Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Insider’s Take on the New Ancestry

Example Story View from New Ancestry member treeSeveral of you have asked what I thought about the “New Ancestry.” I promised I would talk about it after my holiday break. So, here it is. First, let me say that my opinions on the matter don’t count. Why? Because Ancestry provides me with a complimentary subscription and a complimentary copy of Family Tree Maker. I don’t have the same skin in the game as you. So take my comments with that in mind.

I’ve heard some talk about cancelling their subscriptions because of the extensive changes to Ancestry Member Trees. Saying so is a nice way to blow stream, and a nice way to communicate to Ancestry the number of dissatisfied users. But at this point it looks to me like the number of dissatisfied customers is in the thousands—maybe tens of thousands. Even if all of them cancel (which won’t happen), they are still a drop in the two million [not billion, as previous reported,] subscriber bucket. If the records are worth the subscription cost to you and yet you cancel anyway, you’re hurting yourself more than Ancestry. If the value was marginal and this is the last straw, go ahead and cancel. But don’t cancel thinking you’re somehow punishing Ancestry. You’re not.

I’ve heard some people saying Ancestry has ruined Member Trees by adding superfluous historical events.

Rebecca Lewis was living in Richmond, Utah when the Great Flood of 1862 inundated the region.1

Really? According to Wikipedia those floods were mostly in coastal states and the affected region in Utah was 400 miles away from Rebecca.2 

I’ve heard some people saying Ancestry has ruined Member Trees by inventing fictional, erroneous narratives.

When Percy Alexander Hope Johnstone was born on August 13, 1845, in Moffat County, Colorado, his father, William, was 26 and his mother, Octavia, was 26. He married Evelyn Ann on March 28, 1878, in London, London. They had three children during their marriage. He died on August 7, 1899, in Meath, Ireland, at the age of 53.3

Really? Born in 1845 in Colorado? And then marries in London and dies in Ireland?

It’s unfortunate if these are the reasons they are giving up Ancestry Member Trees. It makes me think they don’t know how to get around them: Don’t use Lifestory view! Switch to Facts view and turn off historical insights. In fairness, there is still a reason to not like Lifestory view. Others may still be using it to look at your ancestors and thinking you are at fault.

I’ve heard some people say that despite the ugly, depressing colors and a host of other problems in the Facts View, they intend to continue to use Ancestry Member Trees. That’s where I am at.

Further, I tend to think of things in black and white. In my opinion, Ancestry’s records and Ancestry’s Member Trees are independent value propositions. Why? Ancestry Member Trees are free. If Ancestry’s records, all by themselves, are not worth what you are paying, cancel your subscription. You can make the decision to use their trees independently. I realize the world is not totally black and white. There is synergy between Ancestry’s records and their trees that can’t be discounted. There are also alternatives to being a 100% subscriber 100% of the time. But still, the records by themselves are either worth the cost or they are not.

P.S. When I set out to verify that the Great Flood of 1862 couldn’t possibly have affected Richmond, Utah, I learned that “in 1862 flood waters plagued much of Utah from February to June, sweeping away almost every bridge in the region and demolishing roads, fields, and homes.”4 Wikipedia was wrong. Who knew.


SOURCES

     1.  Ancestry.com, historical insight found in the author’s public member tree, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 December 2015), Rebecca Alvira Lewis, born 1 November 1859 in Richmond, Cache, Utah. Sorry; I don’t believe you can see historical insights in other people’s trees.
     2.  Various contributors, “Great Flood of 1862,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862 : accessed 19 December 2015).
     3.  Ancestry.com, machine generated text (Lifestory) derived from Levittland (username), “Tydesley Family Tree,” public member tree, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 December 2015), Percy Alexander Hope Johnstone, 1845-1899.
     4.  Andrew M. Honker, “’Been Grazing Almost to Extinction’: The Environment, Human Action, and Utah Flooding, 1900-1940,” Utah Historical Quarterly 67 (1999), 25.

34 comments:

  1. Most people forget the narratives came from their own facts entered. I know it made me see some mistakes I hadn't seen before I saw them in narrative view. Not everything is Ancestry's fault.

    I just want a print option or share option back. It is darn near impossible to print something attractive from the lifestory view, even though I want to share it with relatives who don't have computers. It doesn't make sense to order a book when all you want is one profile.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What an arrogant attitude. "Even if all of you cancel, it is just a drop in the bucket". So, who cares what users think. Also, what an advertisement for a high quality, customer-driven competitor. If I had not considered cancellation, your comments/attitudes could drive me to it.

    You give no serious consideration of the real problems with the new ancestry. Did they even EVER beta test the changes? This is what happens when designers never consider users.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Technically, Yes, they did beta test, they gave us more than six months to try it and let them know what issues we had, what might help fix it, etc., and some did and watching the blog updates indicated they looked at what people that took the time to try it told them. So, I am sorry for anyone that immediately switched back to the old version thinking the new version just wouldn't happen. But, when you have the chance you should take it. I do believe they are still taking feedback to continue trying to tweak if necessary.

      Delete
    2. They aren't taking feedback or they wouldn't have gone ahead with the switch. In terms of 2 Billion subscribers, I suggest the Ancestry Insider explain where he came up with that number. They have 2 million paying customers. Also, you are hurting yourself if you stay a paying member because you send a message to Ancestry that what they did, and have been doing, is okay. When enough paying members stop being paying members, Ancestry will have no choice but to listen because it will affect Ancestry's investors and attempts to sell the company. People said the same thing about numerous other companies who ignored customers and many of those companies are no longer in business. The smarter ones started listening to their customers and did what their customers told them to do.

      Delete
    3. The cosmetic make-over did not help matters, either. "New" Ancestry is a Frankenstein monster, and it sickens me to try to use it. Oh, yes, it is all a profit-making scheme.

      Delete
    4. R Stewart, simply put, taking feedback does NOT equal you'll get what YOU want; it never did. It simply means that they are interested in yours AND MY opinions - you don't like it . . . of it and, I DO . . . most of it.

      Quite frankly, I personally wish that they had just made the switch . . . overnight! Facebook, Netflix, Cable Company, personal bank, etc., etc. ALL make changes and updates to their online webpages / sites all the time and overnight; they never ask the consumer, subscriber, or member, they just . . . do it! Ancestry gave us all an opportunity to try it out and get used to it; they've said since last February that classic ancestry would be retired and then 2 months prior to it's retirement they gave the courtesy of announcing the specific date that it would be defunct. Instead of taking that opportunity to get used to new, the majority of the "haters" dug their feet into the ground and buried their heads in the sand, pouted, and flat out refused to adapt and adjust. That isn't ancestry's fault, it's yours.

      I get that some do not like the color; I do. I get that for some the color causes eye fatigue, headaches, etc. However, I had that issue - eye fatigue and headaches caused by the stark white / off-white of classic. Plainly put, color is subjective - we simply aren't all going to agree.

      We could argue this all day, you don't like it; I do, but the reality is that the changes were simply cosmetic, and I don't subscribe to ancestry for the colors or the placement of function buttons, etc. I subscribe because it allows me a cost affective way to research my family and their genealogy from the comfort of my home - it costs me less than $1.00 per day; less than a cup of coffee or candy bar, for a world subscription - that is a great return on my investment!!

      You feel differently, okay. Bye.

      Delete
    5. R Stewart,

      Yikes! My typo. Million, not billion.

      That's a material error. It really effects the meaning of the sentence, and to a degree, the entire article. I will get a retraction and correction posted Monday.

      Thank you for calling that to my attention.

      --The Ancestry Insider

      Delete
    6. I have used Ancestry for about 6 years, one of the 2 million! I will get used to the changes, but I really miss the relationship calculator. I hoped that it could be improved and then returned to the program. (Or is it hiding somewhere and I just have not found it?) I also believe that Ancestry has received much from its paying customers, too. Rather than only giving to new customers with a free trial, why not give something to loyal customers? Perhaps a discount, dependent on years of membership. Though my tree is far from perfect, I have placed much information, including photos, into the public sphere. I enjoy your insider's view!

      Delete
    7. Louis, the relationship calculator is still glitch; ancestry is aware of the problem, but have not determined the cause or solution and they are unable to provide a resolution date.

      That said, I have to admit, I have never been reliant on this feature; in fact rarely use it and so therefore I've not missed it.

      Delete
  3. What an arrogant attitude. "Even if all of you cancel, it is just a drop in the bucket". So, who cares what users think. Also, what an advertisement for a high quality, customer-driven competitor. If I had not considered cancellation, your comments/attitudes could drive me to it.

    You give no serious consideration of the real problems with the new ancestry. Did they even EVER beta test the changes? This is what happens when designers never consider users.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for a very even-handed review of the New Ancestry. My Mom and I share an account and really like the new functionality, especially the handling of photos and other media. I think terminating one's ancestry.com account over issues with it are akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It is an extremely useful tool. But each to his or her own...

    I may use what you found to edit the wikipedia article. I have done that before when I found new information that wikipedia did not have or better sources, etc.

    Concetta, I too wish there were more print capabilities in ancestry. Might I suggest you use screen capture programs, like Snipping Tool which is included free with Win 7. It is located in the Programs > Accessories folder. It works great...you may email what you have captured what you like or just save it as a jpg, png, gif, etc. Easy! Apple has a similar program called Grab.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with Concetta, a life story is only as good as the information used to generate it. I'm not all that crazy about the "extra bells & whistles" on the new Ancestry site, but what I don't like, I don't use. I don't quite understand putting the link to the message boards under "Help", but I guess it had to go somewhere. What I'm very sorry to see happening is the 'demise' of Family Tree Maker. I've used it since its first release and it's always been the one place I could to keep my records straight. I'll keep using it as long as I can, but it was so nice to know I only had to enter family information once and then sync it to my Ancestry tree (or vice versa) and have an automatic backup of my latest work.
    See you at RootsTech2016!










































































    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can do that at MyHeritage, too. And it's linked to RootsMagic. I'm experimenting with different software now and I think Rootsmagic syncs with MyHeritage. Need to play around with it more but if that is indeed the case, it's a win/win/win.

      Delete
  6. I do not believe that Ancestry has 2 billion paid subscribers as you indicated. I would like to know your source for that information. I don't believe they actually have 2 billion subscribers (paid or unpaid)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's 2 million give or take. It's only a matter of time before enough subscribers drop paying Ancestry. At that point, the drop in the bucket will become a raging storm. There are plenty of non-paid options, including the Library Edition of Ancestry, FamilySearch. Ancestry needs to take a lesson from all those companies that ignored customers and are no longer in business. You can only ignore customers for so long before they speak with their wallets. Since Ancestry is trying to be sold by its investors, contacting them and complaining is a great start. Follow-up by not renewing. I gave up paid access after being shafted by Ancestry on a paid account. They acknowledged I was one of many customers that could not access my account for almost four months and it was on their end. Yet, they did nothing to fix it.

      Delete
    2. Yikes! My typo. Million, not billion.

      That's a material error. It really effects the meaning of the sentence, and to a degree, the entire article. I will get a retraction and correction posted Monday.

      Thank you for calling that to my attention.

      --The Ancestry Insider

      Delete
  7. I think you missed the point of what people are so upset about. It is that they are getting rid of the Family Tree Maker program. Personally I do all my research via FTM and not my online tree. then I sync my FTM tree with the online tree. with FTM I can print numerous reports you cannot do online. I use those reports to keep me on track in researching my 32,000 + people.

    ReplyDelete
  8. In 2012 Ancestry indicated they reached the 2 million mark in terms of subscribers. They must have had a great marketing push to now reach 2 billion, only 3 1/2 years later.

    http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2012/07/ancestry.com-reaches-two-million-subscriber-mark-/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! My typo. Million, not billion.

      That's a material error. It really effects the meaning of the sentence, and to a degree, the entire article. I will get a retraction and correction posted Monday.

      Thank you for calling that to my attention.

      --The Ancestry Insider

      Delete
  9. I think what you have to say is fair enough--reluctantly I had had to conclude that Ancestry is pretty much the only game in town, and I have found that if I ignore the Life Story View, which I do, and just stick to the Facts page, it's not all that much different from Classic Ancestry, at least for my purposes--I have never been a big media person, so while I am still a bit perplexed by the Photo Gallery, and why sometimes things go onto the profile page and sometimes they don't when you add an image from another tree, I don't really care that much.

    However, while this is not a New Ancestry issue, I would really like to say that there are three major problems with Ancestry, PERIOD:

    1. Search Engine: It is just absurd, the things that come up as matches--or don't come up, or come up as "Probably not who you are looking for", when it IS. Which brings me to:
    2. Narrowing searches: I am Canadian. I live in the US, but lots of my relatives still live in Canada, and others moved to the US, and my Ancestry is basically British Isles, with a Welsh-born mother. But I am terrified of narrowing my searches because it STICKS. If I look at more than a few records limited to Canada, every search I try form that point on for an indefinite period will automatically limit me to Canada--or the US--or the UK, whichever I chose as my limitation, however much I click "all collections" and "Update." This is incredibly annoying, as I have to go back to "all collections" repeatedly until it gets the new message that now I may be looking in either Canada or the UK or the US, because my person may be found, potentially, in any of the three.
    3. Directories and Indexes: Last night I was trying to use a Canadian Voters Index, which is the only way to track Canadians after 1921. The transcriptions were risible--or rather, would make me laugh if they weren't making me so angry because they were so bad. I was looking for "Walter Tiller." They had HIM as "Waller Tiller" and his wife as "Mrs Walter-Delhi Teller"--they lived in Delhi--but those were by far the most readable names on the page.It's absolutely disgraceful, because this is the case for many, many many directories and indexes.
    I fixed about a dozen names and occupations, then just got fed up and reported to Ancestry, but I'm sure it falls on deaf ears.

    My point is that while I am stuck with Ancestry, I also loathe it because I feel like it's a big money-sucking enterprise that doesn't actually care about its customers or genealogy. Give me the phone company any day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is also disgusting is that when you think you have subscribed to something like Fold3 or national newspapers (or whatever it is called), you find out that you still have to pay an additional subscription fee to access everything.

      Delete
  10. I am in general agreement with your comments. Lifestory? - never used it. When the new ancestry was first rolled our the thing most users were fanatically upset about was because the pictures were round instead of square (or the other way around?)- seriously. For my part, I use Ancestry for searching. I do maintain a sync'ed tree, but will discontinue that when the sync feature no longer works.

    ReplyDelete
  11. PS: I forgot to say that while I was fixing the ridiculous transcriptions on the Canadian Voters List, all clearly done by a person who lives on the other side of the world, one reason I stopped--besides pure exasperation at the appalling wrongness of every name--was that some names had been skipped entirely, and that made me even more angry, because you could never have found them on a search! Does someone at Ancestry actually vet these awful transcriptions? I'd love to know.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I did cancel. The changes were a last straw on an expensive camel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  13. In following the corporate history of Ancestry.com, it is evident that the property is being "flipped", with one owner selling at a profit, followed by the next owner selling at a profit, and probably another sale with another profit for some company is what is going on right now. That is why I will not be renewing my subscription; I don't count as a customer. I'm simply a number in a profit (no loss, of course) balance sheet. I'm not getting back any dividends, either.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I agree with Ancestry Insider that it’s all about the records. I paid for an Ancestry subscription for years before I uploaded my trees to Ancestry. I think it’s challenging to do serious research with only an Ancestry tree, if only because of the paucity of reports, source management, etc. But with Old Ancestry, I got dependent on it as it was so easy to use, so I did most of my research on Ancestry and then synced back to FTM.

    Did I like old Ancestry better, yep!! Am I angry that FTM will no longer be supported, yep!! However, I am adjusting. I’ve gone back to using FTM more frequently and depending less on Ancestry new trees as I find it so hard to do things on the Ancestry web site or see information the way I want to see it. This has forced me to look closely to what Ancestry does behind the scenes to my FTM files. I have a year to clean up sources and media, via the SYNC option, copy the media I want, and decide what to do. Even if I move away from FTM (which won’t be for years), I’ll still subscribe to Ancestry for the records.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Programs change, and ancestry changed. I was used to the old format, but I think they are trying to attract a younger audience. The new website reflects that, and is no different from changes seen in other places. Don't we want to attract a younger audience? Don't we want our children and grandchildren and all future generations to see the hard work we have put into this? Yes, I was upset about FTM, but I bought another program and I like it a lot. I'm utilizing the switch-over as a great way to check my research and to cite my sources correctly.
    And about the lifestories - Just like any research, you can't trust everything you find. I think just having the information in there gives me another idea about where to look for more sources. Even if you find some major event that doesn't match your story exactly, I bet your ancestors knew about and discussed the event. Why not learn more about something they heard about?
    As for me, I'm going to continue to support Ancestry. Not only does the company provide information for a hobby that I truly enjoy, they support television shows and commercials that may spark an interest in genealogy and history in other people, and that is a hard thing to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I would certainly like my children and grandchildren to develop an interest in family history and genealogy but not at the expense of true genealogy research and accuracy. I don't believe interesting younger people in family history means we have to "dumb down" or distort the method and time proven process of research. More and more I am finding serious errors in databases and documents available on Ancestry as described above by one commenter. I have also encountered many source details and substantiated facts have become scrambled through the process of converting the old to the new Ancestry which is very frustrating when you have several thousand people in a tree. As many have, I used FTM as a back up to my online tree on Ancestry and am extremely disappointed to learn this will not be available after this year. For me FTM was not easy to use and so I did all of my research and recording on Ancestry and only FTM to sync. I am also looking at other software to replace FTM. Which program did you decide on?

      Delete
  16. It's interesting that the article mentioned the value of the records for the price charged. Has anyone tracked the cost of annual subscriptions to Ancestry over time? I haven't, but my impression is that it has about doubled in the last 5 years or so. In fact they don't appear to even offer annual subscriptions anymore just 6-month subscriptions, an interesting pricing tactic in itself. Although, they do occasionally offer discounts that bring the price down to a more reasonable rate especially for seniors who I suspect make up a large portion of the committed researchers. It's kind of like shopping at CVS, one should never pay the regular inflated price - but I digress!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have paid $299.40 US since January 2011 for a World subscription. The question came up at my genealogy discussion group and all with a world subscription have paid the same for several years. We are all seniors.

      Delete
    2. I have paid $299.40 US since January 2011 for a World subscription. The question came up at my genealogy discussion group and all with a world subscription have paid the same for several years. We are all seniors.

      Delete
  17. I am more upset about the discontinuing of Family TreeMaker. I selected to use FTM because of the ability to download and merge documents from Ancestry to my FTM trees. I do not rely of my online trees to keep track of people. I had an annual subscription the last few years and still want access to Ancestry's databases. However, since I will no longer be able to merge documents directly from Ancestry, a subscription is less important. More trips to the library to use Library Edition are now on the schedule and a few monthly subscriptions will be used to occasionally access the public trees. If more people move to this strategy, Ancestry's revenue will be hurt. I am not suggesting this to punish Ancestry but only to point out that Ancestry management may not have thought that subscriptions would suffer due to their decision to stop support for FTM. Because of the hints I received in FTM, I found that it was convenient to have an annual subscription. Without that convenience, I will drastic reduce my payments to Ancestry for a subscription.

    ReplyDelete
  18. As much as I would like to "shake the dust of Ancestry off my feet", I still feel a responsibility to keep checking back should someone post a message to me. Therefore, I will be retaining at least a minimal presence without going whole-hog for the entire world-wide membership. (What came first? Having to pay homeowner's insurance premiums or paying a lot for indexes you hardly ever look at, like Fold3.)

    ReplyDelete