Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Soon the New Ancestry Will be the Only Ancestry

Soon the new Ancestry will be the only Ancestry.In response to my article about Ancestry.com’s new probate records, you, my readers, jumped on the chance to provide feedback about the New Ancestry website design. Good for you. I’m especially proud of those that mentioned specific dislikes. Those are actionable. The “I just don’t like it ” comments are largely ineffective.

Well done.

Ancestry continues to give regular updates on what they’ve done to fix or improve things. Here are some recent updates:

Most of the items mentioned revolve around missing features, so I’m not certain they are going to fix things like color schemes. They are not likely to fix that unless they hire a color expert that tells them that light and airy designs sell 20% more subscriptions than dark and dreary ones.

Some of the responses to these posts make me wonder if the commenters know that there is both a LifeStory view (below, left) and a Facts view (below, center) The facts view with alternate facts, family events, and historical insights turned off most nearly mirrors the timeline view of the old Ancestry (below, right).

The New Ancestry LifeStory viewThe New Ancestry Facts viewThe old Ancestry person timeline view

They are very similar. There are still differences, to be sure, so there are still specific changes that users can report they dislike. But the facts view configured this way eliminates many of the problems that users are complaining about.

I think the much disliked circular portraits are another example of designers and decision makers who haven’t done a lot of their own genealogy. You don’t have to go terribly far back before you reach ancestors who lived before the ubiquitous use of photography. At that point, many people make use of a grave marker or document image as a substitute they associate with an ancestor. While the human face is oval, these objects are rectangular. Imposing circular portraits causes clipping or unsightly juxtaposition of circles over rectangles.

Example of Ancestry imposing an oval shape to a rectangular object Example of Ancestry imposing an oval shape to a rectangular object Example of Ancestry imposing an oval shape to a rectangular object

Ancestry is planning to implement clipping and scaling of portraits. Perhaps at the same time they could allow users to opt for rectangular display. While you’re at it, use face recognition software to default to circles for faces and rectangles otherwise.

Here are a couple of other suggestion for clipping and scaling. The Ancestry mockup imposes a circular shape. Since the human face is oval, allow ovals if desired. Also, FamilySearch Family Tree doesn’t allow the circle control points to be outside the bounds of the photograph. When a face is close to a photograph edge, it’s impossible to get the circle centered on the face. This is especially true for group photographs. Hopefully, Ancestry and FamilySearch will both allow control points off the edge of a photograph.

You know the drill, people. Ancestry is going to retire the old Ancestry whether you like it or not. That’s the reality of aging technology infrastructure. While they are making the transition, they will respond—more or less—to user feedback. After the transition, there is very little chance they will pull an engineer off another project to respond to you. Make your voice heard now. Make it actionable, such as “The old timeline had a link in each event that…, and the new site does not. You could fix this by…” I’m thinking that leaving your feedback on one of the weekly updates might get the most notice.

Now’s the time. Let your voice be heard.

32 comments:

  1. It seems to me that all the updates and hoopla concern the family tree portion of Ancestry! Am I right? If not, someone please show me where I have missed. Since I have no intention of putting my tree on any subscription site none of this should interfere with searching for Facts. Right? Now if they want to IMPROVE, get rid of all those responses that have nothing to do with the search entered. The more I hear about all of this mickey mouse the less sure I am that I want to renew my subscription!!!!!! Please Ancestry give me a good reason to renew! Please
    quit turning me off of you!

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  2. I checked several family trees that i have used before for comparision - much information is gone, vanished. How is that an improvement.
    On census records, it used to show the state, county, twp, an ED now that is blank and you are left to decipher horrible handwriting most of the time.
    Also on census records - they put the controls for the size of the images, etc right over the record so you have to keep moving the record around to see everything on it. But on't slide it too far to the right because then a listing of names comes up which more information.
    These few things are not in the family trees and could be easily fixed to make an better view of the record.
    I don't appreciate that Ancestry gave no credit to Family Search for all the wills and probate records.. It certainly explains why they all disappeared off of Family Search. Shame on Family Search for not keeping a copy of the images for themselves. Ancestry appears to be very greedy lately and it is dumbing down the search engines which will lead to Lineage groups refusing to honor anything coming out of Ancestry.
    What a shame!

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    1. Allegedly, when she was told that nobody had bread, Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake." (The actual word was "brioche", a kind of upper class pastry.) To numerous genealogists, Classic Ancestry has been the bread of family history research. Why would they want cake? This change from "Classic" to "New" has everything to do with a fashion statement of class, not practicality.

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    2. Jim, Are you using the "Life Story" View? If so switch to the "Facts" View and what you see will be very similar to what you used to have. There's a little gear icon at the top of the facts view that lets you not see the alternate facts (just like the previous version) and to add family events - new and quite handy showing you the births, deaths and marriages of family in the timeline.

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  3. Regarding the picture/portrait problem. It would be nice if Ancestry engineers could figure out a method that would give users a choice of shapes to use, i.e. circular, oval, rectangular, and square, and perhaps make each shape expandable or contractible within certain parameters, in order to be able to better fit and enhance whatever the user wants to show. If they put their collective minds to it, with today's technology, it should be doable.

    Also, maybe they could somehow place color "charts" or "wheels," such as is found on Word programs, that would allow the user to choose the colors they would like for both backround and text. If they can do it for Word and other programs, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure a way to put in the Ancestry programs.

    Hopefully the designers and engineers won't dismiss these suggestions out of hand as not being feasible and will really try to figure a way to implement them. I think if they do, much of the complaining would probably fade away. Having choices and some control is a good thing.

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  4. IN RE to time line being mostly the same- many of us have painstakingly attached media to our time lines for each year such as census records, BC's and DC's. That will NOT show on the time line any longer. I spent hours upon hours putting documents and photos on my time line. NON renewed subscriptions will talk.

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    1. Thanks for the warning, Ken. Can you imagine how many hundreds of thousands of people have put photos into their timelines, and now those photos apparently are going to be stripped away forever? What else is going to be given the short shrift as well? I'm packing up all of my research as gedcoms, in preparation for jumping ship from Ancestry altogether. I will be one of those who will not be renewing their subscriptions!

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    2. In my family trees on Ancestry.com, all the media are still there, attached to items in the timeline. An entry in the timeline for someone in my tree shows something like "3 Sources 1 Media" at the bottom of the timeline entry. I just click on the "1 Media" link to see the media item. Everything is still there. Nothing is lost.

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    3. Ken is talking about members who made their own timeline dates and added their photos that showed as they wanted them to, not what Ancestry wants to show and describe. It is so cluttered to me. I cant figure it out if there is a way. The change was too big at one time. Any genealogy website that can offer me what ancestry HAD will get my money....i'm too old to play games like this. I need a neat place to work. I dont need ancestry to make a story out of my ancestors, I know they were real. I dont want their erroneous happening at the time posts in the stories either! I want my facts, dates and photos, Period!

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  5. Even the enticement of a 6 month renew at $49 did not sway me. I'm done with ancestry. And this new search engine? How on earth do you use a search engine that only shows when you are at the top 1/4 of the page but if you scroll lower than that, your search criteria disappears and you are offered a "guess" box. And that green "guess" box. Whose idea was that! Click, click, click. Scroll, scroll, scroll. I paid money for documents. I won't pay money for this baloney. The information I'm finding on other sites, not necessarily genealogy sites, is filling in the blanks that ancestry can't. I can easily read black type on white background there. Buh-Bye ancestry!

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    1. Good heavens, where on earth do you see that. I always use Advanced Search and that certainly hasn't changed with the new front-end.

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    2. Guess box?? I've never seen that in my searches. I'm still finding plenty of documents. The search functions just the same. My photos are there in the gallery. If they aren't already attached as a media file to a (or multiple) facts/s , it's easy enough to do. I'm 55 and I'm having no problems with the new version. Well, I stay off the Lifestory page as I don't like it. I do all my work based off of the facts page and search functions.

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  6. I have been complaining since this Fiasco they claim is IMPROVED started. I have posted their blogs, I have emailed support@ancestry.com, I have telephoned, and lately I am been sending specific complaints to customersolutions@ancestry.com ATTN to Tim Sullivan @ headquarters. From everything I have read on the blogs they have NO intention of addressing my complaints.

    1st of all they have totally neglected to realize who their primary customer base is, and that is older folks. The reason is simple. Young people are generally raising families and too busy to devote the time and attention to doing the laborious job of researching family history.
    I try to help everyone I can, and people message me often for help-since I specify on my profile that I am willing to do so. I have often had to teach these older folks who were not raised in the "computer age" to not only get around ancestry.com in the OLD version (which is quite simple) -I have had to teach many the simple process of how to copy and paste. They have totally ignored the majority of people who do genealogy research.
    I have complained about many things as when they first introduced the Beta test it was severely lacking of the most basic things. Some of those things HAVE been fixed BUT that doesn't help the primary customer base of older folks who had a difficult enough time navigating the old site, which was quite simple.
    I have asked over and over for them to KEEP OLD as an alternative means of updating your tree for some simple reasons. The NEW version omits some of the BEST features that existed in the old site.

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  7. #1 I used to be able to attach Birth, Marriage and Death records to the profile page which is where the FACTS belong. Census documents are NOT facts, they are guides. BMD’s are FACTS. Many times we find BMD’s on places other than Ancestry. I use familysearch.org to find many transcripts of BMD’s and copy the info WITH citations as a story. Ancestry has failed to recognize that FACTS often come from places other than Ancestry.com.
    #2 I have repeatedly asked for a way to print off the “facts” page much the same as we did the OLD profile page. When you did that in the OLD version, you got all the info you had attached to them, including parents, spouses and children. You also got a list of the sources you used to get that information (Census, military records etc). NOW not only is there NO way to print off a person’s page like that but if you know keyboard commands and use CTRL + P to print the page, the information you used to get in 2-3 pages now takes up 10 pages or more, most of it white space and it does not include parents, spouse or children. Nor does it include sources.
    #3 Yesterday I made one more stab at trying to use a system that is NOT user friendly. I tried to add a document through Story View, which seems to be the ONLY way now to add documents, and I could not choose a document that was already in my gallery. I would have to print, upload and then add a duplicate document for something I already had a document on. AND the ONLY thing you can add is PHOTO docs, you cannot add a story. SO in order to get a BMD doc added to the Story View I would have to print it off, scan it in as a story and add it as if it were something new. WHY should I have to jump through all these hoops. 1st it SHOULD be in the facts view but there is no way to put it there and THEN since I copied the birth certificate from familysearch.org I will have to print it, scan it and enter it as a NEW document when it already exists.
    Many of the information and ways to add things used to be readily visible.
    NOW you have to hunt—is it behind door # 1? Door # 2 #3? Or can you simply “not get there from here”.

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    1. I can and have attached BMD record to the facts page in the profile in the new version. I can and have attached documents I've found on other sites too (uploaded picture, put in citation for it, and linked citation and particular picture/media file from the gallery to the fact I added,mot support said fact. To me it's easier than the old Ancestry was to do that. I can add stories too ( I have added transcriptions of newspaper articles). I didn't grow up with computers, I'm 55,

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    2. You cannot do this in the facts page--perhaps you are in OLD ancestry and don't realize it? They ONLY way I found yesterday to add something to the STORY VIEW which is the ONLY place I found where you CAN upload things, required me to upload a NEW document--there was NO option to upload a document that was already in the gallery. I have been watching the blogs and they have not yet made a decision whether they are going to allow us to add images to the FACTS page--so the fact that you called it a profile page makes me wonder if you are still in the OLD version and don't realize it.

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    3. No, I'm not in the Old Ancestry. You tap on a fact and purple lines run up the side to the sources that support it. And yes, you can do it in the New Ancestry. I've done it., several times.

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    4. Jo Henn- I agree with you! You can add media in the facts view. And to a specific fact too. Rather than going through the step by step instruction here (which would be difficult in a blog comment), I leave Crista Cowan's very timely post from Sept 16th regarding uploading media to the new Ancestry. wrdsrus-This may answer many of your questions and it may resolve most of your issues. Good luck! It helps to watch it and I picked a few great suggestions I plan to execute.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n07JVy3dC9g

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    5. Thanks for the link which does explain at least how to add something that is scanned in as a photo too the facts page. That still does not give any way to add a "story" to the facts page, which is how I have recorded many, many marriage, birth and death records. They need to ADD that capability. I have no idea how many stories I have added with this crucial info but it is a LOT of documents. I think it is foolish to give us an option to add stories, which is an easy way to copy and paste data, and now I have to go through everyone in NYC (and some other places) to find the Familysearch.org docs, print them and upload.And while the video TALKS about adding source citations, which it stresses are important, they don't give you the first clue how to do it--I finally figured it out on my own, and then found it really was not necessary for what I needed to do.

      I have a tree of 10,000 ppl. Thankfully I only have BMDS for the first few generations that come from familysearch...BUT I have no idea which ones they are as I do extended families in my tree, to help others be able to find THEIR links and therefore the extensive Pedigrees I have on most people.

      I STILL do not like the NEW version at all--it just makes things far too complicated! AND it has created a LOT of work for me so rather than researching right now I am doing "paperwork" trying to find ALL the folks that I used familysearch.org as a source, in story format, print them all and scan them in.

      There just was NO need for all these changes and I am still not happy that you cannot print off a FACTS page view in a concise format as you used to be able to do previously in OLD ancestry. Thank heavens when they first announced this MESS I did a mad dash printing off everything for many generations...but I could not possibly do all my people going back into early New England and the Pilgrims.

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  8. #4 The are taking away military pages—a PRIME source of good information, because they want you to join Fold3 which they have bought out. (Likewise they bought archive.org which USED to be easy to use but since they took IT over it is a nightmare to use)
    #5 Many “photo’s” are not photo’s at all—they can be documents, headstone’s or anything we deem as an appropriate document to be the primary thing you see when you look at a page. These do NOT conform to their “square peg in a round hole configuration”. Nobody likes the dumb circles that cut off people’s heads anyway…pictures and documents are rectangular and should remain that way!
    #6 The “story’s” they are showing are ludicrous Fluff material. If you want to do a story, tell me about the history of a place, tell me about the history of what made various ethnicities leave that place, tell me what their lives were like. DON’T tell me they lived through a blizzard or were in New York City during an amazing meteor shower (which they probably all slept through anyway—and even if they didn’t they probably thought the sky was falling as they did not understand these things back then. Tell me what their LIVES were like. Tell me the history of the towns they lived in. Tell me why they left their homelands and what they found when they got here.
    I don’t want to collect NAMES I want to know what they went through, what their lives were like. Tell me things that will help me understand where I might hunt for them next and where to find that information.

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  9. They have made a LOT of these changes in order to attract younger customers BUT young people are too busy working, raiding kids and all the neat stuff that goes with it. In MY experience most people do not become interested in genealogy until their parents die and they want to learn more about their family history to pass it down to future generations. You can make all the COOL (NOT) stories you want and it is not going to bring in long term customers as people over 60 are.
    Give me things that will help me in my research…not baloney about a blizzard. Who cares about that.
    I want to KNOW their lives. I want to be able to know them posthumously. I want to easily be able to add important facts and not be able to because that is in the format of a STORY. I want to be able to add facts that are already in my gallery to the FACTS page where they belong.
    I have spent thousands of dollars in research overseas and because the English translation is in a story I cannot add that to their FACTS page.
    THESE are FACTS—Census documents are guides—WE need to be able to add facts to people.
    AND the fact remains that many older folks, their PRIMARY customer base are NOT going to be able to figure out the new changes. I want to see facts on my FACTS page. I don’t want to have to sort through and read through all these nonsense stories to look at the facts!
    Give me back a website that is easy to negotiate—don’t give me a site that takes me 30 minutes to do what I used to be able to do in 30 seconds.

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    1. Young person here completed with kids, parents, and even a few grandparents alive and kicking. I want everything you want, so please don't over generalize my generation.

      Ok, what I really want now is an easy way to migrate away my trees, hundreds of people, and thousands of documents out of Ancestry, but ultimately what I want is what you want.

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  10. I recently was helping an older lady who had converted to NEW. She needed my help and I told her she would HAVE to go back to the OLD site as I could not even find my way to go to the bathroom in the NEW site.
    I am QUITE computer literate and yesterday I could not discern where some additional Census docs were coming from. I have to go back to the OLD site to figure it out.
    This USED to be SO simple. WHY did they have to make it so difficult? They could have improved their story view on the OLD system, and improved the searching and transcripts—saved a LOT of money and we’d all be happy. Instead people are canceling subscriptions right and left because they cannot stand this new site which makes EVERTYTHING 10 x more difficult and has deleted some of the BEST features on the site.

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  11. As a young user, I can say that these changes aren't for me. Here is what I wrote up and have sent to them:

    Summary:
    There is so much dead space on the screen the new ancestry is a terrible working environment. I would prefer a tight version with less dead space and less scrolling. I do like the ability to edit more things directly from the "facts" page.

    Pros:
    I'm all for minimizing the number of clicks - every click means I have to wait for another page to load. I don't like to have to wait for a new page to load if I already know what I'm going to see on the new page and I know where I am going to click and this is minimized because the "edit" page is de-emphasized.

    Cons:
    I understand the benefit of the lifestory page, but that should never be the default landing when I click on a person. I want to see the facts and citations. I want to piece the story together, and the lifestory page gets in the way because it is not citation based and gives too much space to each piece of the story.

    The facts page, which would likely be my preferred landing page, still has too much dead space and too little info. My screen resolution is 1366x768 and when I load a page, all I see about the person is name, birth date and places, death date and place, name again, gender, birth place and date, and then the birth of the sister. In the middle I have a couple of citations, but without clicking/hovering I can't match citations to facts. I also see the names and birth and death years of the parents and spouse, but no children or siblings without scrolling.

    The top bar is the main area of dead space. It looks like you are trying for the banner and photo effect similar to facebook profile pages or something like that. This may be fine for the lifestory page, but it is useless deadspace when I am working on a profile.

    Conclusion:
    Ultimately I do not know how most users use the site. I frequently open pages for all members of a family and edit them together, adding information and citations too all of them at once as I find it. I often do this during dead periods, leaving profiles open on multiple tabs on a window all day and come back to things later. I like to quickly be reminded who the person is and how they relate to the other tabs I have open. More deadspace and less information immediately visible reduces the ability to do this. I've tried your new layout and am happy to be able to switch to the old. I would love to see improvements, but the new layout makes working in ancestry harder in most ways and easier in few.

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    1. Tha k you for taking the time to write this detailed enumeration.

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    2. thank you Shane Murphy for explaining the NEW!! ancestry to the programmers I hope they take notice. I find as a family researcher I am going onto different webpages all the time and you very quickly learn to navigate the sites. The complaint I made re 'ancestry' I tried to focus on particulars but I was not as clear as you have made it and for this I thank you

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  12. Have only recently discovered this excellent blog and am slowly getting up to speed. I apologize if this question has been asked before: Is there a good way to remove information from one's own Tree on Ancestry to one's own computer?

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    1. Charmaine you can download a GEDCOM but you will get minimal info. You won't get any documents you have attached. GEDCOM is a very old program but it is the program all sites use for genealogy. I made the mistake once of downloading my GEDCOM and then uploading it again to ancestry...what a mess it made. You want to be 100% sure you really want to do this as you might spend a lot of time putting info back all over again. You also want to be sure whereever you upload this new data is not in any way associated with ancestry.com. I thought using familysearch.org was a good place to put my GEDCOM and start working from there only to find out you cannot WORK in a GEDCOM you upload there...it is only there as a genealogy resource. You have to start doing your tree ALL over again...one person at a time. I highly recommend that you be REALLY sure you want to do this before you take your tree off ancestry. Maybe upload your GEDCOM to another site and be sure you like it and be sure THAT site has enough of a track record that it is going to stay around. I have heard that ancestry has bought several of the competitor sites and then shut them down, and people lost ALL their data. While they probably cannot buy every site, as they would be violating laws regarding monopolies, I would really hesitate about taking my tree away from the site that has the most resources of any of them. Familysearch has a lot of info but not near the data you will find on Ancestry.com --I use BOTH in conjunction with each other as it is often easier to find info on familysearch...and they have lots of specific birth, marriage and death info that ancestry does not have. If you have not explored familysearch.org, you really should. There is TONS of good info there.

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  13. Ancestry Insider, is it really true that "light and airy designs sell 20% more subscriptions than dark and dreary ones" or did you make that up to make a point?? Because surely if that's the finding ACOM would want to respond to it. . .I am glad to see you agree that the color scheme is bad and that the portholes are inappropriate. I can't/won't/haven't time to go back through 3000+ images and try to porthole them. If ACOM had STARTED with portholes, that would be one thing. But, after many people have spent years adding non-circular visual images to their trees, it is just egregiously wrong. I also dislike unnecessary icons for source documents dominating the center of the fact page. We really don't need a thumbnail of a census page there! Just the name of the source would do it. Everything doesn't need a "visual aid," particularly when the audience is literate. So, ugly source icons and tiny, tiny icons for family members pushed off to the side are two of the things in addition to bad colors and portholes that make the fact page unappealing and an eyesore of a presentation.

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    1. Let's just say that 50% of all statistics are made up on the spot. I tried to indicate that I was making up the statistic, but I see now that that is not clear. I should have been more explicit, saying something to the effect that "if it was true that..."

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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  14. Doesn't work. If it ain't broke why fix it? Worse. The "fix it" has made Ancestry completely un-usable. Useless. I have put many thousands of hours into what I thought might have been beneficial for generations to come. Now all wasted.

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  15. Bring back the old Ancestry. New ancestry is not user friendly and it "makes up stories" without real facts.

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