Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Mailbox: What is Going On Here? historic person marketing pageDear Ancestry Insider,

Recently, when I performed a Google search for family names, links appeared which lead to the person in "Historical Person Search" results like the example to the right.

So far, I have NOT been able to

  • see the actual source of this information (which is often incorrect)
  • go to the source
  • go to the member tree that might be the source

HOW ARE THESE "Historical" records generated??????

AND NOTE  the suggestion in the section titled “Ready to Discover Your Family Story” inviting me to start with my own name, from which they will find my tree for me. 

Given that LIVING people are supposed to be "PRIVATE" what is going on here?

Jean F Milne

Dear Jean,

Have you noticed in Google that when you type in a person’s name sometimes you get links to a bunch of websites giving you a little bit of information about the person and offering to sell you more? Maybe even perform criminal background check? For example, among the Google search results for [william george pentland] are those from,,, and Well, I think that realized that they could attract more people to their website if they did the same thing. They have built pages like the one you saw and let Google index them. The page contains sells information about the features that might attract new users. indicates the source for your example is “10 records, 10 photos and 28,051 family trees.” The vital information and relatives are synthesized from the 28,051 family trees. If you’ve viewed shaky leaf hints from family trees, you’ve seen these synthesized records. Combining records of William from 28,051 family trees is too much work for a human; they must use machine algorithms. And machines frequently make mistakes. The ten records are the results of searching their historical record collections and are shown in the section titled “Top Record Matches For…” The ten photos are similarly the results of a search of their photo collections, which seem to be dominated by those submitted by users.

As for the “Ready to Discover Your Family Story” section, I assume is using their standard tree building engagement process. It starts engaging you by prompting you to add information about yourself. Next it engages you a little more by asking for information about a parent and then a grandparent. With each piece of information supplied you are more engaged and more likely to continue the process. At some point you are prompted to supply an email address so you can save your results. Without hardly thinking about it, you have an user account and member tree. Now you are almost fully engaged. teases you with record results you can partially see. For just a little money you can see the full records and add the information to your tree.

Some people see an invitation to search for an ancestor rather than starting with themselves.Like any good company, tests alternatives to see what provides the most engagement. For example, in your example some people see an invitation to search for an ancestor rather than starting with themselves. It’s possible that may have given me this alternative because it knows that I already frequent genealogy websites.

I’m pretty sure uses the same rules for privacy on this page that it does anywhere else. That’s why you are led to create enough of a tree to get you back to generations for which has records. Living individuals in trees are kept private.

Katy Perry by Joella Marano
Katy Perry
Photo by Joella Marano.
Used under license, unchanged.

You probably already know this, but the notion that all living individuals are kept private anywhere on (and FamilySearch, for that matter) is false. Many entities, government and otherwise, legally release information about living individuals and that information often shows up online.

The Ancestry Insider

1 comment:

  1. does this happen if you are using ?


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