Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Consolidates Find-a-Grave Collections

The Ancestry Insider's Monday Mailbox

My comment recently about software designers and genealogical correctness resonated with reader BUWTBlog.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

[You wrote:] "These are trivialities but I bring them up because they show that software designers at and FamilySearch often don’t do genealogy themselves and sometimes don’t consult with genealogists as they implement their products."

I've actually had Ancestry employees try to convince me otherwise when I've stated something similar on their Facebook page. I'm pleasantly surprised that they've come up with something useful.

A friend posted a link to this and right below it another friend was complaining because Ancestry has consolidated the Find A Grave indices (previously they were indexed by state) and all her detailed citations are gone. Another friend said her citations were intact. I haven't checked my tree yet but if I have to reconnect all those F. A. G. citations they are going to have one ticked off customer on their hands :-P


Dear BUWTBlog,

When I was a software engineer at, I posted my pedigree chart on my cubicle wall. It was during March Madness and one of the engineering managers walked up to it and said, “Who did you pick for the Final Four?” I thought turnabout was fair play so I took a blank bracket form, filling in Tim Sullivan’s pedigree. I gave it to him with a message to the effect of, “You are the champion of your genealogy.”

Almost worse than those who do no genealogy at all are those who dabble a little, never crossing the chasm. (See “The Chasm.”) That leaves them with the mistaken impression that genealogy is always easy.

In fairness to software designers (including engineers and product managers), I meet some who do more genealogy than I do. In fairness to software engineers at FamilySearch, I have it on good authority that they have requested, and are preparing, genealogical training. I hope they all avail themselves of the opportunity.

Now, let me get to the original comment I sat down to write: Find-a-Grave links.

I tried one of the links I have to a Find-a-Grave record. Even though the collection (“Web: Utah, Find A Grave Index, 1847-2012”) has been removed from the catalog, the citation and URL to the record continue to work. I know from past experience that does its best to maintain old URLs. Sometimes contractual relationships make that impossible, but they do what they can.

This is an example of why sometimes a good citation includes a link to the record rather than just the collection or the home page. record URLs can be exceedingly long; shorten them by saving the record to your shoebox and then using the URL stored there.

---The Ancestry Insider


  1. Another thing about the combination of the indexes (which I think is a horrible idea, below) is that the hint engine gives state specific records, searches only show the USA index. I end up attaching the two records for the same event, state specific just to get rid of the 'hint' and the USA record because I know all the state specific indexes are going to disappear sometime. Similar to another collection that was relocated and references to the original location show up as "Unknown in any language".

    Now to my rant. I work by collections only, I know what I'm looking for and I go to the right collection to find it. If someone died in New York, that is the Find A Grave collection I'd go to. Most times if there was an entry it would float up toward the top of the results. Now you get the "Here's 10,000 results! Go to it!" problem and have to narrow down the search terms, and not just by the state, you have to adjust the names etc (Exact matches etc) to get a meaningful result of 50 or less records to scan.

    Another rant now that I'm taking the time to rant. Has anybody noticed that Ancestry does not add the bare minimum of 'Text from source' into the citations that they used to, anymore? That disappeared when they forced us over to the new 'Attach a Record' format. Means that every time I attach a record I have to go and edit the citation to add all the information that was just displayed to me from the record. Think the private owners are trying to save on data storage space!

    Tom Vought

  2. We whole heartedly agree with your assessment of FamilySearch engineers needing more genealogical training. In fact, many departments besides engineers, like messaging, need more training. I must say they have come a long way since the early days of new FamilySearch, having been a missionary in the SLC FH Library the past 8 years, now retired. We used to laugh and scratch our heads at how things were put together on nFS, and after complaints from us, Feedback was added and things improved. Then Get Satisfaction and Yammer were added, social media sites where more complaints and suggestions were made, and things improved. And now we are advising and suggesting to FamilySearch through a website - And hopefully things, including messaging from their media, will improve. It's an on-going process.

  3. I just went into Find A Grave and discovered that it NOW won't let me printout the index page for the area I am searching nor print out the photo of the grave which is posted on the site. Only recently I was able to do so. I HATE all these new changes that are so frustrating to us older folks.

  4. First rule of FindaGrave you will not speak about FindaGrave! I'm still waiting for ancesty to do the too most shocking things to FindaGrave. Fist place an add this to your ancestry tree like they do on Fold3 and Second they stat to actually display the tombstone pictures on people's trees. I suspect the combination of the indexes is a step in that direction.

    1. Gravestone photos often have copyright restrictions. has had past problems with copyrighted material that they distributed without permission, so hopefully is a bit cautious on this point.

    2. That is another thing I forgot to rant about. The new US Find A Grave index displays the stone photo when you pull up the record for review. That is only going to encourage more Ancestry users to attach someone else's copyrighted photo without asking permission.

  5. I wish someone would make it easy for those who do not care about their "copyright" to a photo of a gravestone to simply indicate that they waive it. I assume most people would not even be taking pictures on Find-a-Grave unless just wanted to help other people, well, FIND a grave--to see it for themselves. The photographs are rarely artistic masterpieces. In most cases what you see is a snapshot of a grave. Big deal. Who needs a copyright?

    I think it should be an automatic "opt out" on copyright unless you clearly indicate that you care about it.


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