked? As with any record, the more you understand about a place, the more you can pull out of its records.

Ancestry.com is also using color cameras. Take a look at this example. What can be learned from the colors?

Color image from Ancestry.com collection "U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963"

Can you imagine how awesome it would be if FamilySearch, or Ancestry.com, or NARA went back to the early, extant Federal Censuses and re-photographed them in color? All those out-of-focus, or overwritten names brought back to life in vivid color? Wow. How can I convince one of you to do this?

But I digress…

Darned, wonderful color images!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NGS 2015 Conference Official Blogger (#NGS2015GEN)

imageI’m pleased to announce that I get to help promote the 2015 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society as an official blogger! The conference is 13-16 May 2015 in St. Charles, Missouri. The early bird registration deadline is fast approaching: this Monday, 30 March 2015. Early bird registration saves money. For more information see page 15 of the registration brochure.

It looks to me like even more urgent than the early bird registration deadline is accommodations. Eight of nine conference hotels are sold out (at conference rate). I don’t know how many rooms were available at each property, but I surmise that a lot of people have already registered for the conference. I’d get registered while the registerin’s good.

For more information, visit http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org.

P.S. Another official blogger, Jen Baldwin, has done something cool. She’s put together a Flipboard “magazine” which aggregates posts about the conference (flagged with #NGS2015GEN). See it at https://flipboard.com/@jenbaldwin90/ngs-conference-news-l5t2pbkgy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Mailbox: Does Your Tree Software Care?

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

When you commented parenthetically, "Let’s see how your tree program likes a marriage date after a death date! Or maybe you use one of those programs that doesn’t care, no matter how bad your data is," I immediately thought, "Yes, like FamilySearch Family Tree, which accepts all dates no matter how ridiculous." Just to make sure I wasn't falsely accusing FSFT of such practice, I logged on, found a relative with no marriage date entered and entered a date after the death of the wife. It accepted it, no questions asked.

This has always bugged me. I am not a professional programmer, but I do have some experience writing programs that my chemistry students used. It was easy to program checks for impossible answers that notified the student of the problem. I suspect it would be just as easy for FamilySearch software engineers to do the same for the Family Tree software. Why don't they do it? Do you have any idea?

It really gnarls me that FamilySearch Family Tree is one of "those programs that doesn't care". Oh, and in case you are wondering, I deleted the false marriage date after seeing it was accepted uncritically.


Dear John,

FamilySearch flags a bunch of, what I call, pedigree analysis errors. In the FamilySearch help system, see “Fixing Data Problems in Family Tree.” It says it checks for death year before marriage. I tried the same experiment on the FamilySearch Beta tree that you tried in the real tree. I got the same result. I checked the tree view and found that it does report the error after the fact: “Death Year before Marriage.”

FamilySearch detects a number of pedigree analysis errors.

Bottom line: FamilySearch does not check for errors while you enter information. It does not report the errors in person view. It does report the errors in pedigree view.

Doing this experiment I discovered two other bugs, or perhaps “design flaws.”

The Change Log is advertised as a place to undo erroneous changes. When I entered the bad death date, I subsequently went to the Change Log to undo the change. However, there was no undo button, just the word “Current” (as shown at #1 in the screen capture, below). You must wade through perhaps thousands of changes until you find the second to last time the value was changed. There you will find a “Restore” button (#2, below). What if the value had never, ever, been changed before? There will be no button to undo the change.

These may be bugs in the Family Tree Change Log

Another issue I found, and I don’t know if this is just because I was on the Beta tree, is that my real name was displayed in the change log instead of my display name (as shown by the arrow, #3, above). Why give me a check box to keep my real name private, if you are going to ignore my wishes?

Seems like a bug to me.

Thanks for your question, John.

The Ancestry Insider