Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Getting the Most From Ancestry.com - #BYUFHGC

Michelle ErcanbrackIt’s said—usually jokingly—that genealogy conference organizers often schedule the most popular speakers and topics for the last session of the conference. It keeps people at the conference until the very, very end. Serious or not, it was certainly the case for the Ancestry.com session at the end of the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Attendees packed in to hear Michelle Ercanbrack address the topic, “Getting the Most From Ancestry.com.” Ercanbrack has been a family historian for Ancestry.com since 2010. She has helped with several celebrity connection projects, like Kate Middleton’s connection to Jane Austen, and the NBC TV show Who Do You Think You Are? She has a degree in family history and genealogy from BYU.

The conference would have benefitted from more sessions about Ancestry.com. Unlike FamilySearch, who had one or more employees presenting each class hour, Ercanbrack’s was one of only three presentations from Ancestry.com. (I wasn’t able to make it to the like-branded sessions, “Getting the Most From Family Tree Maker” and “Getting the Most from AncestryDNA.”) Ercanbrack started by asking how many attendees had recently acquired a subscription to Ancestry.com. A thick sea of hands grew out of the crowd, attesting to the demand for information. Had I known there would be no other sessions, I would have volunteered to teach a few. I love Ancestry.com. It’s where I keep “my tree.” More precisely, it is where my siblings and I keep “our tree.” It is a large and powerful website to try and introduce in one short hour.

Ancestry.com is the world’s largest online family history resource, said Ercanbrack. She clarified that FamilySearch’s microfilm collection was not all online, but Ancestry.com’s 14 billion digitized, indexed, and published online records makes it the largest online family history resource. She added that Ancestry.com has ten times as many records as FamilySearch. That’s not quite true. In announcing the publication of a billion images, FamilySearch also claimed publishing 3.2 billion indexed records. Still, that makes Ancestry.com over four times larger than FamilySearch.org. In my mind, Ancestry.com is, without question, the largest online family history resource.

I shouldn’t keep comparing the two—they are apples and oranges—but while FamilySearch recently announced publishing one billion record images, Ancestry.com’s recently retired Old Search catalog reported that they had just 600 million images. That means FamilySearch has (or had) a commanding lead in the number of published images. Okay, I’m done comparing the two.

Hmmm. Just one more? Many people are surprised to learn that Ancestry.com has 1,400 global employees, said Ercanbrack. Just one day earlier, David Rencher reported that FamilySearch has less than 1,000 employees. Most interesting. Okay. Now I’m really done. Ercanbrack also said that Ancestry.com has 60 million online trees with six billion ancestor profiles. I heard a FamilySearch presenter claim one billion people in Family Tree. (Ratatouille! Sorry. Apples and oranges.)

After introducing the company, Ercanbrack presented three major areas of the Ancestry.com website: trees, search, and DNA.

Stay tuned…


  1. Can anyone explain to me how documents I put on ancestry.com become part of their data base? I'm beyond shocked when I get a shaky leaf for something and find it's the transcribed information from my document that I have scanned and up loaded. It's fair enough that I have to pay for census and other public documents but when my own personal documents are gleaned for information and then put as a hint for me or someone else, that's dirty pool. I'm paying for my own document that I allowed you to host on your web site and make available to strangers. I have seen some hints given for someone I made a speculation person/relationship for. It's bad enough when people add ancestors to their tree without doing any research but when ancestry does it, it makes my blood boil. Those made up data bases from "gathered information" are a terrible disservice. I wish you would stop doing that. I see that it makes your document count higher. I wouldn't be proud of 10 citations that I made up out of thin air. Using the information other people put on line, combining all of it and spewing it back out is not a document.

    The ancestry family trees are becoming worthless. I used to occasionally find a document or some kind of information to help me research but anymore it's all hearsay given as fact. There are trees with absolutely no citation at all, simply copied from another tree including impossible people and relationships. Ancestry.com has made it all possible. Congratulations. You're setting genealogy back 20 years rather than advancing it. I hope DNA becomes the norm. Those trees will go away and the enabling web site will go with them.

    I recently added photos at findagrave for a private family cemetery and next thing I knew they were on ancestry.com with credit to a cemetery index. Impossible! That is the last grave photo I will add to findagrave. I'm done there.

  2. I've had the same experience with photos and document images. Rather than accept the hint, which would maintain my status as original contributor, they go to the extra trouble of downloading the image and re-uploading it. That results in Ancestry.com listed as contributor.

    That's selfish and dishonest.

  3. I am extremely upset to hear that ancestry is stealing MY research and presenting it as their own. I recently made a weeklong trip to the Netherlands to research & gather documents & pictures. I have 600 plus documents to translate & transcribe. I had planned to post these on my tree for the majority of amateur genealogist & researchers who cannot afford such a trip. The documents & pictures on my family trees belongs to me. I am happy to share with other researchers with the caveat that I am the source of the information. ancestry.com charges me hundreds of dollars to be a member. How can they think the documents & pictures that I have personally researched belongs to them. If they presented it as belonging to me, with my permission, it might be acceptable. I am happy to share my information with fellow researchers who cannot afford a weeklong trip to the Netherlands to gather documents. But I resent ancestry.com STEALING MY RESEARCH and presenting it as their own. The very least they could do is offer FREE access, and recognition as the source, to people who are posting official documents & photos. It takes a long time to translate & transcribe these Dutch documents written in the 1600-1700's. I won't be posting anymore that's for sure. Sorry fellow researchers. If there were a way to share it with you and maintain that I am the source, I would happily do so.

  4. It would have been interesting to hear the “Getting the Most from AncestryDNA” presentation. Were they honest enough to admit that your have NO MATCH unless you can compare the chromosome string, find the common ancestor, and triangulate an overlapping string with a 3rd documented tree? Probably not since they don't offer those tools. I certainly hope people pointed this out in the meeting.

  5. I notice that Ancestry has had no comment on their thievery of peoples information. I cannot remember EVER giving them permission to use any of the information that I have put on the internet over the years. I no longer put ANY of my stuff on the internet, and if Heritage starts giving my information to Ancestry (since I understand that they have merged) I will think seriously about contacting my cousin the lawyer. In fact I work for a District Court System and there are quite a number of attorneys that would probably jump on filing a lawsuit against them.

  6. Just an addendum, I had planned to subscribe to several sites upon my retire that is coming this year. However, unless they will give me a written statement that the information I use on their sites will NOT become part of Ancestry, I will just keep doing everything on paper.

  7. I constantly check and recheck any hints that ancestry.com gives me with family records and documents. As well as information from libraries around my hometown


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