Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Ancestry Soon to be the Only Ancestry

On 15 December 2015 the new Ancestry will be the only Ancestry.

On 16 November 2015 I received notification that “on December 15, the new Ancestry will be the only Ancestry.” This caught me by surprise. Ancestry.com went many years tweaking New Search before shutting down Old Search. They spoke often with customers, trying to understand the ways in which Old Search was better. They made numerous tweaks to New Search, as well as all out additions to make it possible for genealogists to continue their old workflow. They didn’t please everyone. And eventually they closed down Old Search. Now, after only months, Ancestry has announced they are cutting off users of Old Ancestry. This is a sad commentary on Ancestry’s ability to service its customers. The comparison of their current practices and their past practices is stark.

Here’s another sad commentary:

Back in 2012 politicians started talking about closing down the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). Because the United States lacks national civil registration, the SSDI is an important tool for genealogists. Long used as a tool to combat fraud, criminals had discovered that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was failing to use it. The IRS failure allowed criminals to file fraudulent tax returns. In the most convoluted logic ever, congressmen started rumbling, “If the IRS is too incompetent to use the SSDI to fight fraud, then we won’t let anyone use it!” To stave off loss of the SSDI, the genealogical community mobilized a petition drive. The goal was to present the White House a petition of 25,000 signatures asking that the IRS start using the SSDI to prevent fraudulent returns. Barely 5,000 genealogists signed it and the government closed access to the most recent three years of this important tool.

Today, Ancestry.com has redesigned the tree pages of its website. Customers are unhappy and have mobilized the community to sign a petition to present to Ancestry CEO, Tim Sullivan. Signers proclaim “We, the undersigned, hereby sign this petition to acknowledge that we, do not like the look, style, color, and format [of the New Ancestry.]” Nearly 4,000 genealogists have signed the petition to date and the number is likely to exceed the number signing the SSDI petition.

If all this sad commentary is getting you down, I encourage you to check out a blog post by Kerry Scott that is sure to lift your spirits, at least if you are willing to laugh at yourself. See “14 Reasons the New Ancestry is the Worst Thing Since Unsliced Bread” on her Clue Wagon blog. HILARIOUS!


  1. BTW - Kerry Scott's "Clue Wagon" is her blog, not HIS!

  2. I would be interested to know, Insider, what your own take on the new design is - what you, as a professional, like and dislike. Would you be willing to be frank and share your opinions with us? I myself see pluses and minuses - for example, it is much easier to attach a fact to an already-entered source than it was in Old. But, unfortunately for me, the color scheme is a dealbreaker. The New display is pretty ugly, both drab and flashy at the same time. Fortunately for me, I have found a Firefox add-on that allows me to eliminate the scaly grey and replace it with a soft, smooth light green. The tool, Color That Site, is not easy to use - the directions are puzzling to me - but by trial and error I managed to produce something tolerable, if by no means perfect. I am sure I will continue to tweak the results. One good thing about CTS is that it can be enabled and disabled with one click and it is "non-destructive" in that it is merely a "skin" that does not alter the underlying code. So, digression aside, what are your opinions of the New?

  3. No company can please all their customers all the time, but if 4,000+ people (out of how many in their customer base?) dislike the design of the New Ancestry, then surely Ancestry will go back to the drawing board, just as Coca Cola did when New Coke flopped.

    I like the new design, including the colors. I like how facts are connected to sources & vice versa. The source citation viewer is better than the old one. I don't generally like Family Events cluttering a person's timeline, but they can be turned off, and sometimes they're useful. The Lifestory is an interesting way of viewing all facts and media on a person, but I don't know if I like it or find it useful yet.

    I mainly just want things to work. For a while, when saving media to a tree, birth and death dates weren't showing in the list of people, but those have been restored. I find that Search works reasonably well, including the sliders. If anything, I still get too many false positives, and I wish Ancestry would allow us to sort and filter them. I like the improvements that have been made to the viewer when browsing a record set like a census, such as the filmstrip, the index, and how if you highlight someone in the index, they're highlighted in the image. I really don't have many complaints, and when I do, I send them to Ancestry.

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    1. Karen,

      Would you be willing to remove the last sentence of your comment? I'm hoping to keep people's criticisms directed at Ancestry and not each other.

      ---The Insider

  5. I agree that having things work is primary. I've found a number of small, yet cumulatively irritating, bugs that I think should be fixed (yes, I've given "feedback.") Like, no expander buttons (such as on this form) on the edit fields for media descriptions (so that, for example, if you want to edit a media note, you can see only three lines of text at a time), no "date added" or formatting choices for notes, no ability to add a description or transcription to a source from the gallery, only by opening and editing the source citation field (and the addition doesn't show up attached to the source in the gallery). Small things, yes, but this is a hobby for obsessive people, after all :) I'd also like to be able to remove the thumbnail ACOM adds to the marriage fact, which is the primary photo for the spouse. When the primary photo is a tombstone it's not very appealing connected to the marriage! I think Lifestory can be positive as a display, especially since the ability to add media to events was restored, so that media can then show up in the Lifestory timeline. I really don't like the canned narrative, however. It's repetitive and the facts are already displayed. They don't need to be recapitulated in a boring sentence. I would like a way to turn off the narrative. I've found you can't just edit the narrative sentences out. They reappear instantly. You can, however, replace the sentence with a . and then that's all that appears. But doing that for a tree with 1000s of entries is just not practical. Adding the ability to shut off the narrative, as one can do with "historical insights" (which when not grossly inappropriate, are usually just banal) and family events in the timeline, would be very useful. I like the filmstrip too, particularly because you can shut it off if you want. . .

  6. The blog post was indeed amusing, though that might be a case where the actual complaints might be even funnier, people being funny creatures, even if not always knowingly, as Art Linkletter noted long ago. However, it is indeed dismaying that those of us who are fine with Classic Ancestry are being railroaded into the new site. I am especially surprised because I have been having a number of problems with Ancestry lately. The automatic entry of places seems to have disappeared, so now I have to look up which, say, county in England this town was in, rather than have it pop up, while a few weeks ago I could hardly get it to go away until I had clicked the right line to confirm it even if I had actually already typed it. I have also had a number of issues with opening records and only getting a blank page instead of the promised view. And I will never, ever understand why a better search engine was not a number one priority over all the bells and whistles in the world.

  7. I am a genealogy librarian. Mary Zashin tells of how to correct the colors on the screen if you are working under FireFox, by using Color That File. I agree with JudyBG that Ancestry is overloaded with bells and whistles, when what genealogists want is a concise system in which to store their information in a logical manner. -- As I have read in other posted complaints about the new Ancestry, a lot of the changes were made to accommodate doing research on a "smart phone". -- I am turning all my family trees into GEDCOMs, in case I decide to jump ship from Ancestry and elsewhere. -- However, Ancestry is the most convenient on-line genealogy program I have found.

  8. I was just reading the Irma Barnes story in New Ancestry posted above, and it is exactly what I could have told you by looking at the profile page in Classic Ancestry of anyone on my tree--only it has less detail, and is written in a style so dull it practically put me to sleep just reading that paragraph. Maybe it's too warm in this room or something. but--YAWN.

  9. And the save the bees petition that follows the one to Ancestry has 24,377 Signatures. Sigh.

    From my user profile (TomVote) on Ancestry, posted soon after the switch:

    Ancestry has indicated that it's new format is soon going to be the only format available. The new format is, in my opinion, a totally worthless and annoying piece of crap that impedes my work. I pay Ancestry $160 plus a year for access, and in the process I think (well really, I know) that I am improving their product by my work. Therefore I have made all my trees PRIVATE, so as to reduce the value of my work to other Ancestry users.

    DO NOT REQUEST ACCESS to any of my trees, it won't be acknowledged if I don't see a change in Ancestry's policy.

    When Ancestry does go to the 'New Format' only, I will be deleting all the trees I have on Ancestry. Look for my work to appear on FamilySearch Family Trees or on another site that respects research and accuracy rather than accumulating new (temporary) users.

    (If you see ' while reading this, then notice how Ancestry programmers can not handle a simple single quote in a text field, yet they are tasked to generate a web page full of useless junk instead. Sigh.)

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    1. David,

      I'm hoping to keep people's criticisms directed at Ancestry and not each other. Could you repost your comment, removing the criticisms of those on the opposite side of this issue?

      ---The Ancestry Insider

  11. THANK YOU for giving us the specific heads-up that Ancestry hasn't bothered to give most of us, apparently.

    It galvanized me into finally putting FTM on my computer and downloading four family trees that I have spent way too much time constructing to allow Ancestry to screw up. I've reposted that petition on my personal FB page, and reposted on FB genealogy-related pages as well -- the word needs to get OUT, folks.

    And I put an auto-reminder on my computer so I can stop Ancestry's automatically renewing my annual membership next year. If kept at all - and I find it useful for historical research -- it will be strictly on a short-term basis until such time as I find decent research tools to substitute.

    I tried, I really did, to see if I could work with the redesign -- have to say, yeah, probably could but it's an unnecessarily complicated, glitch-laden, pain-in-the-tuckus with presumptuous features that I can't stand. And Ancestry has treated its long-term subscribers so badly that I see no reason to reward its arrogance any more than absolutely necessary.

    1. As it happens -- Facebook genealogy sites don't like the posting of petitions. So, will suggest if you'd like to post the link, put it only on your own page and perhaps post a link to AncestryInsider elsewhere.

  12. I certainly understand the criticism. I was surprised by the change, but I am still able to use ancestry without any problems. I like the little bits of history shown on the timelines. The events are so general that they may not have impacted my ancestors directly, but I assume they must have known about and even discussed them.

    Things change. Websites are becoming more and more interactive. This is how young people use the internet. At 50, I am not young. I have found many changes online to be annoying (like when I want to read a news story and all I can find is video). Ancestry is probably trying to market itself to a younger audience, and we should want these younger minds involved in this great endeavor. They are great internet researchers. They understand things about internet searches that I never will.

    I want someone to carry on my work after I'm gone. I want my descendants to know where/who they came from and how the events of history impacted their lives. I want them to be interested in learning more, and there's nothing more boring than a bunch of names and dates. We should support any effort to make things a little less boring, a little more youthful. I attended the NGS conference last year and, sad to say, there were not a ton of people there younger than myself. Wouldn't it be great to attract more young people? Get those youthful, quick-thinking brains helping us break through our brick walls?

  13. This will probably aggravate people on both sides of the Old vs New fracas. I have actually used New only short amount of time. But since I am not a football fan, I have plenty of time set aside for new things this weekend. So it will be New Tablet and New Ancestry.

    What little time I spent on new was frustrating because it was sometimes taking several extra mouse clicks to do a job that works with fewer mouse clicks on Old. As time goes on, I am sure that will be fixed.

    I DO like the new screen colors. They are much better the the Old tan fonts on a ivory color background. I hate sites that use that kind of low-contrast colors. This site with dark green fonts on light green is better than Ancestry, but still leaves much to desire. The colors of the page where I am typing these comments is absolutely perfect colors......good old black text on white, or almost white, background. For old farts like me who have vision problems, I think Ancestry hit a Gram Slam Home Run! I am very worried that the folks complaining about the colors will win their (in my opinion uninformed) battle and I will lose the higher contrast white on dark green and/or grey.

    I do not like the clutter of trying to cram too much stuff together to fit a single screen. Why couldn't they have just used the screen that is in Old and made a few minor tweaks to get the function the wanted without changing the overall layout?

    What really irritated me about this is the way a have-baked new user interface is being released to public use without it being 110% beta tested, bug tested and not opened to the public until it was fully and completely functional.

    If you are going to do something so drastic as replace a new website, it seems to me that cost would be much lower by releasing a complete and tested product that does not need several weeks of change orders.

  14. There are a LOT of things I don't like about NEW BUT there are some things I do now that I have forced myself to use it the last few weeks....

    BUT when adding Census or docs from card catalog they are constantly automatically adding names as alternate names that are exactly the same as the name on the files...I wrote to them and they said they could not reproduce the issue? OMG all you have to do is start attaching stuff to files to see it...

    I sent them multiple examples from MY tree and some other trees...This was a problem in OLD version too, but was not readily apparent unless you looked at facts and sources....BUT now it is quite visable in NEW ...

    I am TIRED of having to go in and delete all the excessive ALT names and sometimes DOB's also that I did not add, their bloody computer did automatically--

    Although I am getting used to NEW, I STILL don't like the fact that I cannot print out a concise family "shot" from facts page that includes links to the sources as you used to be able to do on profile page-

    Several things you can no longer print...when I decide to "end" research in various lines (or you would have a tree as big as a mountain) I used to like to at least print off family views and census as stories so that people who were more closely related could find additional info on their folks...sigh...

    I used to LIKE being able to use print feature to copy and paste a page on a person and send to a fellow ancestry member so they would have a quick run down with links on my folks with links to the various sources when they were trying to help me with something...

    There are still a lot of features on OLD that I liked that are still not there...and I don't care for the way things are hidden so much--it is like hide and seek-and I really hate the pedigfree display...BUT

    Something I did not like before, showing birth/death of folks in family on timeline I now like as it makes it easy to ID when someone was too old to have kids and therefore there is a mistake to be resolved...you can also easily see when someone was orphaned at a young age, which was not so readily visable before.

    I DO wish they would have kept the OLD format for the profile page though in regards to being able to use print function and copy that as a story when you are ending a line laterally--since I usually do several generations along pedigree lines but at some point I like to "cut them off" or I would have a GEDCOM too large to import to other sites.

    I DO wish they would listen to their customers complaints though...they have paid attention to some but not to all...I wish they had used that $ to improve searching...

    To the fellow who commented about being able to filter searches, what I do that helps is to modify every search at the very beginning so I tailor the search for the exact info I am looking for...for example if I want to find someone before they got married (women) I take out all the married names ancestry autofills, OR with multiple hubbies I take out all except the last name of that hubby, OR if I am looking for a particular area I take out all the other locations and only leave the location I am looking for...I do this on the initial search...NOT after I have already gotten into a database...

    It does help to filter out a lot and zone in on the specific name, location etc I am searching for---you STILL get some extraneous stuff but not as much as doing a regular search.


  15. I expressed my opinion this morning regarding New Ancestry ...I cancelled my subscription. As a former librarian-assistant at the Virginia State Library (now Library of Virginia) I know that the purpose of an information source is to PROVIDE information ...it is not to tell the patron/user how to use that information ... unless asked HOW to use a resource ...Ancestry lost its vision ..and began to tell me and others HOW to create the very personal family tree. The only requirement of Ancestry was to encourage better documentation of items added. I did NOT ask Ancestry to put a map on my profile - have scanned almost 4,000 items which include maps. I did NOT ask Ancestry to put some current event on an individual's profile. The format is beyond ugly ...well, there are those who like gray amorphous ...well, can't think of any gentle word ...CRAP. Unfortunately, the corporate bullies rule the world ...we have a zillion TV channels ...most we don't watch, don't use BUT part of a package. Ancestry research was a good brain exercise for this almost 76 year old (next week) ..so, will miss that ... BUT Ancestry has forgotten his mission ... Information provider in clear concise format with much better "help" if needed. Nancy Seidel, Midlothian, VA


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