Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Ancestry: Bug or Odd Behavior?

The author composed this image from public domain clipart.Here’s a bad behavior of the New Ancestry. You’ll recall that Family Events are births and deaths of family members that show up in a person’s timeline. Some people don’t like this at all and turn them all off via settings. I happen to like them. But they don’t always show up and it sounds like the much disdained LifeStory narrative is to blame.

Let me lay out my situation. Here are some of the events showing up in Caroline’s timeline, in the order they occurred. There are residence events that I’ve left out for clarity:

  1. Birth
  2. (There is no marriage event with Daniel)
  3. Family event: Birth of first son of Caroline and Daniel
  4. Family event IS MISSING: Daniel dies
  5. 1882 Marriage to John
  6. Family event IS MISSING: John dies
  7. Death

To understand Caroline’s life, it would really be helpful to see when the husbands’ deaths occurred relative to the other events of her life. I asked Ancestry if this was a bug and this was their reply:

We will not show death of a first spouse if they remarried.  This is because we include in the narrative text that lists how many years they had been married (now we only do this on the LifeStory, not Facts View).  Pretty awkward-sounding when you have a marriage that ended in divorce and remarriage.

In cases where we don’t have marriage events for more than one spouse or if we only have one marriage event, we don’t know which marriage came first, so we err on the safe side and just don’t list either death of spouse. 

As serious genealogists don’t like the artificial, machine generated narratives, it is unfortunate that Ancestry cripples the Facts view for the sake of LifeStory’s machine-generated narrative.

Ancestry continued:

In this particular case, if you remove one of the spouses, the death of husband will show up.  Now, Caroline does have a marriage date of 1882 listed with John….  If a marriage were added in with the other spouse, Daniel… of 1880, the death of John… would show up.  If you added in a marriage to Daniel of 1885, the death of Daniel would show up.

I initially thought they were seriously suggesting that I solve the problem by removing a known spouse or adding a marriage event that may not have occurred. Then I realized they were simply explaining the behavior of the system, from which I take it that there is nothing I can do to fix it.

Ancestry wants to avoid an awkward sounding machine generated narrative should a divorce have occurred. I want to see if I should look for a divorce record. The latter favors the discovery of new genealogy. The former favors the discovery of new customers.


  1. IMO, most of the "New Ancestry" is meant to promote new subs and not to promote actual research or "Facts". I find the "New Ancestry" frustrating to say the least. I was "forced" to move to it when they refused to allow access to "Wills and Administrations" from the "Old Ancestry". I consider this a "Dirty Trick", a way to make old users feel better about going to the "New Ancestry" before they are forced to. I have spent a lot of useless time at Ancestry lately trying to do things in the "New Ancestry" that were much easier to do in the "Old Ancestry". Frankly, if I had a better alternate site to go to, I'd take my Family and leave. The cost of an Ancestry sub has always been a strain on my budget and now that I am on SS, I may not be able to continue my sub too much longer. I did re-up this month so I am good for another year but I am increasingly unhappy.

  2. Barbara, you are not stuck there. I have had to go to New Ancestry to look at Wills but I always go right back, leaving a comment about one of the many things that are annoying, and difficult about New. (Like: where are the Pedigree and Family trees for an individual, why is the print so large, why all the distracting colors, white on black or color, etc, etc). You can go back by going to your user name (upper right) and choosing Old Ancestry - and add a complaint. If it weren't such a great place to research, I'd move too, once we are forced into New.

  3. I totally agree with Barbara's comments. I am in a similar situation, on fixed budget, SS, etc. I guess this is the price we have to pay for the acquisitions of genie websites by big corporations. This move away from support of good research practices which are the backbone of continued successful genealogies toward new money to provide a profit for investors. Newbies also get sucked in to bad habits and perpetuate bad family trees. User BEWARE!

  4. Where can we move our tree to that will have the services that Ancestry offers?
    My local Latter Day church has a genealogy room....guess they may have an alternative.

  5. You can access the pedigree view from the Tools drop list. All of the functions from Old Ancestry are still there you just have to poke around to find which button opens the usability gate.

    1. I'm not sure I understand your statement "All of the functions from Old Ancestry are still there".

      Many functions are no longer available in New Ancestry, e.g.:

      * No longer able to attach stories to facts, which is a significant loss. Stories enhance facts. In the case of Custom Facts, stories may be essential to understand the fact.

      * No longer able to select someone from the list of people in your tree, if the right name doesn't pop up when adding a record or media.

      * No longer able to add material brought up in Hints to someone else's tree, for example, if it is clear the hint is more applicable to the person's father.

      * No longer able to access a printer-friendly version of the facts page. In Old Ancestry, the printer friendly version was usually 1-2 pages long. Now, because the facts page is 3 columns instead of 2, the substantive information in the timeline is squeezed onto the side of the page. The result - a printed facts page is often 6 pages long and can be much more.

      * No longer able to open a fact and see the attached media in readable form. Instead of attaching stories in pdf or word, I often copied them into the Ancestry story format, just so that the story could be read when the fact was open. Now media items attached to facts are unreadable (and stories can't be added at all).

      I could go on. Some of the lost features from Old Ancestry have been restored to New Ancestry, but many have not.

      Shouldn't an updated website have enhanced, not reduced, functionality?

  6. Sometimes Ancestry dot com thinks that they are improving things, when actually they may be making them worse. Oh by the way, Ancestry Insider, I love your cute Hal (the mad computer from the movie 2001) cartoon, above.

  7. Thanks Insider for pointing out that we can turn off the Family Events and Historical Insights, although it took me awhile to figure out where the settings icon was. Many of my French-Canadian ancestors has 12+ children, so announcing their births in the left column just made it extremely long especially since children and their birth years already appear on the right side of the screen. The New Ancestry really knows how to waste screen space, I may need a larger monitor. I agree with others who have concluded that the New Ancestry is not designed to accommodate serious research. Each time I try the New version that switch back I give them a new list of reasons and always suggest that they hire programmers with actual genealogical research experience.

  8. Oh yuk. A fact is a fact is a fact... and death or divorce is a fact. Very sad.

  9. I have HAD to create artificial marriage dates when one cannot be pinpointed due to this issue--to ME it seems a LOT more productive and also tells the truth when a husbands death date it listed. I also contacted ancestry about this as I ASSUMED it was PRETTY clear that when the husband died which order the spouses should be in...I was told creating an artifical marriage date of "AFT XXXX" was the only way to fix this. This is abosolutely ludicrous that we have to enter informations that is NOT correct and cannot be documented all because THEY won't use information we CAN support which is the death of a spouse.

    I wish ancestry would see the folly of it's ways--they are forcing us to enter information as fact that is not necessarily so

    The same when you enter a death as AFT XXXX it actually shows up as that was the year the person died.

  10. I gave up on ancestry early this year. It's amazing what I have found on other sites and all for free. Thinking outside the ancestry box has led me to discoveries I didn't know where "out there". I can't imagine paying ancestry for anything ever again. And those who are paying full price for a half way working site. Why are you doing that? At least wait a year or so until it's really "working". You will get bombarded with subscription special offers the longer you wait. Pay for what you get, not what they are willing to let you have.

  11. My dad had 11 wives, 4 before my mother and 6 after. My Mother died while they were married and all the rest were divorces. I feel the pain! But what angers me is for some dumb a$$ reason they added my Mother's picture to all 11 wives and now I am finding her picture connected to all kinds of people spread out over 200 years! I called Ancestry and ask how to remove the pictures from the 10 other wives and leave it on my Mom's. 2 hrs & 30 mins later the person on the other end comes to the conclusion there is NO way unless I delete all the other wives which would mess up my 3 sisters who all have different mothers! I hate the new Ancestry and after being with since they launched I am seriously considering moving over to Family Search! (Lesser of 2 evils I suppose.) I switch back to the old Ancestry and removed the pictures but when I go to look at a Will, it puts the pictures back!! ARRGH!!

  12. Can you stand one more comment about "new ancestry". With all the changes they've made, the one thing they still haven't done is allow us to search the Shoebox. That would be so helpful. Also one of the things you really have to search for now is the Comments. It use to show up at the bottom of a profile page. Now you have to search under Tools.


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