“I want to know with confidence that my tree is sound,” said Lisa Arnold. “Can I get an amen?”
Ask a room full of genealogists if they want sound trees on Ancestry.com? She got an amen. She got a big amen!
Lisa Arnold, of Ancestry.com made the remarks in her session, “Online Trees: Ancestry’s Powerful Tool Keeps Getting Better!” at the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.
After the perfunctory big, impressive numbers (1.6 million paying subscribers, 6 billion records, 25 million trees with 2.5 billion profiles, and 60 million user contributed photos, documents, and stories) Arnold showed an Ancestry.com video from YouTube (which I’ve posted before). It is titled, “Behind the Scenes at Ancestry.com.”
It is no secret that I love Ancestry.com’s Member Trees. Yes, I still have friends at Ancestry.com and Ancestry.com does curry my favor. No, that is not why I keep my own tree there. Arnold gave the reasons:
- I can perform a search about an ancestor without retyping their information every time.
- I can connect Ancestry.com records to the people in my tree.
- It is free. To be clear, the previous bullet items require a subscription, or a family member with a subscription who trusts you enough to share their tree with you. But the following bullet items are available for free (if you are willing to give up your e-mail address to Ancestry.com).
- I can upload photos and documents. To preserve these kinds of things, you want to have more than one copy. Having a copy online is a nice backup for the copy on your computer.
- I can easily publish posters and books. With the click of a button, Ancestry.com will take the photos from my tree and build a pedigree poster or the skeleton of a book.
Another reason some people like Ancestry.com trees is the ability to make contact with other relatives. (This can be done without disclosing personal information.) I contribute so much more than I get, that isn’t much incentive for me. But Arnold shared some amazing stories.
One woman discovered a picture of herself with her great grandmother; she had never seen it before. (Inadvertent disclosure of information about living people is one weakness of the tree system. I uncovered the names of children of several Ancestry.com executives because they captioned photographs with the names of their children and then attached the photographs to deceased ancestors. Lesson: Don’t do that. But I digress… Back to amazing stories.)
One woman lost contact with her sister 27 years ago and after exhausting all avenues for finding her, had given up. Not long ago a leaf appeared in her Ancestry Member Tree next to her father’s name. That struck her as curious. The leaf signaled that Ancestry.com had found a possible match in another member’s tree. She contacted the owner and couldn’t believe her eyes. The owner was her sister. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she wrote. “I was so excited and moved until all I could do was laugh and cry all at once.” The two have been in constant contact since, catching up on their lives.
I think I shared some of these new features before, just after NGS. If so, I apologize. A caveat goes with vendor lists of new features. “New” is a relative term; until there is something sexier to market, you get the same old list. (Maybe having nothing new to say is why Ancestry.com’s upper management seems to have boycotted FGS.)
- With Family Tree Maker (FTM) 2012, you will be able to sync your online tree with your local FTM file. FTM 2012 is in beta, but you can pre-order it online at www.store.ancestry.com. for a savings of 20%.
- “View relationship to me” is an easy way to see how people are related.
- There is a new pedigree view. It can expand to fill your monitor.
- There is more control when merging census families into your tree. “Not a match” prevents merging incorrect records. “Not a new person” allows manual linking when Ancestry.com isn’t able to find an existing match.
- Ancestry.com has an iPhone/iPad app. Very cool. I need to get me one of those… It does not yet show hinting, allow integrated search, or support Android. Those features are supposed to be coming. But you can attach photographs you’ve just taken.
You got Ancestry.com’s attention, thank you, with your comments to my article, “Ancestry Removing Find a Grave Photos?” Arnold said she was asked by Ancestry.com management to add a slide on copyright infringement. It made these points:
- If you take photos from any website without permission and especially proper attribution, you run the risk of having a cease and desist issued.
- Ancestry.com wanted it clear that they tell users: “Be aware that content, including photographs, even if submitted to a site of which you are a member, belongs to the creator or submitter and you should not reproduce it without permission of the owner.” (I can just hear the lawyers in the background. “It’s not our fault! It’s not our fault!”)
- As an alternative, Ancestry.com suggests using Web Links. (I sure liked using the Ancestry.com browser toolbar to establish web links. Too bad it no longer works in Firefox—despite Firefox having a larger market share than Internet Explorer.)
- You can also create a source that links to “the Find A Grave memorial.” (Yes, they mentioned Find A Grave explicitly. I’m tellin’ ya; you got their attention.)
If you have questions, contact email@example.com. (Ya’ got’ta love nameless corporations.)
When teaching a class Arnold assigned students to start a tree and enter their family. The next week, one student reported that she had entered a tree and now had 19,000 people in her tree. Arnold said she had obviously not taught the subject well. “Are you sure you’re related to all those people?” she asked. “Well, Ancestry.com told me I was.”
“Don’t you do that!” said Arnold sternly. “When you build your tree, have your family information with you.” Only after you have entered well sourced information should you look at other trees.
Amen to that.