Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com. 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 Ancestry.com 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!

Pam

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. Ancestry.com 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 “Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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

2 comments:

  1. I would love to be able to compare the results on the Library edition and Home edition, but when researching in the UK National Archives and using their own Wifi, I can only access their own Library edition and not my own. I find this rather annoying as I cannot see my own Ancestry trees. I have to use their Wifi as there is no mobile phone signal either! I find this rather annoying and wonder if there's a way around it.

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  2. My home edition does not work when I use my library wifi to access Ancestry. I too would love to know whether there is a way around this as I need to access my tree. I don't have wifi at home so have to go to a cafe rather than the library if I want to use Ancestry. This applies whether I log on via Ancestry.co.uk or Ancestry.com.

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