Thursday, September 17, 2015

News Ketchup for 17 September 2015

Ancestry Insider Ketchup

I’ve got a zillion article ideas I don’t have time to act upon. Time to ketchup.

FamilySearch tree bulletFamilySearch recently announced a partnership with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records to digitize their 5,000 genealogy book collection. Like other books on the website, they will be available for use 24 x 7. Scanning is expected to take six months. For more information, see “State Library, FamilySearch Partner to Make Genealogy Records Accessible” on the FamilySearch Blog.

Leaf bulletRootsTech has announced that the prize package for the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Showdown will total $100,000! “Innovator Showdown seeks to support, foster, and inspire innovation within the family history marketplace,” said the press release. For more information, see “2016 RootsTech Innovator Showdown Offering $100,000 in Prizes!” on the FamilySearch Blog.

As an aside, I was amused that Gmail warned me that the Innovator Showdown press release might be a phishing scheme. They thought someone might be trying to scam me with an offer of $100,000. <smile>

Gmail warning of suspicious message

FamilySearch tree bulletA reader alerted me that she received an email from a sender named “big foot pilot” concerning the FamilySearch Pilot indexing tool. You’ll recall Jake Gehring introduced the FamilySearch Pilot indexing tool at the 2015 BYU conference. (See “FamilySearch Should Increase Indexing Efficiency and Utilize Partnerships” on my blog.) This email invited the reader to share information about the tool with anyone, so I’m sharing with you. A new update has added the following features to the tool:

  • Search – the Family Search Pilot tool database
  • Instant publication – of data entered into the Family Search Pilot tool database
  • Download – your own data
  • User Edits – on the individual record page
  • Direct link – to the Family Search Records Search webpage

It will be exciting to see where this pilot goes, if anywhere. That’s the nature of pilots, afterall.

FamilySearch tree bulletThis next feature really deserves an article all its own, but I just don’t have time. It just kills me. FamilySearch has released a feature allowing you to send messages to those scoundrels who are changing your ancestors! Prior to this feature, you could discuss changes only with persons who disclosed their email addresses. Now, you can send a message to anyone who changes anything. To read more about this new feature, see “FamilySearch Messaging on” on the FamilySearch blog.

FamilySearch tree bulletFamilySearch recently published a list of the new features released in August. They are:

  • Added 300,000 places to the list of places known by Family Tree.
  • Updated the Family Members section of the person page.
  • Added ability to add a child from the Landscape Pedigree view of Family Tree.
  • Added some features previously missing from the mobile app.
  • Added ability in mobile app to “receive notifications from when a photo, story, or audio file is uploaded or updated for people in your scope of interest. (The scope of interest is 4 generations of ancestors and 1 generation of their descendants.)”
  • Updated the Memories Person page (not to be confused with the Tree Person page).
  • Added true thumbnails for historical record images.
  • Created a web page containing some of the functionality available at FamilySearch Discovery Centers, such as meaning of surname, and so forth. (See

For more information, see “What’s New on FamilySearch—August, 2015” on the FamilySearch blog.

Bullet shared a little more information about Cathy Petti, their new Chief Health Officer (CHO) and posted a link to a Fortune article about her. See the short posting, “Cathy Petti Joins Ancestry Leadership,” on the Ancestry Tech Roots Blog and “Meet the Woman Leading Into the World of Personal Genetics” on the Fortune website. There are clues in the article, for sure, about what Ancestry may have up its DNA sleeve.

Bullet Ancestry.comAncestryDNA has released a new feature that lets you “See Your DNA Matches in a Whole New Way.” It is a tool called “Shared Matches.” I don’t have much time to research or write about it, but here’s what I know thus far. I checked out my list of matches and picked out one, PPatricia…, who hasn’t linked her results to a tree. Consequently, I don’t know how we are related. I selected the Shared Matches feature and AncestryDNA listed all the people who exist in both her list of matches and my list. One of them, cooperjh, had a shaky leaf, so I checked it out and found a probable common ancestor between cooperjh and myself. That ancestor was surnamed Pitcher. That common ancestor may or may not be a common ancestor between PPatricia… and myself. It’s an important clue. Even without a shaky leaf, standard triangulation techniques using surnames, locales, and time frames can help identify common ancestors.

I next utilized another feature I hadn’t noticed before. While PPatricia… had not linked her results to a tree, AncestryDNA showed that she has a tree. She just hasn’t linked to it. Guess what the name of the tree is? Yup, “Pitcher-something-or-another.”

AncestryDNA is utilizing the same technology to provide an additional filter for your match list: father/mother. If one or both of your parents have been tested, then AncestryDNA can filter your results according to the matches shared between your parent and yourself. (Here’s a private message for Ancestry: you provide both father and mother filters only if both have been tested. If only my mother has been tested, can you provide a “Not Your Mother” filter? Hmmm. Now that I think about it, it would be useful even if both parents have been tested.)

For more information, see “See Your DNA Matches in a Whole New Way” on the Ancestry Blog.


If you’ve ever considered working for Ancestry, you may be interested in a post by Ancestry’s Jeremy Johnson. He first joined Ancestry as a  software engineer in 2006. After leaving briefly, he came back in 2008. “Like many of my colleagues at Ancestry who pursue work elsewhere, I came back.” I know a couple of people that fall into that category. Jeremy’s post has an unabashed agenda. But if you’re thinking about it, check out “Insights on Culture and Events at Ancestry” on the Ancestry Tech Roots blog.

FamilySearch tree bulletFamilySearch announced the results of their “Fuel the Find” campaign. There were 82,039 people who contributed at least one batch during the weeklong event. There were 12,251,870 records indexed and 2,307,876 records arbitrated. There were 221 volunteers on the African continent. south America rang in with an amazing 12,571 volunteers. Polish language batches drew out 64 volunteers. English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French were the top four languages.

For more information, see “Thank You for Helping to Fuel the Find!” on the FamilySearch blog.

Bullet Ancestry.comWhen NARA was preparing to renew its partnership with Ancestry it solicited comments. The partnership agreement has several key changes:

  • The five year embargo period—that’s the period that NARA has to wait before publishing its records for free to the public—is effectively shortened by 12-24 months. NARA accomplishes this by starting the clock when Ancestry digitizes the records rather than publishes them. This incents Ancestry to publish quickly, perhaps not waiting for an entire collection to be digitized.
  • This makes it easier for NARA to know when it can publish. It doesn’t have to wait for Ancestry to say when the publication occurred.
  • NARA is given the ability to recover costs associated with supporting Ancestry, while allowing them the choice of not recovering costs.
  • Outlines procedures for protecting personably identifiable information.

There were 52 comments to a NARA blog post on the topic. You may find them interesting reading. See “ Partnership Agreement for Public Comment” on the NARAtions blog.

FamilySearch tree bulletI’ve noticed that FamilySearch URLs of records and images all contain “/ark:/61903/”. Wikipedia contains some information about this form of URL. See FamilySearch seems to be switching from PAL (persistent archival links) to ARK (archival resource key) URLs. I’ve tried a few old PAL URLs and they still work.

FamilySearch tree bullet

FamilySearch announced last month that they had opened a second discovery center. Its Seattle Discovery Center is located in Bellevue, Washington. At RootsTech earlier this year, Dennis Brimhall called discovery centers “a museum of you.” According to the announcement,

The Seattle Family Discovery Center is a free community attraction funded entirely by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which FamilySearch International is a nonprofit subsidiary.  “We believe our precious family relationships and experiences in this life do not end with death,” said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch International and managing director of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

For more information, read the press release on the Church’s news website.

Leaf bullet Jason Chaffetz is a congressman from Utah. Every year or two he introduces a bill to kill or damage the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). I think there is no doubt that there are more genealogists in Chaffetz’s district than in any other congressional district in the nation, per capita if not outright.

It’s late, I’m tired. I better go to bed.


  1. Fantastic news - especially about the Family Search Messaging tool. I’m all for crowd sourcing family tree information, but really - if it’s my family tree I should have the ability to accept or reject changes before they go live! At least this is a step in the right direction - how else am I going to verify the changes are accurate? - Mary

  2. Dear readers,

    I received this additional information from FamilySearch's Randy Wilson regarding PALs and ARKs:

    "Yes, FamilySearch is moving from our own proprietary "pal" solution to the industry-standard "ark" solution. We will redirect pals to their corresponding ark "forever." But we are trying to stop displaying or storing any more pals moving forward. The source system auto-converts pals to arks as it stores them (or it will soon). I am personally leading the charge to track down any continued use of pals and squish them. But since those were our long-lived URLs, we will continue to respect them long-term even though we will stop handing them out."

    If anybody finds any PALs displayed on FamilySearch, let me know and I will pass them on to Randy.


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