Ancestry Insider reader, Mike, posted a question recently and I thought you might all like to hear the answer.
I have a question about a comment you made where you said, "Ancestry's practice is to release at least one database every workday". Obviously that is a marketing driven thing, but my question is how significant it really is. That is, is a brand new database released every day, or do "updated" databases count too? And if the answer to that question is yes, then as a marketing scheme, is it Ancestry's policy to intentionally release incomplete databases so as to be able to tout updates?
Don't misunderstand me.
While it's Ancestry's practice to release a new database everyday, it's not a policy, to my knowledge. I've never seen Ancestry claim they do so. I wouldn't be shocked if they've missed one or more days. I wouldn't be surprised if there are high ranking managers that don't know that it occurs. It just happens. Call it corporate memory. Call it bureaucracy. Call it a legacy, maybe even a tribute, to Paul Allen. It survives as a practice of a former policy.
The practice, as I've observed it, is to release a new database each business day. (Take a look at my list for the last 60 days and let me know if I'm wrong.) When you release thousands of new databases each year, it's not difficult to schedule 250 of them to cover each business day of the year.
Why Does Ancestry Release Incomplete Databases?
It is almost always more expensive when Ancestry posts a database piecemeal. So if Ancestry doesn't need to release incomplete databases so it can tout updates, why update databases or release incomplete databases? There are several situations where databases are updated or incomplete databases are released:
- Additional records regularly become available. This is the case for the SSDI and can happen for vital records where states annually release records of a legislated age.
- Additional records become available from the original data source. For example, a national archive microfilms additional records in a series. I believe last week's update to California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957 is an example of this happening.
- An important database is so large that it will take weeks, months or even years to complete. A U.S. Federal census is an example. The 30-April update of the U.S. School Yearbooks is an example.
- Portions of a database are coming from different sources. In the case of state censuses, this might happen when different years and counties are coming from individual counties, multiple university libraries or private vs. public historical organization.
- Source media for a database are entering Ancestry's digital factory at widely spaced times. This might happen when Ancestry places a large microfilm order that overwhelms an institution's capacity to speedily duplicate all the films ordered. This can also happen when problems in Ancestry's production process cause part of a job to be sent back for rework at an earlier factory stage.
- Ancestry feels that posting the images for a database before the creation of an index gives the customer enough value to warrant the extra costs. The Canadian Drouin Collection is an example where this occurred.
- Ancestry is performing maintenance (fixing problems) in a database. I'm guessing that was the situation with the 30-April update of the 1851 and 1871 England Censuses.
- Ancestry is combining 2 or more closely related databases. If I recall correctly, an example is the
Florida Marriage Collection, 1822-1875 and 1927-2001, which is a combination of a database for 1822-1875 and a database for 1927-2001.
Databases can remain incomplete when:
- Historical records have been lost. If you scroll down to the bottom of the 1790 Census, database page and select "Click Here", you'll see that the returns for two states have been lost! Many censuses taken by individual states have been lost as well.
- Agreements can't be reached with some of the record custodians.
- Production costs are too great for a portion of a record set. For example, some of the records might be index cards that can be scanned with auto-feed scanners while another part is a solid clump of water-damaged, irregular sized manuscripts.
As you can see, there are many reasons why Ancestry releases incomplete databases or updates databases. Rest assured that tricking you is not one of them.