Thursday, July 2, 2015 News Ketchup, 2 July 2015

Ancestry Insider KetchupI’m way behind on articles. Time to ketchup…

Bullet Ancestry.comFollowing close on the heals of the announced availability of AncestryDNA in Australia and New Zealand came news that AncestryDNA is now available in Canada. (See “Now Connect to Your DNA Cousins in Canada and Australia” on the Ancestry Blog.) The AncestryDNA database has grown to more than 850,000 people. (Family Tree DNA boasts 737,664 records as I write this, while 23andMe recently announced it has over a million.)

Bullet Ancestry.comAccording to a story on, AncestryDNA has done a study of birth rates and census data and calculated the average numbers of cousins Brits each have. A typical resident of Britain has five first cousins, 28 second cousins, 175 third, 1,570 fourth, 17,300 fifth, and 174,000 sixth cousins. That sums to an average of 193,000 living, close relatives. Ancestry’s Brad Argent points out that we probably come into contact with these relatives daily with no knowledge of it.

Only five first cousins? I have 30. I venture to say that trend continues up and down my family tree. How many living relatives do you think I have?

Bullet Ancestry.comIn a recent blog article, Ancestry explained a little more about Historical Insights. Historical Insights are items about historical events sprinkled throughout the LifeStory of a person in your Ancestry Member Tree. (See “ Releases Historical Insights.”) Historical Insights are like hints. They may be relevant, they may not. Click the Review button and select Keep or Ignore. Only two Insight hints appear on the timeline at once. You must keep or ignore them to see more.

Bullet Ancestry.comAndy Orin of the Lifehacker blog interviewed Crista Cowan to learn what it is like to be a professional genealogist. Some of my favorite quotes:

  • “As a genealogist, I spend the majority of my time researching, both online[,] and offline in libraries, archives and courthouses that hold documents yet to be digitized and placed online.”
  • “One misconception people often have about my job is that it is easy for anyone to get started in family history.”
  • “Family history is really a journey of discovery, not a sprint to see who has the most ancestors.”
  • “By attending a conference, it will quickly be apparent to you that you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Crista says that Ancestry has 16 billion historical records and is adding 2 million every day. Read a transcript of the interview, “Career Spotlight: What I Do as a Genealogist,” on the Lifehacker blog.

Bullet Ancestry.comHere’s an item that’s been sitting in my inbox since April, waiting for me to have time to write about it. Now, I only have time for a brief mention. Ancestry released an Apple Watch App. Doesn’t this look cool?

The Ancestry Apple Watch app

Okay, it doesn’t look all that practical to buy an Apple watch just to be notified about which ancestor was born today or to learn that someone just posted a photo of Uncle Harold. For a tiny bit more information, see “Family History on Your Wrist: Introducing Ancestry’s Apple Watch App” on the Ancestry Blog.

Bullet Ancestry.comI found something on the Ancestry website that made me smile. On your profile page you can specify your occupation, or at least your field. Given that most every professional genealogist in America has an Ancestry subscription, “Genealogist” and “Genealogy” may be the most prevalent occupation and field of all their subscribers.


Well, I think I’m just about caught up!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

FamilySearch News Ketchup for 1 July 2015

Ancestry Insider KetchupI have just two items of news about FamilySearch. Not much to catch up on…

FamilySearch tree bullet

FamilySearch has announced its free webinars for July. They include classes on Danish and Wales research, fuentes on FamilySearch(is that Spanish sources?), U.S. naturalizations, Boy Scout genealogy merit badge, and beginning LDS research. See the schedule in the FamilySearch wiki.

FamilySearch tree bulletFamilySearch released a new feature of its image viewer. It shows the indexed information in table format below the image. (Sound familiar, users?) It’s still pretty rough. It exists as a separate viewer from the regular image viewer. For more information, see “FamilySearch Combines Indexes and Record Images in a Single View” on the FamilySearch blog.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015 Changes Privacy Agreement announced changes to its privacy agreement last Friday, 27 June 2015.

The changes expand the agreement to Ancestry Academy. It looks like Ancestry also offers or will offer to other companies as a cobranded “powered by” website. The new privacy agreement applies to those websites as well.

The changes allow Ancestry to make you go to each of its websites to opt out of promotional email.

By using any of Ancestry’s family of websites, you consent to let users share your family history information with users of any of Ancestry’s websites, including,,,, and any other website on which Ancestry provides a link to this privacy policy page. Does that means stuff on Find A Grave can be shared with users of

You consent to allow Ancestry to monitor, collect, and share with other users information about your activities on their websites, such as the courses you’ve taken on Ancestry Academy.

Ancestry reminds users that it publishes legally available personal information on records about you. Such records include census, birth, marriage, and death records. I know there are other sources of information, such as some state driver license registrations. It will consider removal of your information from its indexes on a case by case basis. I think that removal of your name from images is another matter. It would be pretty expensive to blot out your name on a census, for example. They also can’t remove your name from the original records, as those are controlled by state governments or other information owners. Before publishing such records, they redact sensitive information. They don’t mention what they consider to be sensitive, but I imagine it is information like social security numbers.

While Ancestry will generally send marketing information to you by email, you consent to contact by direct mail or even by telephone. These include promotional offers by both Ancestry and third parties. You can easily opt out of the emails, but I think to opt out of telephone solicitations you’ll need to contact Ancestry.

Ancestry and various websites show Ancestry advertisements. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the ads shown to you based upon your demographics. This includes year of birth, geographic area, and gender. Gender information is useful because males and females have different buying patterns. I know that companies can purchase other demographic data, such as your household income based on your address. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the Ancestry ads shown to you, not just on Ancestry’s websites, but other websites as well. Those Ancestry ads you’re seeing on other websites? The agreement allows Ancestry to customize them just for you, perhaps according to which subscription you own, if any, or whether or not you’ve purchased a DNA test. However, Ancestry is not disclosing individualized, personal information about you to other advertisers.

Personally, I would rather have specialized ads designed to match my interests than to get random ads I’m not interested in. But if you don’t want specialized ads, you can opt out by visiting a link to that is provided in the agreement. You won’t find Ancestry listed on the page on I think it lists ad networks that show specialized ads, not the advertising companies. I suppose you’ll need to opt out of all the companies listed. You’ll need to go through the process on each browser and each device that you use. If you delete the cookies for a browser, you will have to make your election again. And I think your election applies to all specialized ads, not just Ancestry’s. Ancestry doesn’t say so in the agreement, but on another webpage states that there is a second webpage you must visit to opt out of additional specialized Ancestry ads. Note that opting out of specialized ads doesn’t stop all advertisements from Ancestry. You’ll still receive generic ads.

Ancestry also monitors what websites you visited immediately prior to visiting one of the Ancestry websites. They track the MAC of your network hardware, “your computer type, screen resolution, operating system version and Internet browser.” They track your device type and IP address.

You agree to let Ancestry disclose your personal information if it is necessary to preserve Ancestry’s reputation.

If Ancestry sells part or all of its business, it will sell your personal information along with it. If Ancestry goes bankrupt, your private information can be sold off as one of the assets used to raise money to pay off its debts. In that case, the agreement doesn’t specify that your personal information will remain protected to the degree outlined in this agreement.

Some features of the Ancestry website are provided by other companies and governed by the other companies’ privacy policies. I don’t know if Ancestry discloses all of them, so some things you do on Ancestry websites may have unforeseen privacy consequences. Ancestry calls out logging in via your Facebook password or clicking the Facebook “Like” icon as examples. Entering Ancestry contests or surveys are subject to different privacy policies. Before participating, you may wish to check the terms.

Ancestry allows you to control the disclosure of some of your information. It provides webpages to do so. See section 4 of the agreement for links to the pages on its various websites.

If you contribute information (such as a public member tree or a photograph) and other users copy it, and you later delete it, Ancestry will not ferret out all the copies other users have made and delete the copies. However, they delete the attribution formerly given to you.

If someone has violated your privacy rights, you can contact Ancestry to have the matter resolved. Ancestry “will only implement such requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address that you use to send us your request.”

If you were an Ancestry website user prior to 26 June 2015, then the changes don’t become effective until 26 July 2015. If you decide you don’t like the new policy, you can choose to discontinue your account. To see the privacy statement yourself, visit

Monday, June 29, 2015

RootsTech Attendee Demographics

RootsTech 2016 - Celebrating Families across GenerationsRootsTech (hosted by FamilySearch) recently released some interesting demographics about 2015 RootsTech conference and Innovator Summit attendees.

  RootsTech Attendees Innovator Summit Attendees
States 49 39
Countries 39 11
Family history beginner 37% 21%
Family history intermediate 46% 46%
Family history advanced, expert, or professional 17% 33%
Technology beginner 19% 7%
Technology intermediate 59% 28%
Technology advanced, expert, or developer 22% 65%
Female 66% 34%
Male 34% 66%
18-35 10% 23%
36-45 15% 26%
46-55 18% 22%
56-65 28% 21%
Over 65 29% 8%

Some interesting things to notice:

  • Percentages for male and female are completely reversed between RootsTech and Innovator Summit.
  • The average Innovator Summit attendee considered himself to be a better genealogist than what the average RootsTech attendee considered herself. That would be an interesting self appraisal to validate. Most of the technology I see produced for genealogy is designed for pre-chasm research. There’s the possibility that Innovator Summit attendees haven’t done much post-chasm research or aren’t even aware the chasm exists. Or the explanation could be much more obvious and less ominous: RootsTech offers a beginners’ track and the Innovator Summit doesn’t. (For more information about the chasm, see “The Chasm.”)
  • To put the shoe on the other foot, when it came to technology, 22% of RootsTech attendees considered themselves advanced or developer. Since I doubt one in five RootsTech attendees are familiar with C#, Java, JavaScript, JSON, jQuery, XML, and AJAX, “advanced” must mean something different to a RootsTech attendee than it does to an Innovator Summit attendee. I guess some rows in the above table are comparing apples and oranges.
  • Innovator Summit attendee ages were evenly split between the four age groups from 18 to 65. Over half of the RootsTech attendees were over 55.

RootsTech 2016 will be held the 3rd through the 6th of February, 2016. RootsTech is always held in Salt Lake City and will be held again at the Salt Palace Convention Center. I’ve not seen any word on when registration will open, but the class schedule will be announced mid September. The deadline for presentation proposals is tomorrow, 30 June 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FamilySearch Announces Project to Index Freedmen Records

A marriage certificate from the records of the Freedmen's BureauFriday, on the 150th Juneteenth day, FamilySearch announced the Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project. The project is a collaborative effort with FamilySearch and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. The project will index an estimated 4 million names from 1.5 million digitized images of records from the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help freed slaves transition to citizenship.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke of the importance of the project. Elder Christofferson is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of FamilySearch sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fourteen years ago he announced the completion of the indexing of the Freedman’s Bank records.

“One of our key beliefs is that our families can be linked forever and that knowing the sacrifices, the joys and the paths our ancestors trod helps us to know who we are and what we can accomplish,” he said. “I witnessed the healing and joy African Americans experienced as they discovered their ancestors for the first time in those records."

Thom Reed, FamilySearch marketing manager said, "We’re calling for volunteers, specifically those that have ties to these records, the African American community, to get involved with this to help us break down this brick wall to help us overcome these barriers in genealogical research and making these family connections."

I was especially impressed with the remarks of Jannah Scott, deputy director for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “This is rich,” she said. “This is about all of us. I know the records are about the 4 million African Americans that were freed, but at that time there were people from all races, all religions, all ethnicities who were heralding the call for a new America, an America that would hold the promise of us being a perfect union, an America that would hold the promise that all men are created equal.”

Some images of the records are already available on the FamilySearch website. View the list of U.S. collections and enter “Freedmen” in the “Filter by collection name.”

For more information on the indexing project, visit You can view a recording of the news conference on YouTube.

Jannah Scott speaks at the Freemen's Bureau Indexing Project news conference. Click to watch on YouTube.