Thursday, February 6, 2014

#RootsTech Ancestry.com Blogger Breakfast

The Ancestry.com Leaf LogoWhile the FamilySearch dinner was a huge affair, Ancestry.com kept their blogger meeting very intimate. Just a few of us gathered around a breakfast table. That gave us an opportunity to ask some questions and give some feedback. It was pretty low key. Three people from Ancestry.com hosted: Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com president and CEO; Eric Shoup, executive vice president of product; and Heather Erickson, senior director of corporate communications.

Ancestry.com has an embarrassment of riches. They have so many records, it’s amazing. Tim talked a little about the content sharing agreement with FamilySearch. He said they have pitched the idea for many years and are happy to see it come to pass. Ancestry.com is not very concerned with FindMyPast and MyHeritage also getting copies of the data. He said it is great what FMP and MH are doing. Because of the amount of data Ancestry.com holds exclusively, FMP and MH are not affecting Ancestry.com’s growth. I think it shows just how big the market is. Heather added that as part of the FamilySearch agreement, Ancestry.com will be publishing a billion records from the FamilySearch vault. My notes are unclear—and my memory’s even worse, but I think she said Ancestry.com will have that content exclusive of FindMyPast and MyHeritage. Tim was also excited with a joint project with FamilySearch to index and publish millions of records from Mexico. And they are excited about the probate project announced at RootsTech last year.

Ancestry.com has Mexico and Germany high and their list for market expansion. Tim made the point that before you can start marketing, you must first have the site features and the content.

Following up on one of Don Anderson’s comments at the FamilySearch dinner, I asked about integration between Ancestry.com member trees and the FamilySearch Family Tree. Eric said that the integration will allow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to transfer information between their Ancestry.com tree and the FamilySearch tree. Tim said that for some of this, Ancestry.com will simply pop up a window from FamilySearch. Eric said that Family Tree Maker would eventually support the same integration, but he had no dates for either project.

Tim said that Ancestry.com has thought about implementing a single-tree like FamilySearch uses for New FamilySearch and for Family Tree. They’ve decided that the data model is too problematic. Of course, they have some actual experience with One World Tree (OWT), which has quietly disappeared. Frankly, they could have done it loudly and no one would have cared, except maybe to applaud. The challenge, Tim said, is to build something that exists under the covers that aggregates in some fashion member trees. It would be a dynamic model in which they didn’t do any merging in a permanent way. By “under the covers” I assume that means it wouldn’t be exposed to users. If they can make that work, it could be a great dataset to marry with their DNA data. And it could be used to calculate relationships between you and famous people. (“Did you know you are related to President Obama? You are the third cousin seven times removed to the spouse of his second cousin, six times removed!” OK. That doesn’t sound as cool as it did in my head.)

Tim said that integrating DNA results into the main search experience is a big area of focus, but won’t be ready in 2014.

There was a lot of discussion about degree of confidence and the challenge of measuring the quality of a tree. Ancestry.com is in the early stages of a pilot on education and site training to the masses at scale. He differentiated between training, which is focused at site usage, and education, which is designed to help people learn how to do genealogy.

It was a great, productive meeting. Thank you, Ancestry.com.

4 comments:

  1. Dear Insider,
    Could you please also ask if Ancestry.com knows when the French CNIL will relent and allow them and Family Search to have French records available for research again? Those records disappeared from Family Search a while back and have not been available ever since. I would really appreciate, if you could ask the question and discuss it on your blog eventually. I am sure many of us do research about our French ancestors and wish to know what has transpired between FS, Ancestry and the CNIL. I had to drop my subscription to Ancestry World, because the few items I was able to find really didn't justify the price I had to pay. I would be glad to renew, if I knew what was going to happen.
    Thank you and have fun at the conference!

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  2. When this happens I will be cutting the sync between my on line tree and my computer program. I will also delete my tree the very first time I see any edit that I did not make. I do not want people off the street editing my tree. The trees for my family at familysearch are only a jumble of people with the same name. Some have nothing to do with each other, some are married to their mother or brother. I would never use a familysearch tree for anything other than a hint for a name to do my own research.

    "I asked about integration between Ancestry.com member trees and the FamilySearch Family Tree. Eric said that the integration will allow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to transfer information between their Ancestry.com tree and the FamilySearch tree"

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  3. Please do what you can to discourage Ancestry for wasting any time or resources trying to build a "mega tree." This just doesn't work -- no matter whether they call it One World Tree (eeeekk!) or some new name.

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  4. Sounds like you guys have a case of "my-tree-itus" as the familysearch presenter yesterday called it. Not sure why everyone is so against having one tree. Familysearch works great for me. I'm "following" all of my ancestors that I've contributed information to or are concerned about being changed, and I get an email if anything is edited. I've had a couple who I've had to correct, but it is easy to undo changes and add your sources to support it. And having one tree makes it so much easier to work with relatives around the world. I'm excited for the messaging feature to be added to help us collaborate even more.

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