Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ancestry.com Revamping Website

Last Wednesday I published an announcement from Ancestry.com saying that they are undertaking a groundbreaking initiative to improve their website. The site will have a fresh, new user interface. According to Ancestry.com,

You’ll find a simplified site that’s easier to use and puts the focus on what’s most important— your family story. And it’s been designed to work well on your tablet and smart phone so you can enjoy Ancestry no matter where you are.

Ancestry.com's new LifeStory is coming soonLifeStory is a dramatic addition to Member Tree person pages. It seems to have replaced *Story View. A header sits at the top with name, portrait, and life span (see number 1 in the screen capture to the right). The page is organized in chronological order, with a timeline running down the left of the page (number 2). Beneath the header is a short narrative of the vital events of the person’s life (number 3). Such narratives are pooh-poohed by genealogists as cookie cutter. The two I checked both suffer from run-on sentences. Beneath the narrative is a succinct pedigree (which I forgot to number). Beneath that is a map marking the locations of the person’s vital events (number 4).

Each fact from the old fact page (which is still available by clicking a link in the header) is displayed with white background in its proper chronology (number 5). Optionally, LifeStory can display vital events from the person’s immediate family. I like that, but it can be turned off.

LifeStory displays possibly pertinent historical events (number 6). These Historical Insights are presented as hints and can be reviewed and accepted, or ignored and hidden. I saw several while poking about. There was an extremely bad blizzard that affected Utah which I didn’t know about. Nor was I aware of the Yankee-Pennamite War that may have affected my ancestors living in Little Britain, Pennsylvania. Click Review and LifeStory displays a bunch of additional information about the event, including paintings, photographs, and documents. I assume this is the same information available via the Ancestry Mobile App. (See “Ancestry.com Releases Historical Insights.”)

LifeStory displays attached media files at their respective dates in the timeline. (I didn’t show an example in the screen capture.)

The new website design includes an enhanced message center. It looks nice. In my first experience, I didn’t find a way to drag and drop messages into folders like I could in the old design. Here’s my wish list for the message center: I’d like to be able to forward a message to another Ancestry.com user. My family shares an Ancestry.com Member Tree, but it is in my name. I receive all the messages about persons in the tree, even if it is a sibling working that part of our ancestry. Ancestry.com provides no easy way to forward messages so that my sibling can respond directly to the message. I also wish I could forward a message to a regular email address, perhaps by launching the message in my regular email program.

Ancestry.com indicated that one of the improvements coming in this initiative is a new media gallery. I was under the impression that it was already present, but I was unable to locate it. This is sorely needed. I have nearly 1,500 media files on Ancestry.com. Some were uploaded in bulk and aren’t attached to anyone. I need to find those and link them. The media gallery needs to allow me to sort the photos and stories in different ways: title, place, date, name of one of the attached persons, upload date, or filename. It would also be nice to have an every field search. Ancestry.com, I hope you’re listening.

Come by the Ancestry.com booth at the RootsTech Expo Hall to see the new website design in action. And to be considered to participate in the beta, visit http://home.ancestry.com/beta.

Speaking of Ancestry.com listening, they issued an appeal to RootsTech attendees, concluding with an e-mail address for those not attending:

Ancestry depends on user input to help mold the future generation of [our] offerings. A range of opportunities are being planned here at RootsTech for participants to share their impressions of upcoming Ancestry features across multiple products.  These will include both focus groups and individual interviews during the conference.

[We] are looking for subscribers of all levels of expertise, membership tenure, and tree size. To be considered, please fill out the following online questionnaire and members of Ancestry’s User Research team will reach out to you for scheduling. Incentives will include a 6 month subscription extension to your membership, or a $50 Amazon gift card for an hour of your time. Research sessions will take place Thursday through Saturday in the Hilton across from the conference center.

Please access the [questionnaire] here: http://ancestry.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3lv4vGiz9N9Qh1P

Please reach out to Ancestry directly if you have any concerns: User-Research@ancestry.com

RootsTech is upon us. See you there!


  1. This survey is now closed. Thank you anyway! If you would like to participate in future customer research initiatives (and have not done so in the past), please reach out to User-Research@ancestry.com.

  2. They picked a poor tree-person example; the photo could not be of someone who died in 1860. 1960, maybe.

    They also persist in dumbly omitting County names.

    Can this small-device-oriented new scheme be compactly and attractively printed? Edited for printing? Exported for printing as PDF or word-processing file?

    1. I have pictures of my ancestors taken before 1860 in 1853 as Dagarotypes. Photography started in 1839. Many pictures were taken during the Civil War. Tin Types were the next version of Photography. The Time Life series of books on Photography are available in many libraries, and very interesting in the development of Color photography starting in 1909 long before Kodachrome in 1935.

    2. It wasn't them, it was me. The person is fictional. Cartoon characters, such as myself, tend to have fictional ancestors.

  3. http://home.ancestry.com/beta Doesn't work at me.
    It opens but doesn't react.

  4. I would be so much more impressed if they would use the same money to hire native speakers to do their indexing so I wouldn't have to use FamilySearch to find my ancestors in the Census records. Showing events my ancestors MIGHT have participated in only uses more bandwidth and will muck up too many already incorrect trees with more inaccurate detail. Time to look at MyHeritage again.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.