Friday, December 28, 2012 Celebrates New 2012 Collections early vital records offerI am taking the week off so I forgot to tell you about a special offer from They are offering free access this week to 30 collections new or updated this year. To access the collections, visit As usual, to access free collections on Ancestry you must provide your name and email address to obtain a free account.

The 30 collections are:

For the 1940 census, Ancestry has indexed additional fields:

  • House owned or rented
  • Value of home or monthly rental if rented
  • Attended school or college
  • Highest grade completed
  • Employment code
  • Hours worked the week prior to the census
  • Duration of employment
  • Occupation
  • Class of worker
  • Occupation code
  • Weeks worked in 1939
  • Income
  • Income from other sources

The 1940 census asked additional questions for two people on each page. Ancestry has indexed these fields for those individuals:

  • Father birth place
  • Mother birth place
  • Native language
  • Veteran
  • If child, is veteran father dead
  • Military Service
  • Usual occupation
  • Usual industry
  • Usual class of worker
  • Usual occupation code
  • If a women have they been married more than once
  • Women age at first marriage
  • Number of children ever born

May your ancestors always be those two individuals. (And may the odds always be with you.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Christmas Card to You

Christmas photograph of the Ancestry InsiderI still have my The Generations Network Christmas shirt as you can see in the photograph to the right. I wear it once a year, even though changed their name.

FamilySearch. did something interesting with their logo—see below—in a Christmas greeting they recently sent me.

Christmas greeting from FamilySearch

If FamilySearch can play with their logo, so can Here’s what Ancestry did for a recent email campaign:


Ancestry holiday header


On a serious note, recent tragedies have underscored the importance of family, friends, and community. I pray you and yours will have a very, merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

--The Insider

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 Opens and FamilySearch Closes

FamilySearch announced it is closing its forumsIn separate announcements announced it is opening a public forum and FamilySearch announced it is closing theirs.

“While the Ancestry Message Boards are for finding people and places,” said Ancestry spokesperson, Matthew Deighton, “our new Support Communities is the place to go to get answers to product questions, and to find tips and solutions submitted by community members.”

The top three issues on the Ancestry Community Forum thus far are:

  1. My subscription will end—what will happen to my tree?
  2. Problems with sign in
  3. Received DNA results…confused

Meanwhile, FamilySearch’s Janell Vasquez announced that “due to user feedback, we are discontinuing these forums as of December 31, 2012… We apologize for the inconvenience that this will cause for those of you who have come to enjoy your collaboration with each other on these forums.” Vasquez suggested users join FamilySearch Facebook groups or contact FamilySearch support. Several users posted comments that they didn’t trust Facebook. A couple of users announced that they will probably stop indexing because of the change.

FamilySearch said it is “transitioning our Forums into a new question and answer tool.” Information will be posted this week with instructions on how to help test potential replacement software.

The idea behind a community forum is that ordinary people like you and I answer questions that others have. In my mind there is some question if the genealogical community is large enough or interested enough in helping vendors support their products.

Stay tuned…

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Family of Websites

Dear Mr. Insider,

I have noticed a number of web sites for Is there some place that lists all of the different variations/locations that are connected to

Signed, Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Believe it or not, you can navigate to almost all FamilySearch websites from The few exceptions are specialized websites or websites that can’t be reached because of broken links on

Signed, The Insider

What Jerry really needs is a good site map. Too bad FamilySearch won’t provide an official one. Here’s a quick attempt.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Talking Photos No Longer Limited to Hogwarts

Matthew Caldwell's story and picture is an example of what can recently announced it had become the first certified web application to read the new FamilySearch Family Tree.

This special certification allows our LegacyStories members to search for and bookmark their writings, photos and oral narratives to ancestors found in the Family Tree.

In early 2013, FamilySearch is planning to launch the revolutionary TreeConnect feature. At that time our members will be able to easily link their bookmarked stories to the Family Tree.’s “Talking Photos” feature allows users to record a narrative on their computer’s microphone and associate it with a photo.

The entire press release can be read on the web.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NARA’s Bill Mayer Speaks About Genealogists

NARA's WIlliam A. “Bill” MayerWilliam A. “Bill” Mayer became Executive for Research Services on 18 June 2012. In a recent interview Mayer made comments of interest to genealogists.

With so much changing in terms of digital access through our partners like and FamilySearch, I’d be very interested to hear from the genealogy community how their practices are changing. … I’d also welcome discussions that highlighted ways the genealogy community could support NARA as well: deeper more effective citizen archivist programs; citizen scanning projects; sharing of expertise from our most expert public researchers – any other ideas?

Did he say “citizen scanning projects”? That sounds intriguing. I wonder what that means.

On online access Mayer said,

"Access" in general, regardless of format, is a primary mission for NARA, and Research Services especially. I see methods that focus on both the in-person and the online as critical to our work today and into the future. But to be realistic, there’s simply not enough funding to do everything we see necessary to provide comprehensive, high-functioning systems for access. So choices need to be made. Arguably, digitization enables a broader reach for records than ever before. But what about the guidance and pathfinding through the maze of information found online? How do we support that?

Mayer expanded on that topic.

Access to information is never done well by a "one size fits all" approach. Digital access is an excellent method for expanding the reach of the record and exposing the record to wider audiences – but that access has to be coupled with excellent customer services that make the most of the connection between the record and the researcher. My top-level plans are to focus our work on the key areas of Discovery (finding what we have), Access (getting to what we have), and Preservation (ensuring content is available for generations to come).

On the seemingly opposing goals of access and preservation, Mayer said,

Protection and Preservation of our holdings does not mean we can’t facilitate easier access. That’s why you see such a rise in digitization efforts.

Asked about when the content digitized by and Fold3 would be available free to the public, Mayer said,

Those are rolling dates depending on the collections being digitized and the agreements that govern each collection. New records are released regularly, and free access to the public is available at every NARA facility nationwide the moment the collections are available on the partner sites. There are quite a number of these collections, so I’ll look forward to sharing a more explicit listing for future communications.

In other news, NARA has announced the addition of census reference reports to the existing set of genealogical research reports consisting of African American, Military, Native Americans, and Immigration. Reference reports are one to four page papers describing research strategies for frequently used records.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Please Tell Me Your Name

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Please tell me your name so that I may know who I am looking for in Las Vegas, ok?

Ron Bremer

Dear Ron,

You thought I’d fall for that old trick? Straight up asking?

Ask me in my 2013 NGS Annual Conference session and I will tell you my name. But you don’t have to wait until then. Several people approach me each conference to tell me that they recognized me from my picture.

The Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Hi, I guess you can not enter the contest if you don't own a cellphone!

Not everyone has a cell phone and not all cellphones have an app capability or camera. I'm one of those people.

Diane H.

Dear Diane,

As was I until September. I hear you. However, my previous smart phone had gotten dumber and dumber. When it broke, I took the plunge. But it’s more expensive and not everyone can afford that.

The Insider

Friday, December 7, 2012

FamilySearch Family Tree is Coming

FamilySearch Family Tree is ComingI found a video on YouTube that demonstrates the basic functionality of FamilySearch Family Tree. It is titled “Family Tree from FamilySearch.” It was not posted by FamilySearch, so it does not give official pronouncements. For example, it states that, “Later in 2012 this massive database of family information will be made available free to everyone” Still, in my opinion it gives excellent information.

After all the rumors about FamilySearch Family Tree’s public availability (or lack thereof), I thought I’d check the FamilySearch blog for the latest news. I searched for [Family Tree Is Coming]. I found an article available to the general public that was posted 19 November 2012 and is titled “Family Tree Service on Coming Soon.” While throughout the year FamilySearch has stated that Family Tree would be available to the public by the end of the year, this article seems to be squirming in that regard. The article starts off by stating that “Within the next few months, FamilySearch will make Family Tree available to everyone on its website.”

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 Holiday Contest

The Ancestry Insider's Holiday is running a holiday contest. Prizes are: a six month US Deluxe subscription, an AncestryDNA kit, a copy of Family Tree Maker 2012, or a gift membership. To enter the contest use your camera phone and Instagram. Take a photograph and tag it with #ancestryholiday.

Instagram is a free photo sharing app for Apple iPhones and Google phones. For more information and for links to the respective app stores, visit the Instagram website.

Monday, December 3, 2012

NGS 2013 Conference Registration Opens

Do It Yourself Photo Restoration by the Ancestry InsiderBlame the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society.

You’ve noticed I didn’t post many articles in November. I’m teaching a session at the conference and preparations have been so fun, I’ve spent all my free time working on it.

In “Do It Yourself Photo Restoration” I teach how to use a free and simple program, Paint.NET, to do basic photo restoration. I’m having a hard time tearing myself away to write articles, do genealogy, and work on extra-curricular professional activities.

The 2013 NGS Conference will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada from May 8th until May 11th at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center and one block off the Las Vegas Strip.

The weird thing about this conference is that I’ve been asked to be a luncheon speaker on Saturday. Isn’t that weird? Other than you few, nobody’s ever heard of me. It’s audience participation, so please come and help me out.

Register now for the early bird discount. For more information, visit the NGS 2013 Family History Conference page of the NGS website. Visit the Online Conference Program to see me (and other speakers, I suppose). While you’re at it, see the conference brochure and register for the conference.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Six Month Motor Home Genealogy Road Trip

The Brown's moto home sits in from of 
The Brown’s motor home sits in front of’s Provo headquarters.
Image copyright

“Most people who know Rob and Kathy Brown are either jealous or think the Browns have totally lost it,” wrote Genelle Pugmire in an article Saturday in a Salt Lake City newspaper.

The family sold their home and talked into sponsoring a six to nine month drive around the country in a motor home packed with five children. “The Great-Great-Great-Grand Adventure: A Family History Journey” will take the Browns “a distance of more than 10,000 miles, visiting 40 states and more than 40 major cities,” according to Rob Brown.

According to Pugmire, Rob’s mother told him, “You're a little too young for a mid-life crisis.”

For more information, read the entire Deseret News article. Visit to track the Brown’s journey.

I just hope someone warned them what it is like doing genealogy with a name like Brown.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Results Differ

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I am presenting a lecture to a library next month regarding the difference between the Library and Home edition of I was at the library and used my personal account and the library account to see what was the difference. What I got was much more surprising!

[Insider note: Pam searched for James Wilmington and viewed the results summarized by category to see a breakdown of results by database. She found the Ancestry Library Edition did not include results from the following databases:

  • Du Pont romance: a reminiscent narrative of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company
  • Heads of Families at the first census of the United States taken in the year 1790: Massachusetts
  • History of Harrison County, West Virginia
  • Maurice Times (Maurice, Iowa)
  • North Carolina Heads of families at the first census of the US
    taken in the year 1790
  • Southwest Virginia historical records
  • State census of North Carolina 1784-1787
  • West Eau Claire Argus (Newspaper)]

At first, I thought the Library edition had more records, 1552, than the Home edition, 1245. I came home and thought, let me try that one more time. I did the same search and there was a higher number, 1584.

[Insider note: The following databases returned zero records the first time Pam ran the query on her account. The second time she ran the query, she got the correct number of results.

  • 1901 Census of Canada
  • 1906 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
  • New York State Census 1892
  • New York, State Census 1915]

I always thought I got strange results when I search at the library and sometimes at home. Today, I caught it!! Often, if I get a zero result list, I redo the search. And, I am always right because I would get different results. I realize computers are not perfect…cough…cough…but, could Ancestry also have issues? <g>

Hoping you may have some insight on this. I am going to tell the librarians and patrons to always use both library and the home edition if they have it. In addition, never believe the results, especially when you get zero!


Dear Pam,

Gosh. Has it been five years since I reviewed the Ancestry Library Edition? (See “The Ancestry Library Edition.”) The Library Edition is distributed by ProQuest. ProQuest has products of its own that duplicate some of the content of the Ancestry Home edition. To protect these other products, the Ancestry Library Edition excludes content that competes with them. Certain newspapers and books are excluded, including the ones you identified.

Databases coming and going in the Home edition is more interesting… and problematic. I don’t think this is a case of the Home edition not working at the library. doesn’t know when you are at home. (If they do, we’re all in trouble!) Try the query again at the library with your Home edition. I think you’ll find it works fine.

I think what you saw was a failure of the Ancestry Ra system. Back in January 2010 I wrote about Ra. (See “ Bloggers Day: Data Center Tour (Part 2).”) A failure in Ra could explain databases going away and then coming back.

Loads of generic servers are divvied up to handle requests to particular groups of genealogy databases. One group might be birth, marriage, death databases. Another group might handle military databases, and so forth.

Note that the databases left out the first time you ran the query are all census databases. That’s what makes me suspect Ra. The results from a group of census databases may have been left out.

If this is what happened, and Ancestry failed to inform you, then people have to heed your warning to “never believe the results, especially when you get zero.”

Thanks for sharing your experience,
--The Insider

Monday, November 19, 2012 DNA Research Revealed’s leading DNA scientists participated in the 2012 American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting. Leading DNA experts from across the country gather to present the results of the latest studies. Several scientists from Ancestry presented papers. We can see a bit of the work going on inside Ancestry by reading what they’ve said about their papers:

Pushing the boundaries: Using Haplotypes to infer ancestral origins for recently admixed individuals

This research presents new ways to look at people around the world, and continually pushes our thinking on how we determine ethnicity and population boundaries—specifically in challenging regions like Central Europe—with better data, better algorithms and better analysis.

In other words, Ancestry’s DNA scientists are working with haplotypes to make it possible for AncestryDNA to better determine the ancestral home of people with European ancestry, for example.

Using Y-chromosomes Haplotypes to improve inferred ancestral origins in European populations

In a nutshell, this abstract illustrates how predictions of geographic ethnicity for European populations using autosomal genotypes can be improved by incorporating Y-chromosome information. In fact, using Y-haplogroup distributions to redraw regional boundaries within Europe improved ethnicity predictions by up to 9%.

This description runs counter to what I thought Ancestry was trying to do when it hired these scientists. Beforehand, Ancestry offered a Y-chromosome DNA test—males only—to determine his ancestral home. I thought they hired a bunch of DNA scientists because they were trying to apply autosomal DNA to aid in that determination. This description makes it sound the opposite. It makes it sound like the results of autosomal tests are being refined—again for males only—by going back to the Y-chromosome. This is interesting considering AncestryDNA’s test continues to be available to both men and women and continues to give a full breakdown of genetic ancestry.

Genetic evidence of multiple non-Asian migrations into the new world

An analysis of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) Y-chromosome and mtDNA databases resulted in evidence for multiple migrations from the Iberian Peninsula into the New World (Mexico, Central and South America); specifically, two groups were identified—Basque males who share ancestry within the last 2000 years and a Jewish group in Mexico, which fled persecution during the Inquisition.

This study seems to have little application to Ancestry’s business. Perhaps part of the deal when Ancestry acquired Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) DNA samples was to allow some research projects like this one to continue. (One of the samples Ancestry bought from SMGF was my own. I guess the lesson there is to think twice before making a goodwill offering to a non-profit foundation, particularly when the offering is a DNA sample.)

SMGF has some very informative animations teaching more about DNA:

DNA is an exciting frontier in genealogy and it is good to see Ancestry pushing the envelope.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FamilySearch By the Numbers

FamilySearch recently released the current size of their collections as of the 1st of November:

Total images published in Historical Records section: ................................................. 698.9 Million
          An image is a graphical representation (photograph) of
          an original, physical document.

Total records published in Historical Records section:................................................... 1.99 Billion
          A record is the information documented (transcribed)
          for a single life event. For example, a birth record, a
          marriage record, a death record.

Total searchable names in Historical Records section: .................................................. 3.07 Billion
          Searchable names are all (transcribed) names
          contained on a record. For example, a single birth
          record contains three names (child, father, mother).

Total collections on FamilySearch Historical Records section: .................................... 1,311 Collections

Monday, November 12, 2012

Free Census Guide recently ran a promotion billing itself as the “Home of the U.S. Census, 1790-1940.” (See What do you think? Are they?

Along with this promotion Ancestry is offering a free seven page PDF census guide, “Follow Your Family Using Census Records.” I think the offer was to subscribers only, as it presupposes access to, but I think anyone can click the link and get the booklet.

The 1940 census is free for (I can’t remember how long) on, although you’ll need to sign up for a free account. indexes and images can be used for free at many libraries and at FamilySearch family history centers (FHCs).

All the census indexes are available for free on, with or without a free account. Images are another story. According to the website, images to U.S. censuses are available as indicated below.

Census Via link to a subscription Website At a FHC To members of a supporting organization* Free to everyone
United States Census, 1790 X X  
United States Census, 1800 X X  
United States Census, 1810 X X  
United States Census, 1820 X X  
United States Census, 1830 X X  
United States Census, 1840 X X  
United States Census, 1850       X
United States Census, 1860      
United States Census, 1870       X
United States Census, 1880 X X  
United States Census, 1890 X X  
United States Census, 1900       X
United States Census, 1910 X X  
United States Census, 1920 X X  
United States Census, 1930 X X  
United States Census, 1940       X

I have got to say I don’t understand. All the images were produced by FamilySearch. FamilySearch has the most awesome census indexing volunteers in all the world who could have chunked out free indexes to all the pre-1900 censuses in just a few months. (Actually, they did. They did the A key and the arbitration. Ancestry provided the B key.) Yet FamilySearch users can’t freely see many of FamilySearch’s own images.

Yup. really is “Home of the U.S. Census.”


* FamilySearch is fully supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

KSL-TV “Geneology” News Story

Genealogy in Germany by Tanya PapanikolasRecently (Friday?) Salt Lake City television station, KSL, aired a story on genealogy and FamilySearch. As is somewhat traditional with television stations, they misspelled genealogy. But otherwise it is a nice piece that highlights FamilySearch and gives a little bit of information about their work in Germany.

To read the story and to watch the news segment online, click here.

Freedom: A Gift From Your Ancestors

A balloon from the Grand Parade of America's Freedom Festival at ProvoSeveral years ago, Inc. (then, Inc.) employees participated in the Grand Parade of America’s Freedom Festival at Provo. We were handlers for a big balloon like the one to the right.

It was a bit tricky maneuvering the balloon around traffic signals and under low-hanging trees. Gloves were a necessity, but wrapping the rope around your hand was a good way to lose fingers.

I don’t want to denigrate our volunteer efforts. Let’s just say we were not invited to help again the next year.

Where am I going with this? Ancestry gave us all matching t-shirts and on this election day I wanted to share the saying printed on them.

“Freedom – A gift from your ancestors”

Our ancestors lived, sacrificed, or even died that we might live and that we might live free.

Go vote.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Utah Pioneer Database Quality Rumors Put to Rest

According to its website,

The Mormon Overland Travel, 1847-1868, [database] is the most complete listing of individuals and companies in which Mormon pioneer emigrants traveled west to Utah from 1847 through 1868. It is an incomplete listing, as rosters have not been found for all companies. It also identifies sources to learn more about the experiences of each company.

The database is the work of Melvin L. Bashore, senior librarian at the Church History Library and Archives. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Oregon-California Trails Association for this extraordinary database.

When published on the Internet, the database’s website invited contributions. This raised questions about the possible inclusion of non-primary information, diluting the quality of the database. When I got the chance to contribute, I jumped upon it as an opportunity to learn how contributions were handled.

I had come across a document witnessed by Harmon Cutler that stated that the George Wilkins family travelled in his company of 1852. It named father, mother, and two children and it specified the parents’ death date.

I submitted a full transcript of the document along with a complete source citation. I shortly received a response from a volunteer missionary that greatly added to my confidence in the database. It stated that because of their interest in accuracy they only accept

what historians call “primary sources,” (period documents such as a pioneer diary, the company journal, an autobiography or a letter written by one of the pioneers, the individual’s obituary, or a source published during the pioneers lifetime, etc.) Such documents must be explicitly clear that an individual was in a specific company or that they traveled at a particular time.

The missionary stated that my source met the criteria and he had added the information to the database. I was happy to see these safeguards to protect the quality of the database.

After setting such high expectations, I was surprised and disappointed with what I found when I searched for George Wilkins and family. Additional information had been added along with a one-word citation: “FamilySearch.” Was the source one of FamilySearch’s high-quality historical records? Or was it one of the error-ridden, source-less online trees?

And the database has no mechanism to associate citations with particular pieces of information. It is impossible to tell which information came from which source.

Further, the FHL film number had been stripped from my citation, leaving users no apparent method of accessing the source save to personally visit the Church History Library and Archive in Salt Lake City. My transcript had likewise been discarded.

In the end I found the rumors to be true. I discovered that “The Mormon Overland Travel, 1847-1868” database does indeed suffer from the use of second-hand information. However, and to my surprise, the sources were not those supplied by contributors but those supplied by its own staff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and Facebook and FacebookI’ve wanted to write an article that does justice to’s recent Facebook integration, but it has been a couple of weeks and I still don’t have time. If I can’t do the feature justice, at least let me point it out.

See’s blog article, “Using Facebook to Grow Your Family Tree.”

For my last article on and Facebook, see “ Developing Facebook Application.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Errors in City Directories

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I have been a member of for many years. In the past year, especially, I've noticed many, maNY, MANY errors in the transcribing and indexing on

I accessed the City Directories for Enid, OK and wow, what I found was astoundingly egregious. All you have to do to verify what I'm saying is to start with the 1905 Enid, OK City Directory and search for Joseph Hutcheson. You'll go mad trying to find a decent index for him.

Access the City Directory for Enid, OK and start going up the years. On the way, please do enjoy such genealogical tidbits as "Walnut Hyde" (taken from the street name and last name....don't ask me) and "Baking Soda Tea Bisquits..." taken from a store advertisement. Then, there's also "telephone 7 days a week" and "Ill" instead of an "H", or "II" (as in "The Second"), instead of an "H", even after women's names.

Some of the most egregious errors I've ever seen! It is quite apparent that whoever is doing the transcribing is not only unfamiliar with the English language and common names, but with the English alphabet, as well. Beyond that, there is apparently NO quality control - no checking for veracity. These butchered transcriptions and indexes are sent to where they're uploaded immediately - if they do random checking, then they're using aliens or people who don't speak English ...or children who can't spell...or read, to do it.

The way some letters don't seem to be understood by the transcriber, tells me that whoever is transcribing doesn't speak English well and probably is sitting in front of some kind of chart. But since these people are probably paid by the record, their managers are probably telling them to hurry, hurry, hurry. That's their incentive. And that, sadly, is the reality of what's happening to the records at

Patriot Gal*

Dear Patriot Gal,

It will come as no surprise to you to learn that about a year ago started employing a whole new set of indexers for their city directories. These indexers do not speak English. They have problems reading. As you surmised, they work from some kind of chart, as the English alphabet is foreign to them.

While they hurry quite a bit faster than you or I would, it is not greed or speed that induces them to count advertisements as directory entries. The problem there is pure stupidity. That’s right. They are not smart enough to always recognize what are obviously advertisements.

They aren’t children or space aliens. These new indexers are computers. And despite what some people think, computers are very stupid, especially when it comes to reading and comprehension. It is a great achievement that Ancestry has coerced the degree of accuracy that it has from these directories. Most computer read content is far, far worse.

For more information, see my article, “Data Extraction Technology at”

--The Insider

Thursday, October 25, 2012

IGI Q and A - Part 2

FamilySearch International Genealogical IndexFamilySearch product manager Robert Kehrer recently responded to user comments about the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the FamilySearch Blog. This is the second in a two part article telling some of what he said.

New Search Features Coming

One commenter complained that a search for people in England returned U.S. census records. ( users will recall when this was a problem. Ancestry has already added a fix.)

“We will shortly be implementing a feature,” said Robert Kehrer, “that will allow you to tell the system you ONLY want records that originate in England.”

Kehrer responded that the current system will return all matching records regardless of where the record was created. Search results above the orange bar closely match the criteria you specify. This might locate an English ancestor both before and after immigration.

When you get to the orange bar in the search results, things change. I almost always stop looking when I hit the bar. “Below the orange bar,” said Kehrer, “you may see other records matching some but not all the parameters you searched on, like the name, and other events.” However, results below the bar will all be connected to England, for example, in some way.

The new feature will change that. Records only from a specified locality will appear in the results. The new feature will also support restricting results to a particular record type, such as “birth.”

Pedigree View

A commenter asked what had happened to the pedigree charts available on the classic Kehrer announced that a tree view was under development. “You’ll be pleased to know that we are currently coding up for delivery in the very near future (measured in weeks if all the code testing goes well) a tree view for AF/PRF/Contributed IGI records.”

“This view will show the primary person, all spouses, children, parents and grandparents. all names will be clickable to move them into the primary person position. All primary person data, notes, sources, and citations will be viewable. Secondary persons will have basic vital data shown as well.”

Separating Indexing and Contributed Information

Where on the IGI could be searched as one unified record collection, now the IGI has been separated. About 600 million entries were the result of indexing (extraction) projects. These have been separated into many state- and country-specific record collections.

About 208 million entries were contributed by users. These have been placed into a collection separate from the indexed entries. Both sets can be searched—one at a time—from a special collection page: .

A commenter expressed appreciation that FamilySearch had separated indexed records from contributed records.

“We have received a lot of positive comments from people who recognize the slightly different nature of the contributed data,” said Kehrer. (I am a big supporter of dividing the IGI into the two parts.)

He said that the present “user experience” (requiring two searches) is the result of the limited time FamilySearch had to get the IGI off the old computer system before it went down. “We are now working to make it easier to search both contributed and indexed data with one search,” he said, “and still be able to see which type of data you are looking at in the results.”

The IGI is Not Complete

One commenter expressed concern that talking about a “complete IGI” might be misleading to some. Just because all the entries from the classic IGI have been loaded onto the new system doesn’t mean the IGI is a complete record of the various parishes and jurisdictions covered. Inclusion of some records from a locale doesn’t mean the IGI includes all records from that place.

I second that sentiment. The IGI contains a small selection of records in FamilySearch’s microfilm collection. Some films were skipped. Some films were partially skipped. Some records, such as stillborns, were never indexed. Some indexed records were discarded rather than duplicating user contributed entries. That means an entire parish may be present except for a handful of people.

The commenter expressed concern that no more parish records would be indexed for the IGI. On the contrary, Historical Record Collections, the successor to the IGI, continue to be expanded.

“FamilySearch’s record acquisition efforts have not stopped by any means,” said Kehrer. “Rather they have accelerated now that we are not anchored down with the old site technology. New indexed and image only collections are being published and new records are being added to previously published collections every day.”

It is true that there will no longer be a single collection that contains all the indexed entries from the IGI, but just like the old IGI, all can be searched in a single search. FamilySearch’s collection is growing too fast to be constrained to a single database called the International Genealogical Index. They have over 1300 collections now containing over 3 billion searchable names. And that is growing fast.

Person Search versus Record Search

In response to one comment, Kehrer innocuously explained an important detail about FamilySearch’s historical records. It is important but easily overlooked. “FamilySearch records are person-centric.” This means that FamilySearch’s Record Search doesn’t search for records. It searches for mentions of people in records.

The remark came in response to a commenter who pointed out an unexpected oddity in a record title in form like this one:

"Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," Sam Ealy Johnson Jr. in entry for Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1973

This title, for address, is the mention of Sam on President Johnson’s death certificate. This address,, is the mention of Rebekah Baines on the same certificate. And is the mention of President Johnson on that certificate.

Search for Sam Ealy Johnson with spouse Rebekah Baines and the result list shows all the person-mentions for Sam, regardless of whose record he appears on.

“Each of the persons in our databases have their own person details page,” said Kehrer. “Please don’t make the mistake of thinking you are looking at a household record or a birth certificate record.”

FamilySearch’s record search returns people-mentions, not records.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

IGI Q and A - Part 1

FamilySearch International Genealogical IndexFamilySearch product manager Robert Kehrer recently responded to user comments about the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the FamilySearch Blog. This is the first in a two part article telling some of what he said.

Classic Search vs. Newest Search

Several people commented that the old, classic was much easier to use and asked if FamilySearch couldn’t please bring back the old search.

“There is no way to re-implement the old site and it’s search,” said Robert Kehrer. But that doesn’t mean the new site can’t be improved. He said he would be “passionately interested in the specifics of what you found better and easier to use on the old site.” FamilySearch is continually refining the new site.

Got a specific suggestion? Leave a comment below and I will pass it on.

Finding the IGI

The IGI can be found at Most of us aren’t going to remember that URL, however. To get to the IGI collection page without knowing the URL,

  1. Start from the FamilySearch home page.
  2. Click on “All Record Collections.”
  3. In the Filter by Name box, type in IGI (or International).
  4. Click on the title, “International Genealogical Index (IGI).”

One person complained that this was a difficult way to find a record collection. Kehrer agreed, but pointed out that you don’t need to get to the IGI page to search the IGI. At least for indexed entries, when you search from the home page, you are searching the IGI. Plus, you also get results from the other 3 billion names in FamilySearch record collections.

As for finding record collections, Kehrer said they are redesigning the page to make it easier to locate any particular collection.

Missing Entries

Users are complaining that entries are missing in the new IGI. One commenter pointed out he had family from South Africa that was missing from the new IGI. I tried searching Community Indexed and got thousands of results from anyplace but South Africa. As I randomly looked through the returned results, skipping 400 results, I happened across one from South Africa (Patrick Saunders Trumpeter). I wonder why it wasn’t at the top of the list? The results were part of the World Miscellaneous Births and Baptisms, 1534-1983 collection. You may have greater luck searching there than searching from the IGI page.

Another commenter singled out Monte Escobedo, Zacatecas, Mexico church records from the middle of the 1800s.

Kehrer verified what users are experiencing. About 234 million records are missing from the IGI.

“When we went live with the IGI on the new site we believed that we had loaded all of the old IGI data,” he said. “We have unfortunately discovered that some data was missed.” This discovery was aided by users who could provide specific examples of missing entries.

FamilySearch has identified about 14 million indexed records and 220 million contributed records that have not been loaded yet. “These records have been identified,” he said. “We’re are in the process of preparing that data and will load it shortly.”

Kehrer said with some confidence that those who can’t find records will probably find their ancestors once they load the missing data.

Got some names, dates, and places of people you know are missing? Leave a comment below and I will pass them on.


Tomorrow: New features, pedigree view, IGI not complete (redux), person search versus record search

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 Sold for $1.6 Billion

imageIt was announced yesterday that Permira, a private equity firm, has agreed to buy for $1.6 billion dollars. Actually, I’m not astute enough to know if Ancestry is being bought for $1.6 billion, or if it is being valued at $1.6 billion. Suffice it to say that major stockholders will be making lots of money.

It sounds like Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Howard Hochhauser, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, are selling some of their stock and keeping some. The same seems to be true for Spectrum Equity, a company that owns 30% of Ancestry’s stock. According to a message sent to employees Monday morning, many employees will also be offered stock ownership opportunities.

Private equity firms buy companies with the idea of selling them later at a profit. It can be an outright sale, or by going public (again, in Ancestry’s case). Premira hopes to grow the value of the company by expanding its business in Western Europe. The company will go on with its current structure and will continue with headquarters in Provo, Utah.

The purchase will not actually occur until sometime in 2013, after shareholders have approved.

Hopefully this dispels continuing rumors. is not owned by FamilySearch or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neither does own, nor have they found a way to purchase a Church. The two are separate entities who, in my opinion, sometimes cooperate but mostly compete for users and for rights to acquire records. That’s my opinion, anyway.

For a list of companies currently owned by Premira, see

For the full text of the announcement, see

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Please Change My Email Address

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Please change my email address from to I really enjoy your posts.

Thank you,
Anne Lamson

Dear readers,

If your email address changes, I can’t update your subscription address for you. You need to do it. Come to my website, by clicking an article title in one of my newsletters. Then look on the right side of the screen for “Subscribe by email.” Enter your new email address and you’re all set.

Thank you,
The Insider

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Acquires 1000memories

Ancestry and announced earlier this month that they have acquired the website and company 1000memories. 1000memories is a photo hosting website for all the photographs you have sitting around your house. Photos can be uploaded from your hard drive or transferred from facebook, instagram, or Flickr. Photos can be scanned by scanner, digital camera, or smart-phone app. Photos can be sent to a scanning center where slides and photographs are professionally scanned for a cost of 22 cents apiece or more.

For the full text of the announcement, visit the official announcement or the Ancestry blog. For 1000memories take on the acquisition, visit the 1000memories blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two RootsTech Hotels Added After Two Sell Out

The Insider is an Official RootsTech 2011 Blogger

RootsTech has announced the addition of two hotels after the first two, the Salt Lake Plaza and the Radisson, both sold out. These two are adjacent to the conference center. I don’t know if you can still reserve at non-conference rates. They may be entirely sold out.

The two added hotels are the Little America Hotel and the Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites. I’ve not stayed in either one, so I can’t say much. Well, that’s not entirely true. I stayed in the Little America once back in the ‘70s. Yup. It’s that old. But it has been regularly remodeled. The best thing about it is that it is located near a Trax light rail station that is inside the free-fare zone. It’s a quick ride from the Little America to the doorstep of the convention center.

While the Crystal Inn is also within the free fare zone, there is no convenient bus route. Google recommends walking about three blocks (0.4 miles) to the Trax station (next to the Little America) and riding from there. The hotel does state that they have a free shuttle which runs downtown. I imagine RootsTech Organizers will make certain that the shuttle runs to and from the convention center.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 World Archives Project Update

The World Archives ProjectThe World Archives Project (WAP) is’s community indexing program. In a recent update, announced that in the past four years the project has completed 170 projects. They have published 130 databases with indexes available for free searching on Ancestry. Viewing images still requires an Ancestry subscription.

There are currently 26 projects available for indexing. Among these are California Railroad Employment Records, 1862-1950; Kansas, City and County Census, 1919-1978; Liverpool, United Kingdom, Crew Lists 1860-1919; Pavia, Lombardia, Italia: Registri di Matrimonio, 1866-1937 (Registers of Marriage); and USHMM Lodz, Poland, Vital Records of Jews in the Lodz Ghetto, 1939-1944.

In the update, Ancestry announced that a Mac version of the indexing software is now available. Active contributors are eligible for Ancestry subscription discounts. Active contributors are those that index or arbitrate 900 or more records in a rolling 90 day period. Active contributors can also see the images from WAP projects, so long as Ancestry has permission to publish the images. Some projects, such as those with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum call for image publication on the partner website.

I like the way Ancestry posts project statuses and recognizes their top indexers:


For my stories on the introduction of the WAP back in 2008, see

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Family History Center Volunteers at RootsTech

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I am a Family History Consultant, or so they call me at the Family History Center where I have volunteered for the last 4 years.  I am not a member of the Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. From the information given here and on the link you offered, I get the impression I do not qualify for this [RootsTech family history consultant] discount.  Suppose that's true?


Dear Readers,

I know that FamilySearch really, really appreciates members of the community who volunteer to serve on the staffs of their local family history centers. I contacted the RootsTech Conference Dude (sorry, I don’t know his actual title). He verified that all family history center staff qualify for the discount. Contact if you have further questions. Before I could get back to her, Margaret had done just that and received the discount.

The Insider

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sing Us a Song, You’re the Camera Man

He doesn’t sing for a living. Oscar Fabian Riquelme Achucarro is a camera man. He photographs records for FamilySearch. He was featured recently in a FamilySearch blog article.

FamilySearch International is currently capturing over 80 million new images of historical documents per year with the help of some 200 camera operators,” says the article. Operators may be employees, volunteers, or contractors.

Oscar is working in Porto Alegre, Brazil where he spends 40 hours a week photographing documents. “Like most camera operators, Oscar can capture 3,000-5,000 images a day, and up to 60,000 images per month.” Using a foot pedal to control the shutter, Oscar can make his camera sing.

Read the decidedly long titled article at “Meet the Camera Man—An Inside Look at How Historical Documents are Being Digitally Captured.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Family Tree Maker—The Gift That Keeps On Giving's Family Tree Maker 2012Some people have claimed that is skipping the release of a Family Tree Maker 2013 because they are still fixing serious tree-synching bugs in the 2012 product. Regardless of their motives, Family Tree Maker 2012 owners received word recently that another free update is available.

A few of the new or improved features are:

  • Several bugs have been fixed in Tree Sync and several new features have been added, such as the ability to flag desk-side media objects for exclusion when uploading photos and documents.
  • In the Places workspace locations are grouped together hierarchically to make them easier to access.
  • Backups can now include media files from where ever they are on your hard drive and can now include information such as website favorites and historical events for timelines.
  • Facts can be copied and pasted to multiple family members, including media and citations.

For more information, read “Another Bonus Update for Family Tree Maker 2012.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

RootsTech News

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech BloggerRootsTech is offering Family History Consultants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a $99 discount to attend all three days of RootsTech 2013. To get the $99 price, consultants must use a discount code at checkout. Consultants received the code in an email on or about last Friday. If you are a consultant and are not receiving consultant emails, I encourage you to register:

Get Ready For RootsTech!

This is a great, high energy video. If you presented, blogged, exhibited, sponsored, or just attended RootsTech 2012, check it out. You might see yourself. You’ll definitely see people you know.

Can’t view the video above? See it at

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Mailbox: RootsTech Hotel Space Going Fast

Dear Ancestry Insider,

The week of Roots Tech is not only spring break for skiers but also the NCAA basketball regional finals at the nearby Energy Solutions Center. Many of the hotels are completely booked like the Marriott across the street. Downtown Salt Lake will be very crowded that week. Those of us traveling from out of state should get our hotel and flights early and please get the word out to Roots Tech attendees.

Widholm *

Dear Widholm,

Yikes! I hadn’t realized there were that many things happening in Salt Lake that week. Thanks for the warning. I was aware that the workshops are filling up fast. If you’ve already decided to go to RootsTech, act now. If you haven’t decided yet, give it some thought. Right away.

The Insider

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RootsTech 2013 Registration Opens

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech BloggerI’ve accepted an invitation to be an official RootsTech 2013 Blogger. The first order of business is announcing the opening of registration. Here is the announcement from FamilySearch:

RootsTech 2013 Registration is Live with $149 Early-bird Pricing

Registration is now live for the 3rd annual RootsTech conference on March 21-23, 2013 in Salt Lake City, UT. With several thousand attendees each of the first two years, the 2013 conference is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet!

RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, offers an opportunity unlike any other to discover the latest family history tools and techniques, connect with experts to help  you in your research, and be inspired in the pursuit of your ancestors.  You will learn to use the  latest technology to get started or accelerate your efforts to find, organize, preserve, and share your family's connections and history.

New in 2013! A full track of Getting Started classes and labs will help those new to family history learn where to start, how to build their family tree, and how to use technology to explore their connections. Learn more.

Register NOW and Save $70 with Early-bird Pricing!

Registration Options

Full 3-Day Pass
Access to everything RootsTech has to offer (250+ classes).        
$219 $149 (Early-bird Pricing)
One-day Pass
Full admission for just one day.
Student 3-Day Pass
Student ID required.
NEW! Getting Started 3-Day Pass
Beginner track with access to over 30 classes.
$49 $39 (Early-bird Pricing)
Getting Started One-Day Pass
A selection of fundamental classes to help get you started.
Developer Day Pass (March 22)
A full-day technology program just for developers. 

Learn more and register at

RootsTech has something for everyone, whether you are an avid genealogist, just getting started, or simply want to discover the latest technologies and solutions to better connect with your family. At RootsTech, come prepared to experience world-class content from speakers all over the country, an exciting exhibitor hall, and great keynote speakers.