Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Mailbox: Ancestry Maelstrom

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

My article “ at Banking Conference – Part 2” elicited some pretty deep felt emotions. I reported on a presentation by’s Howard Hochhauser. His assertion that New Ancestry had not alienated their core base drew sharp rebuttals from several of you. (See the comments to the article.)

Here’s a comment from Amy Fitzgerald:

The report about new ancestry is total hogwash. Maybe the insider should start reading the ancestry blogs and facebook comments posted by real customers. This is a one-sided, ancestry influenced report. Pretty transparent.

I appreciate Charmaine Ortega Getz coming to my defense:

The Insider's report is just about what Ancestry claims, not what anyone else does or does not know to be true. It's what Ancestry is claiming at a meeting at which it obviously hopes to look good to people it wishes to impress. Which is not long-time customers. It's the kind of thing I'd expect a company to say that is short-changing its customers but wants to reassure potential investors that all is well.

Thanks, Charmaine. As the old saying goes, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

Keep the comments coming, just avoid personal attacks. It’s probably healthy to vent a little steam. I hope at the same time you’re also giving actionable critiques. One of you pointed out how Notes used to work, how they work now, and the result: lower visibility and increased click count. Bravo. That is actionable. Keep those comments coming. And just in case Ancestry product managers are too busy to read your comments here, make certain you also submit them through Ancestry’s official channel.

Ancestry Is In It For the Money

When interpreting the ratio of negative comments to positive comments, remember that satisfied people rarely, rarely come out and state such. While I can't remember ratios, as an insider I've witnessed the phenomena. For each dissatisfied comment you're seeing, there may be 500, 1,000, perhaps 10,000 satisfied customers who remain quiet. Believe me that Ancestry is watching renewal rates very, very closely. I have no doubt there are people cancelling or failing to renew. I have no doubt they can tell you the change in revenues down to the penny.

They're in this for the money. If the radical changes of New Ancestry increases their profits, they will adopt them wholesale. If radical changes decrease profits, they will back off some. But folks, the switch to New Ancestry is going to happen.

It’s Going to Happen

They have aging infrastructure that has to be replaced at some point. Their suppliers quit supporting old operating systems. (Ever tried to get a bug fixed in Windows 3.1 lately?). Tool vendors abandon old products. (When was the last upgrade to the Lattice C compiler?) Hardware manufacturers stop providing replacement parts. (Ever tried to get replacement parts for your 5-1/4 inch floppy drive?) Software engineers retire. (Have you ever tried to make bug fixes to a decrepit, bandaged Cobol program?) Cheaper alternatives become available. (Are you availing yourself of any free cloud storage?) Technologies advance. (Have you priced handling peak website loads with Amazon Web Services?)

Non-actionable complaints may push off the inevitable. But I say again, folks, this switch is going to happen whether you like it or not. Now is the time to get New Ancestry working more closely to the way you want.

But remember, eventually they have no choice.

The Ancestry Insider


  1. Not only do satisfied customers rarely comment, but neither do those who frankly don't care much one way or the other. Last night I went online to the Papa John's website to order myself a pizza. Lo and behold, their interface had changed. Did it take me a moment to figure it out (just because things were in different places than they used to be)? Yes. Did I like some of the changes? Yes. Was I successful in ordering the pizza? Yes. Did Papa John's ever survey me as to whether I liked the change or not? Not to my recall. Did that bother me? No. Was the pizza hot and delicious? Yes. Am I asking too many questions and answering them myself? Yes.

  2. Some people resist change because it requires them to learn something new. And that takes time and energy, something many people seem to fear or avoid. I like the New Ancestry, and yes, it did take a few minutes to figure it out, but isn't everything about genealogy "problem solving?'

  3. Ancestry is in it for the money I read above. ...well, yeah! If they weren't, they'd go bankrupt and out of business.....then where would we be? Oh, some of you may not remember the old days of paying for a document and waiting 6 to 8 weeks to find out if you could even get it....and refunds if you can't? Dream on! And the hours and hours of scrolling thru microfilms getting nauseated and microfilm elbow. One trip to Salt Lake to get records cost me more than a World subscription to Ancestry (lucky Utah, folks, maybe it's not such a concern). And taking trips around the world to access records or hiring a professional to do it for you ain't cheap either. Yup, Ancestry is in it for the money and then, can you imagine, they sink much of that back into the service to get us even more records. For a true genealogist, it's the best bang for the buck.

    1. Totally agree. I started years ago around 1993. There wasn't much online at that time and I don't have the resources to travel. It wasn't until a few years ago that I really started finding information online through Ancestry and other websites. Without the documents being online, I wouldn't be as far as I am in my research.

    2. Yes, many ppl don’t like change especially the way ancestry does it.
      One thing I have learned – ancestry [being the biggest frog in the pond] does what it wants to.
      They are no longer a ‘public’ company so they don’t answer to stockholders any more.

      They never admit that they are at fault for any errors and trying to get a technical response to a question is nearly impossible. Their help desk ppl are not well trained and always try to evade the question with answers such as – We are very sorry for your inconvenience ………… Please see our other sites….

      Offering a ‘suggestion’ is not received very well and is frequently discarded.
      In other words – if ancestry doesn’t think of the suggestion … it won’t be implemented.
      This is what’s known as – Not invented here.!!

    3. The new Anc is mostly show, meant to impress those who are starting their research, a pain in the neck for those of us who have done a lot. I think I will tell them to go to blazes when my subscription if up. They are phonies of the first order.

    4. I agree. Travel costs are prohibitive, and easy access to records is important to me. No, I do not like all the changes, but it doesn't affect the content of the records I examine. As always I take family trees online with a lot of grains of salt. I do not even look at the stories etc. They do not affect the items that I seek.

  4. Ancestry is in it for the money I read above. ...well, yeah! If they weren't, they'd go bankrupt and out of business.....then where would we be? Oh, some of you may not remember the old days of paying for a document and waiting 6 to 8 weeks to find out if you could even get it....and refunds if you can't? Dream on! And the hours and hours of scrolling thru microfilms getting nauseated and microfilm elbow. One trip to Salt Lake to get records cost me more than a World subscription to Ancestry (lucky Utah, folks, maybe it's not such a concern). And taking trips around the world to access records or hiring a professional to do it for you ain't cheap either. Yup, Ancestry is in it for the money and then, can you imagine, they sink much of that back into the service to get us even more records. For a true genealogist, it's the best bang for the buck.

  5. As a disabled user (visually impaired), I have sent numerous emails to the "powers that be". And when they have the "why are you leaving the new Ancestry" box when I'm leaving the new wills and probates section, I do my best to reply without profanity and with fact. It's getting less and less easier to do so. The new Ancestry is a horror show for me - it's as if they moved things just because they could. The page design doesn't adapt well to enlargement, the color scheme makes items difficult to see at times, and did I mention I can't find certain things (like my dear old comment section)? I even sent them an idea for a solution, but to no avail.

    Were it truly all about money, which I think you're right, would I be the only one willing to pay a little bit more to keep my "old" Ancestry? As if we're not paying enough, but for me it would be worth it to continue to be able to do what I love. I can't do that with the new Ancestry.

    1. Forget the old Ancestry it will soon be gone. Re "can't find things" and "moved things just because they could". Have you taken the 20 - 30 minutes it takes to watch the training video on the YouTube channel? If you are struggling with trying to figure it out watch the video's. I do sympathize with the color scheme and enlarging issues. According to Ancestry's Blog the color thing is an issue they are aware of and will be looked at in time.

  6. As a long time (a couple of decades) customer from back when it was Ancestry, Inc., I'll pitch my two cents worth. I don't mind some of the changes and rather like some of them. But it is hard to adjust to. It's hard for those of us that have enlarged fonts (blind as a bat?) I finally found the comments section. I don't know if it's new or I just never found it before, but I like the Merge ability. I want to be able to tag more than one person to a photo. The 'add a source' section is still a struggle. The biggest change I would like is to lighten that header. It's grim, man, grim. :) Otherwise, I'll keep on looking for all those missing people. I love the new records that have been added! Carol Yocom

  7. Admittedly, I have not spent more than a couple of minutes on New Ancestry because I was afraid if I didn't get out quickly, I might get stuck and not be able to get back to Kansas. But what I did not like was that they were creating non-facts as if they were facts--"Minnie was 92 when her sister Leticia died.". However, since I did not yet know when Minnie had died, or even if she had ever lived to be 92, that was just head-bashing idiotic as a "fact" to trumpet. Furthermore, it was also telling me about a bunch of common-knowledge historical events that seemed mostly to relate to the US--but Minnie lived her entire life in Canada! Tell me about interesting events in Canada, if you must, not commonplace--or, worse, trivial--US history. And if Ancestry is so interested in being cutting-edge all of a sudden, why cling to the still-crummy search engine? I cannot possibly count the number of times I have been looking for, say, a "William C. Reynolds" and I get as suggestions things like "Wallace C Reynolds" and even "Wilma C Reynolds" or "C. Reynolds", while way, way, way down the page, after I have scrolled past a bunch of other names of like ilk, I finally get "Wm C Reynolds". And I have stopped trying to refine the search to particular records, like "US" or "England" or Canada" because it would become convinced that I still want that narrowed down categorical search, which now I don't happen to, for the next person, and the one after that. and the one after that. It eventually gets it, but for a certain number of searches, I will have to make sure every time that I have not been automatically limited to "Canada".

    Furthermore, I have no idea why they have stopped allowing you to correct information from the index list in census and other records--I used to fix lots of stuff, but now that I have to leave the census and go back to the first screen just to correct things, I am letting a lot of errors just slide. How did THAT change make sense?

    Also,now when I am looking at another tree to which I might wish to link, but have a question--or a correction--I can no longer write to the person while looking at the page where our two trees match up, so I have to write everything down so when I click on the contact, i can remember why I am getting in touch with my full question, including names, dates, people. It was so easy before! I could just look at the two trees and write from that page!

    How did any of these changes improve the product, and how do any of these changes--or lack of change--relate to advancing technology? This is why I am angry--stupid changes that make things harder, not easier; pointless information stuck on MY tree; and lack of the one real change desperately needed. And all done at once--poof. take it or leave it. Look, I am stuck with Ancestry, at least until my subscription is up, and I am sure I will sooner or later have to at least try New Ancestry. I am not afraid of change, and certainly not of good change, but bad change??? GRRRR.

    1. Re not being able to correct information from the index list in censuses and other records - this has been absent or unpredictable from many types of record in Classic Ancestry for a couple of months now. I have been given several suggestions by the Support team e.g. following hints in: Recommended Web Browsers, Managing your Cache and Cookies, Listing as a Trusted Site, Updating Adobe, Enabling JavaScript – all of which I did, but to no avail.

      Like you, I use this feature often. I have a particular reason to value it – I frequently correct transcriptions that are nothing to do with me but which catch my eye - particularly Welsh Personal and Place names which are often woefully incorrect in the original and the transcription - but I only do this ‘in passing’ for the benefit of others who don’t speak Welsh or are unaware of an error. However, I am not likely to take the extra time to click to and from the Summary page away from my own search in the record image if the easy ‘hover and edit box’ is lost from the index list.

      In my most recent query on 15 Oct, I asked: ‘Does this have anything to do with the roll-out of New Ancestry – is it a feature that will be lost if I change?’

      I received this reply: ‘I have investigated and can see that the option does seem to be partially available on 1911 census and not at all with the examples you need. I am going to create a report for our team to look into this. I’m not sure if this is a new update on the website just yet. The new website is still in testing mode so it is possible this feature is a work in progress.’

      The feature now seems to come and go, but the problems are still there - I hope they will be resolved and the feature retained.

  8. I am not afraid of change. I work in a job where change comes daily. I just don't like the changes being made like Judy BG, who commented above states. I too have made valid, courteous comments to no avail. My subscription runs out in November and will not be renewed. I don't have time for all the stupid changes that just take more time to click through. Sorry folks, but MY time is just as valuable as yours and maybe more so, because you are the ones who want MY money. I will use the old ancestry as long as it's available. Maybe Ancestry doesn't have a choice, - but I do. Dee Sager Marion, Indiana

  9. Taking all the information off ONE page and splitting it into 3 or more places was a choice made to try to give people with tablets and such better access. MOST of us still use REAL computers. There was NO good reason to change the set up so now we have to hunt all over the place to get info we used to see on one page.

    Change fro the good is always appreciated---changing the format so that we can no longer see what we need to see on one page was NOT necessary.

    This has nothing to do with new platforms--it has to do with a change to suit a handful of people compared to the way MOST people access the site.

    They have made EVERYTHING not only more difficult but are creating errors in trees due to bad programming.

    The programmers even has stuff in the OLD version going crazy.

    Changing things for the sake up updating the system is ONE thing---they changed everything about the way we view the site.

    There is NO reason that photos etc should now be hidden so you don't even know if you have any---thre is NO reason for Life story to be creating an incredilble amount of errors for useless stories that don't even matter...

    Change simply for the sake of change is not good---if they had make anything better then I would be FOR this new change--but they haven't. They have made just about every function worse.

    We want functionality--not pretty stuff (well I gues SOME think it is pretty--I think it is awful--)

    They removed functionality and that is counterproductive to making the site better--it has made it worse-MUCH worse...

  10. Again, hogwash. The same old resistant to change and unwilling to learn lines thrown out at anyone who dares to post any type of criticism about "new" ancestry are all over this page. Same people who were so quick to pounce on anyone who was unhappy with the circular photo fiasco. Gee, where are those round pictures now? There is nothing wrong with wanting to make lots of money for your investors. But maybe the touchy-feely ads can go by the wayside, and they can be honest about what they are really after - money! Without going into all the functions that don't work as well as they did before the great improvement, there are all the issues with cookies, cache, browsers, slow response, no response, outages, buttons not working... issues that have gone on for months. Maybe they need to spend some of the big bucks on experience programmers and technicians.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I see no reason to defend them. They are what they are. You either like them and can accept them or you don't and won't. What's to defend? The choice is simple. You either accept them or you don't.

  12. I joined Ancestry about four years ago. I like the new interface in general. It's much easier to create new sources. I do run into functionality that doesn't seem to work right. So, I switch back to Old Ancestry to do that function. My biggest complaint is that there is no easy way to provide actionable feedback. I don't want to talk to a person who may or may not know and care what I am talking about. I want to shoot off a quick email to a technical person who will understand the issue and add it to the punch list.

  13. I know that people are resistant to change. However, in this case, I think the reduced functionality of New Ancestry is a genuine cause for complaint. I now hear that New Ancestry will be permanent in November, which in my opinion is very premature.

    Perhaps the top priority should be to change the color scheme and format of New Ancestry. Although tweaks have been made, it is still hard to read. I have had some experience with visual accessibility standards for websites for people age 40+ and the visually impaired. I do not believe that New Ancestry meets them.

    In particular, I don't believe the new color scheme takes into consideration the below points. According to the workgroup on website accessiblitiy (, vision begins to change at age 40:
    • CONTRAST SENSITIVITY; from the age of 40, contrast sensitivity at higher spatial frequencies starts to decline until at the age of 80 it has been reduced by up to 83%. [New Ancestry's background is a dark brown/gray. There is much less contrast between it and the text than New Ancestry.]
    • COLOUR PERCEPTION AND SENSITIVITY; less violet light is registered, making it easier to see red and yellows than blues and greens and often making darker blues and black indistinguishable. [Colors used in New Ancestry are harder for many to see.]
    • PUPIL SHRINKAGE; resulting in the need for more light and a diminished capacity to adjust to changing light levels. For example, 60 year old retinas receive only 40% of the light that 20 year old retinas receive while 80 year old retinas only receive around 15%. [New Ancestry's dark background reduces the amount of light.]

    Also, there are still many missing features and bugs in New Ancestry, e.g.:

    • The inability to attach stories to facts.
    • Loss of photo captions
    • Less intuitive site navigation (e.g., use of amibiguous icons without descriptive text, placing icons in difficult to see locations, e.g., the page bar)
    • Loss of editable military pages
    • Too much scrolling needed on pages - cannot take information in at a glance
    • Buggy lifestory - historical insights from wrong era, place names not recognized.
    • New app for Androids has no facts page in profile view.
    • Inability to select a person from the List of People in your tree if the right name doesn’t pop up when adding a record to an individual's profile. I have many people with the same name (or slight variations) in my tree. Often the right name does not pop up, so my ability to add records has been signficantly hindered.
    • Inability to see birth/death dates with the names that pop up when adding media from someone else’s tree (in addition to not having the ability to select a name from the List of People).

    I believe these are actionable problems, which need to be addressed before New Ancestry is made permanent. Yes, New Ancestry has a few nice new features, but unfortunately may more features have been lost. An improved site should have added, not reduced, functionality, right?

  14. Just so people know--my removed comment was nothing dreadful. I am a bit surprised it would have even seemed controversial.

    1. True. I wavered on whether it crossed the line or not. In the end I decided to take a hard line on railing on others. I'll allow positive comments about others. Otherwise keep your focus on the issues.

    2. I don't think it did rail on others--it was a general observation, and targetted no one.And I think a very valid point got lost. Oh well.

  15. Every time I finally get myself talked into renewing my subscription from many years ago. Something like this pops up, and I am right back to square one. So much seems to be on there according to the world, but I sure can't find it.

  16. Ancestry is a very good tool that helps people store genealogical information, organize and publish it, and share it with others. It was designed to be used in a traditional PC environment.

    Now, as it is reported here, this new version has been jury-rigged so that people with iPads and the like can use Ancestry in that kind of environment. I think it would have been better if the program had been left in a format that applied to the PC environment. Let the iPad users adapt.

    1. I use it on my Mac--I would never dream of buying a PC. It works fine with it. But I have no interest in using it on my iPad! And I doubt anyone with a serious tree would either. I think the problem is that serious users are seen as a minority. And the iPad users, who probably only want a fairly small tree, are not seen as in for the long term, but if they can be drawn in for six months or a year, and there are millions of them--well, that's what you go for. The volume. At least, that is how it seems to me. Otherwise, it is inexplicable.

  17. I will not be using the LifeStory page at all --- too many mistakes and aggravating boo-boos such as omitting names of Counties and Canadian Provinces which I have entered.

    I am glad to see return of thumbnails for media I have uploaded, on the Facts page timeline of events. But really, the items about Colorado snowstorms and inapplicable historical events only repeat the search engine's incessant returns of search results regarding time frames in which my target person was not born yet or was long dead. They can't fix this, after years of being aware of the problem? Date-related material ought to be the easiest to fix.

    They should have begun rolling out New Ancestry with nearly all the features of the old, then started to make improvements. Not including hiding so much under inscrutable links and buttons. Site usability should be the main baseline for site design. What they have now is a jumble that in some ways is much more tedious and ~clicky~ to use than "Classic Ancestry." It's just too bad.


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