Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ancestry.com Changes Privacy Agreement

Ancestry.com announced changes to its privacy agreement last Friday, 27 June 2015.

The changes expand the agreement to Ancestry Academy. It looks like Ancestry also offers or will offer Newspapers.com to other companies as a cobranded “powered by” website. The new privacy agreement applies to those websites as well.

The changes allow Ancestry to make you go to each of its websites to opt out of promotional email.

By using any of Ancestry’s family of websites, you consent to let users share your family history information with users of any of Ancestry’s websites, including fold3.com, newspapers.com, findagrave.com, archives.com, and any other website on which Ancestry provides a link to this privacy policy page. Does that means stuff on Find A Grave can be shared with users of Ancestry.com?

You consent to allow Ancestry to monitor, collect, and share with other users information about your activities on their websites, such as the courses you’ve taken on Ancestry Academy.

Ancestry reminds users that it publishes legally available personal information on records about you. Such records include census, birth, marriage, and death records. I know there are other sources of information, such as some state driver license registrations. It will consider removal of your information from its indexes on a case by case basis. I think that removal of your name from images is another matter. It would be pretty expensive to blot out your name on a census, for example. They also can’t remove your name from the original records, as those are controlled by state governments or other information owners. Before publishing such records, they redact sensitive information. They don’t mention what they consider to be sensitive, but I imagine it is information like social security numbers.

While Ancestry will generally send marketing information to you by email, you consent to contact by direct mail or even by telephone. These include promotional offers by both Ancestry and third parties. You can easily opt out of the emails, but I think to opt out of telephone solicitations you’ll need to contact Ancestry.

Ancestry and various websites show Ancestry advertisements. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the ads shown to you based upon your demographics. This includes year of birth, geographic area, and gender. Gender information is useful because males and females have different buying patterns. I know that companies can purchase other demographic data, such as your household income based on your address. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the Ancestry ads shown to you, not just on Ancestry’s websites, but other websites as well. Those Ancestry ads you’re seeing on other websites? The agreement allows Ancestry to customize them just for you, perhaps according to which subscription you own, if any, or whether or not you’ve purchased a DNA test. However, Ancestry is not disclosing individualized, personal information about you to other advertisers.

Personally, I would rather have specialized ads designed to match my interests than to get random ads I’m not interested in. But if you don’t want specialized ads, you can opt out by visiting a link to truste.com that is provided in the agreement. You won’t find Ancestry listed on the page on truste.com. I think it lists ad networks that show specialized ads, not the advertising companies. I suppose you’ll need to opt out of all the companies listed. You’ll need to go through the process on each browser and each device that you use. If you delete the cookies for a browser, you will have to make your election again. And I think your election applies to all specialized ads, not just Ancestry’s. Ancestry doesn’t say so in the agreement, but on another webpage states that there is a second webpage you must visit to opt out of additional specialized Ancestry ads. Note that opting out of specialized ads doesn’t stop all advertisements from Ancestry. You’ll still receive generic ads.

Ancestry also monitors what websites you visited immediately prior to visiting one of the Ancestry websites. They track the MAC of your network hardware, “your computer type, screen resolution, operating system version and Internet browser.” They track your device type and IP address.

You agree to let Ancestry disclose your personal information if it is necessary to preserve Ancestry’s reputation.

If Ancestry sells part or all of its business, it will sell your personal information along with it. If Ancestry goes bankrupt, your private information can be sold off as one of the assets used to raise money to pay off its debts. In that case, the agreement doesn’t specify that your personal information will remain protected to the degree outlined in this agreement.

Some features of the Ancestry website are provided by other companies and governed by the other companies’ privacy policies. I don’t know if Ancestry discloses all of them, so some things you do on Ancestry websites may have unforeseen privacy consequences. Ancestry calls out logging in via your Facebook password or clicking the Facebook “Like” icon as examples. Entering Ancestry contests or surveys are subject to different privacy policies. Before participating, you may wish to check the terms.

Ancestry allows you to control the disclosure of some of your information. It provides webpages to do so. See section 4 of the agreement for links to the pages on its various websites.

If you contribute information (such as a public member tree or a photograph) and other users copy it, and you later delete it, Ancestry will not ferret out all the copies other users have made and delete the copies. However, they delete the attribution formerly given to you.

If someone has violated your privacy rights, you can contact Ancestry to have the matter resolved. Ancestry “will only implement such requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address that you use to send us your request.”

If you were an Ancestry website user prior to 26 June 2015, then the changes don’t become effective until 26 July 2015. If you decide you don’t like the new policy, you can choose to discontinue your account. To see the privacy statement yourself, visit http://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/privacystatement.

Monday, June 29, 2015

RootsTech Attendee Demographics

RootsTech 2016 - Celebrating Families across GenerationsRootsTech (hosted by FamilySearch) recently released some interesting demographics about 2015 RootsTech conference and Innovator Summit attendees.

  RootsTech Attendees Innovator Summit Attendees
States 49 39
Countries 39 11
Family history beginner 37% 21%
Family history intermediate 46% 46%
Family history advanced, expert, or professional 17% 33%
Technology beginner 19% 7%
Technology intermediate 59% 28%
Technology advanced, expert, or developer 22% 65%
Female 66% 34%
Male 34% 66%
18-35 10% 23%
36-45 15% 26%
46-55 18% 22%
56-65 28% 21%
Over 65 29% 8%

Some interesting things to notice:

  • Percentages for male and female are completely reversed between RootsTech and Innovator Summit.
  • The average Innovator Summit attendee considered himself to be a better genealogist than what the average RootsTech attendee considered herself. That would be an interesting self appraisal to validate. Most of the technology I see produced for genealogy is designed for pre-chasm research. There’s the possibility that Innovator Summit attendees haven’t done much post-chasm research or aren’t even aware the chasm exists. Or the explanation could be much more obvious and less ominous: RootsTech offers a beginners’ track and the Innovator Summit doesn’t. (For more information about the chasm, see “The Chasm.”)
  • To put the shoe on the other foot, when it came to technology, 22% of RootsTech attendees considered themselves advanced or developer. Since I doubt one in five RootsTech attendees are familiar with C#, Java, JavaScript, JSON, jQuery, XML, and AJAX, “advanced” must mean something different to a RootsTech attendee than it does to an Innovator Summit attendee. I guess some rows in the above table are comparing apples and oranges.
  • Innovator Summit attendee ages were evenly split between the four age groups from 18 to 65. Over half of the RootsTech attendees were over 55.

RootsTech 2016 will be held the 3rd through the 6th of February, 2016. RootsTech is always held in Salt Lake City and will be held again at the Salt Palace Convention Center. I’ve not seen any word on when registration will open, but the class schedule will be announced mid September. The deadline for presentation proposals is tomorrow, 30 June 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FamilySearch Announces Project to Index Freedmen Records

A marriage certificate from the records of the Freedmen's BureauFriday, on the 150th Juneteenth day, FamilySearch announced the Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project. The project is a collaborative effort with FamilySearch and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. The project will index an estimated 4 million names from 1.5 million digitized images of records from the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help freed slaves transition to citizenship.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke of the importance of the project. Elder Christofferson is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of FamilySearch sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fourteen years ago he announced the completion of the indexing of the Freedman’s Bank records.

“One of our key beliefs is that our families can be linked forever and that knowing the sacrifices, the joys and the paths our ancestors trod helps us to know who we are and what we can accomplish,” he said. “I witnessed the healing and joy African Americans experienced as they discovered their ancestors for the first time in those records."

Thom Reed, FamilySearch marketing manager said, "We’re calling for volunteers, specifically those that have ties to these records, the African American community, to get involved with this to help us break down this brick wall to help us overcome these barriers in genealogical research and making these family connections."

I was especially impressed with the remarks of Jannah Scott, deputy director for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “This is rich,” she said. “This is about all of us. I know the records are about the 4 million African Americans that were freed, but at that time there were people from all races, all religions, all ethnicities who were heralding the call for a new America, an America that would hold the promise of us being a perfect union, an America that would hold the promise that all men are created equal.”

Some images of the records are already available on the FamilySearch website. View the list of U.S. collections and enter “Freedmen” in the “Filter by collection name.”

For more information on the indexing project, visit discoverfreedmen.org. You can view a recording of the news conference on YouTube.

Jannah Scott speaks at the Freemen's Bureau Indexing Project news conference. Click to watch on YouTube.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Global Family Reunion

The Global Family ReunionNearly 4,000 people showed up at the Global Family Reunion in New York City on 6 June 2015. Thousands attended the associated block party at the Salt Lake City Family History Library. (See “Salt Lake City Joins Global Family Reunion, Celebrating Family History” in the Deseret News.) Recordings of several presentations at the Reunion are now available online:

  • Gallery Session 1:
    Bennett Greenspan (“DNA and You”),
    Ron Arons (31:32 – “Black Sheep”)
  • Gallery Session 2:
    Gilad Japhet (“Amazing Family Tales”),
    Pamela Weisberger (29:00 – “Family, Scandals & Secrets”),
    Josh Taylor (1:00:00 – “Hollywood & Family”)
  • Gallery Session 3:
    CeCe Moore (“Power of DNA”)
    Pamela Weisberger & Jordan Auslander (32:35 – Game Show Quiz – extensive technical difficulties)
  • Gallery Session 4:
    Maud Newton (“The Ancestry Craze”)
    Sister Sledge (36:10 – “World, Rise and Shine”)
    Sister Sledge (40:44 - “We Are Family”)
    Sister Sledge at the Global Family Reunion
    Randy Whited (1:24:53 “The Future is Now”)
  • Gallery Session 5:
    Maureen Taylor (1:39 - “Photo Detective”)
    David Rencher (25:45 - “Connecting Families”)
    A.J. Jacos and David Rencher at the Global Family Reunion
    Eric Schoenberg (57:30 - “Family Business”)
    Niels Hansen (1:14:18 - “The Global Chart”)
    Kasia Bryc (1:28:45 - “Ask Your DNA”)
  • Gallery Session 6:
    Wesley Eames (9:23 - “Genealogy & Tech”)

Two other tracks of entertainment and pop presentations are available. See the schedule and the videos.

The main stage at the Global Family Reunion

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy

BYU Conference on Family History and GenealogyI’m honored to be an official conference blogger for this year’s conference on Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University. The conference is scheduled for the 28th to 31st of July 2015.

Topics scheduled for this year include:

  • ICAPGen Accreditation
  • Beginner Skills
  • Methodology
  • U.S./Canada Research
  • German Research
  • Online Research
  • Writing/Publishing Family History
  • FamilySearch
  • DNA Research
  • U.K Research
  • Military Records

For more information, visit http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen.

BYU myFamily History Youth CampConcurrent with this year’s conference is a new youth camp: myFamily History Youth Camp. The camp is designed for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, age 14-18. The goal of the camp is that “each youth who attends this camp will leave with enough knowledge and ability in family history research to become a ward family history consultant, able to pass on his or her knowledge and excitement about family history work to other ward members, family and friends.” The camp includes a joint dance with another popular BYU youth camp: Especially for Youth. Attendees will attend the keynote sessions of the adult conference: Elder Gerald N. Lund of the Church, Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch, Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems., and movie producer, T.C. Christensen. Participants will take several field trips, including one to the Salt Lake City Family History Library. The schedule includes plenty of hands-on lab time. Participants can stay on-campus or arrange for their own housing. For more information, visit http://ce.byu.edu/cw/myFamily.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ancestry.com News Ketchup for 10 June 2015

Ancestry.com Leaf logoAncestry Insider KetchupI have no time. I’m way behind on Ancestry.com articles. Time to ketchup…

Bullet Ancestry.com

Ancestry has posted vital records from the state of Virginia. See “Virginia Vital Records Are Here!” on the Ancestry Blog. FamilySearch’s Dennis Brimhall announced at RootsTech that FamilySearch had partnered with Ancestry to do Virginia vital records. See my article, “RootsTech and FGS2015 Opening Session.”

Bullet Ancestry.comI noticed this week that Ancestry is a corporate partner of NAPHSIS, the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems. Ancestry made a presentation at the 2015 annual meeting in Pittsburgh last week. I heard it went really well.

Bullet Ancestry.comAncestry is testing a new website: AncestryHealth. The concept is to offer a free website to “trace health conditions along family lines and get customized information on risks and prevention.” The website is capable of printing reports for sharing with one’s doctor or family. If you already have an Ancestry Member Tree, it will automatically utilize a private copy of it. Otherwise, you can enter your family information. Then you can add health conditions that run in your family, as well as personal habits that affect health, such as smoking, diet, and exercise. The website presents  information from experts about the health concerns you’ve indicated and steps that can be taken to reduce your risks.

Bullet Ancestry.comAncestryDNA is now available in Australia and New Zealand. With expanding coverage in the United Kingdom and Ireland, AncestryDNA can become a powerful tool for those in Australia and New Zealand with British and Irish ancestry. See “AncestryDNA is Now Available in Australia and New Zealand” on the Ancestry Blog.

Bullet Ancestry.comIn a six minute video, AncestryDNA scientist Ross Curtis explains the science behind their ethnicity estimates. Learn why your results can look so different than a sibling’s. Watch the YouTube video, “Breaking Down the Science Behind AncestryDNA Ethnicity Results.”

I’m out of time!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

FamilySearch News Ketchup for 11 June 2015

FamilySearch tree logoAncestry Insider KetchupI have no time. I’m behind on FamilySearch articles. Time to ketchup…

FamilySearch tree bulletWhile my NGS conference coverage covered a lot of new and coming features of FamilySearch.org, they keep churning out new stuff and announcing others. See “Coming Soon to FamilySearch.org—May, 2015” and “What’s New on FamilySearch—June, 2015” on the FamilySearch Blog.

FamilySearch Tree Logo 30 widthFor several years NARA listed publications digitized and published by Ancestry.com and Fold3, but not those by FamilySearch. In a recent newsletter NARA pointed out that FamilySearch publications are now on the list. See “Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners” on the NARA website.

FamilySearch Tree Logo 30 width

At RootsTech I wanted to attend and report on the class about indexing obituaries. I wasn’t able to, but the video has now been posted on the lds.org website for stake indexing directors. See “Dying to Be Remembered.”

Ack! I’m out of time!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The New Ancestry.com Website

Facts tab of the person page of Ancestry.comAncestry has released its “new website.” The changes Ancestry is singling out are all on the person page of a member tree, although the rest of the site enjoys a new header and a new color scheme.

It’s not quite true, but it feels like Ancestry and FamilySearch are dancing around each other’s color schemes. It wasn’t long ago that FamilySearch adopted Ancestry Green as its logo color and moved from pastel website colors to black, white, and shades of gray. Now Ancestry has moved its website color from green to black and blue and shades of gray.

Like I said, the most significant advances to the new website are on the person page. The person page is organized into four tabs: LifeStory, Facts View, Gallery, and hints.

I’ve previously written about LifeStory. See “Ancestry.com Revamping Website.” LifeStory includes Historical Insights, which you can display or turn off. I gave the feature a positive review when it was launched on the Ancestry App back in December 2014. See “Ancestry.com Releases Historical Insights.”

The timeline in Facts View displays a timeline of facts in the left column and a list of sources in the middle column. (See the illustration, above.) Click on a fact and lines show which sources are attached to it. Click on a source and lines show which facts are associated with it (as shown in the illustration, above). Options allow display of family events, which I really love. On the old person page there has been a time or two when I have manually added births, marriages, and death facts of other family members. These help place on ancestor geographically in between their own vital events. They shed insight on motivations and what records might possibly have been created about an ancestor. Options allow display of alternate facts. The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) calls for accounting for and resolving conflicting evidence. FamilySearch doesn’t support alternative vitals in its tree; Ancestry now surfaces them.

I must be missing something when it comes to the media gallery. When I had heard that Ancestry was fixing the media gallery, I was excited because the old one was almost completely worthless. I couldn’t tag. I couldn’t sort by title, description, file date, event date, date of upload, name of person, attachment status (attached or not), tag, or media type. I couldn’t search by any of those criteria. I couldn’t filter by any of those criteria. I couldn’t display any of those criteria. I couldn’t vary thumbnail size or switch the detail mode. I couldn’t rearrange the photos. Like I say, almost completely worthless. Ancestry said that the new gallery was entirely new. With it you could “organize and sort your photos, videos, and historical records quickly and easily so you can explore and rediscover the lives of your ancestors in a whole new way.” It does none of those things.

For more information, see “Announcing the New Ancestry Website” on the Ancestry Blog.

UPDATE: Since writing the above article, Ancestry has issued a clarification notice about the new website. They say,

We also sincerely thank you for all your feedback. As we transition from the classic site to the new Ancestry over the next couple of months, we are still working on a few final missing features, as well as making continued improvements to new features based on your feedback.

The list of missing features explains why I didn’t find anything new in the new gallery. The advertised advancements are still coming.

For more information, see “New Ancestry: Feature Update” on the Ancestry Blog.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Darned Records: Volumes or Loose Papers

Not many of us get to see inside the record vault of a state’s vital records. A recent segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes gave a very brief glimpse into the vitals records vault of the state of Alabama.

Vital records vault of the Alabama Department of Public Health
Vital records vault of the Alabama Department of Public Health


High-density shelving in the Alabama Vital Records Office
High-density shelving in the Alabama Vital Records Office


Alabama death certificates from 1929
Alabama death certificates from 1929. I think certificate number 12046 is in “volume” 25.


Alabama death certificate “volumes” look like they have been disassembled and placed in boxes.
Death certificate “volumes” are boxes of loose papers.

What I found interesting—and odd—is that the boxes of loose death certificates are labeled as volumes. Were these previously bound into volumes and then subsequently separated? Does anybody out there know? Is this a common practice in other states?

These views inside the Alabama Department of Public Health are part of a news segment about the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. Living people who are accidentally added to the file go through heck trying to reestablish themselves as living individuals. The Federal government is more concerned about deceased individuals who are not included, as the government loses billions of dollars giving  benefits to deceased individuals./p>

Watch the entire segment, “Dead or Alive,” on the CBS News website.

Image Credits

Scott Pelley, “Dead or Alive,”  television segment, CBS News, 60 Minutes, 15 March 2015; archived video (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/dead-or-alive/ : accessed 30 May 2015), time codes 4:44–5:19. Time code shown in each image's lower-left corner.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Magic Kingdom: NGS 2016

The NGS 2016 Family History Conference will be help in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 4-7 May 2016.
With the dust barely settled on the 2015 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society, people are already starting to look towards the 2016 conference. My family members are all volunteering to come along! I think I've finally convinced them that genealogy is magical! (My spouse thinks its magical kingdoms three hours to the north: DisneyWorld and Hogwarts.)

Someone told me the main conference hotel was already sold out. I went to http://www.sunny.org/ngs/ (which is where you have to go to get conference rates) and found discounted rooms still available at all three hotels. But it is true that discounted rooms at NGS conference hotels do magically disappear.

For more information, see "Make plans to attend Ft. Lauderdale in 2016" on the NGS Conference blog.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FHL Sessions Available Online For Free

The FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City
Image credit: lds.org
The FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City is offering ten free, online lectures during June.

Thursday, 4 June, 7 pm Danish Research Strategies

Thursday, 11 June, 6 pm Beginning American Indian Research

Saturday, 13 June, 1 pm Hispanic Online Resources (in English)

Wednesday, 17 June, 11 am Preserving Our Slovak Roots in the 21st Century

Saturday, 20 June, 1 pm La Información Matrimonial
Saturday, 20 June, 2 pm Los Registros de Aspirantes al Sacerdocio y Limpiezas de Sangre
Saturday, 20 June, 3 pm Las Capellanías y Cofradías

Tuesday, 23 June, 7 pm Case History: How to find ancestors in Digitalarkivet of Norway

Thursday, 25 June, 6 pm African-American Research: Using Plantation Records

Thursday, 25 June, 7 pm Hamburg Passenger Lists 

For more information, click one of the class links, or see "The Family History Library Announces Free Classes—June, 2015" on the FamilySearch blog.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SCGJ Sessions Available Online For Free

The Southern California Genealogy Society has announced that they will stream several sessions of the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree for free. Ancestry.com's sponsorship is making it possible for them to offer 14 hours of lectures over three days. The schedule is

Friday, June 5

FR007: Be Prepared with a Genealogy Disaster Plan - Denise May Levenick.
FR018: Five Tips for Successful Research in a New Location - J. H."Jay" Fonkert, CG.
FR019: Genetic Genealogy and the Next Generation - Blaine T. Bettinger, PhD, JD and Paul Woodbury.
FR032: Finding and Utilizing German Church Records - Dr. Michael D. Lacopo.

Saturday, June 6

SA007: Google Tools and Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries - Lisa Louise Cooke.
SA014: Tho' They Were Poor, They May Have Been Rich in Records - Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA.
SA021: No Easy Button: Using Immersion Genealogy to Understand Your Ancestors - Lisa A. Alzo, MFA.
SA033: Plotting, Scheming and Mapping Online - Cyndi Ingle.
SA035: Midwestern and Plains States Level Census Records - Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA.
SA047: Update: Google! Everything New that You Need to Know for Genealogy - Lisa Louise Cooke.

Sunday, June 7

SU005: Family History Adhesive: Science and Simple Tech 4 Binding Families - Janet Hovorka, MLIS.
SU015: The Hidden Web: Digging Deeper - Cyndi Ingle.
SU022: Who, What, When, Where? Using Journalism Techniques to Write Your Story - Anita Paul.
SU030: Get to Know Your Geezers - Matthew Hovorka.

To view the sessions, you must preregister. Visit http://streaming.webcastandbeyond.com/scgs/

Monday, June 1, 2015

Family Reunion Season Is Early This Year: The Global Family Reunion

A.J. Jacobs is a cousin of the Ancestry Insider

When does your extended family usually get together? The Henry Hendricks Family, who get together every five years, is meeting 31 July and 1 August this year. That seems to be about the time that most of my reunions are held. I think I estimated once that Henry, born in 1730 in New Jersey, probably has 20,000 living descendents. If all of them come, we might overrun the venue.

Coming even sooner is an even bigger reunion. And it's your family's. And you are invited!

Remember A.J. Jacobs and the Global Family Reunion? (See my "RootsTech/FGS 2015 Keynote: We Are All Cousins.") We're all invited. But if we were all to show up Saturday at the New York Hall of Science, we'd overrun the venue! To accommodate everyone, branch events are being held all over. See a list on the Global Family Reunion website.

The FamilySearch Family History Library (FHL) is hosting one of the branch events. They are hosting a block party from 10:00 am to 2 pm, this Saturday, 6 June 2015. They will have free activities including:
  • Live streaming of the Global Family Reunion event from New York
  • Live musical entertainment
  • Bounce houses, a rock wall, and carnival games
  • Library tours and classes
  • Storytelling and face painting
Food and snow cones will be available for purchase.

For more information about the FHL event, see "The Global Family Reunion Block Party at the Family History Library" on the FamilySearch blog.