Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ancestry’s Newspapers.com at #NGS2016GEN

Ancestry.com panel at the 2016 National Genealogical Society ConferenceAt the 2016 National Genealogical Society Conference I attended Ancestry.com’s presentation “The Ancestry Family: Newspapers, Fold2, Ancestry.com, AncestryDNA.” Ancestry provided a panel of product managers who each spoke to their product. Crista Cowan, Ancestry corporate genealogist, provided the introduction.

Peter Drinkwater is the product manager for Newspapers.com. Newspapers.com has over 151 million pages of historical newspapers and they add about 5 million a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. Ancestry separated newspapers.com away from ancestry.com in order to raise visibility. Ancestry search is tailored to historical records and search results return most historical records. But newspapers.com is tailored for newspapers so its search engine does a great job handling newspapers.

You can select Browse and then select country, state, city, newspaper, year, month, issue, and page:

Browse newspapers.om by country, state, city, paper, year, month, issue, and page.

Or you can go to the Papers tab and filter using the controls in the left column.

Filter newspapers using controls in left column.

Or you can go to the map page.

Newspapers.com map view

Information from newspapers is treated as “a blob of text” rather than data of known type, such as names, dates, and places. For example, park could be a name, a location, or what you do with your car. When doing a search it is best to pair both surname and given name. The search results are ranked. Those where the words are found close together are given at the top. As you scan the results, once you get to one where the words are not close to one another on the page, it probably isn’t worth going through any further results.

You can view pages with search terms highlighted, or turn off the highlights.


You can make clippings that others can see for free. And once you find something that’s interesting you can save it to your Ancestry tree.

You can make newspapers.com clipping available to others for free.

At the end of all the panelists’ presentations, Crista invited questions from the audience.

Someone asked Peter about saving clips. When viewing a newspaper page, select Print/Save, indicate whether you wish the entire page or just a portion, and select Print or Save. For Save, choose file type JPG or PDF. PDF files include a citation. I tried this out. The image is scaled to the same pixel width, regardless of original size, resulting in high-resolution clips, but low resolution complete pages.

Another person asked whether it was better to search the newspapers on Ancestry.com or Newspapers.com. Peter explained that when Newspapers.com was first created, they copied almost all the newspapers from Ancestry.com and stopped adding additional newspapers to Ancestry.com. For many years now, all new newspaper acquisitions have been added to Newspapers.com. Bottom line: perform newspaper searches on Newspapers.com.

Peter answered questions about Find A Grave in addition to newspapers.com. Someone complained about the primitive search capabilities of Find A Grave. Peter explained that the code was 20 years old so they are currently rewriting it. When the rewrite is finished, it will be possible to make improvements.

That’s it for today. In the future I’ll write about other panelist presentations.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Serendipity

Gravestone marker for Charles John Holbrook, Chesterfield, Idaho, with shadow of cell phoneIn honor of Memorial Day, here are two graveyard experiences.

That’s My Shadow!

We all regularly benefit from the work of those that have gone before. We use indexes, abstracts, transcriptions, and online trees (ideally well sourced) done by others. We accept help and direction from others. Rarely can we return the same value to them that we received. So we “pay it forward.” We offer our help and expertise to others. We post our well sourced online trees. We transcribe and abstract records. We participate in indexing projects. That’s just what genealogists do.

Randy Wilson tells me that a few years ago on Memorial Day he and his family were visiting the cemetery in Chesterfield, Idaho, as his wife has relatives buried there. Since five of them had smart phones (the Wilsons, not the dead relatives), they decided to use the BillionGraves app to photograph the entire cemetery. BillionGrave came along before Ancestry.com did an app for Find A Grave. BillionGraves does things a little differently than the old, traditional Find A Grave process. BillionGraves uses a streamlined process. All you do at the cemetery is take photographs. The app tracks the location of the graves using the GPS function of your smart phone and uploads the photos. After the photos have been uploaded, anyone can go to the Billiongraves website and transcribe them. In the case of the Wilson family and the Chesterfield cemetery, their on-a-whim family project ended after uploading the photos.

About a year later, Randy’s 14 year old son was using FamilySearch Family Tree. Family Tree had found a hint for one of his ancestors. He clicked it and found it was for a grave marker. When he clicked to view the photograph, he received a pleasant surprise.

“Hey! I took that picture! That’s my shadow!”

Randy said, “Because he was willing to do some service to benefit someone else, and because others were willing to do some, too (those who indexed the pictures we took), he happened to be one of the beneficiaries himself.”

Thank you, Randy, for sharing.

Cap’n Jack

Last Friday Judy Donaghy posted this comment:

A few years ago, I was searching for my 3X great grandfather in a large municipal cemetery. The office had given me a map and told me where to look. I searched for a couple hours with no luck, when back to the office and was told the same thing. By now it was getting late in the day, but I decided to give it one last try and went back. As I was going up and down the rows, an elderly gentleman who had been mowing all afternoon approached me and asked if he could help. I told him who I was looking for (first name John). He immediately replied "Capt. Jack is not in here; come with me". He took me straight to the marker I was seeking in a completely different area. Capt. Jack had been a Union officer in the Civil War and this was a cemetery in the south where he relocated after the war. The gentleman who helped me happened to be African American.

Judy, thanks for your comment.

Image credit: BillionGraves, database with images (https://billiongraves.com/grave/Charles-John-Holbrook/4564651 : accessed 28 May 2016), gravestone image for Charles John Holbrook, 20 Nov 1946-19 Sep 1994, Chesterfield Cemetery, Bancroft, Idaho.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Serendipity in Graveyards and Digital Scans

Cemetery photograph by the authorIt is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidences. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracles. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

Several of you have shared serendipity stories in response to Margaret McCleskey’s cemetery story. Since not all my readers see the comments, I thought I would repeat some here. The first is from an anonymous poster:

I've had a couple of these cemetery experiences. The first was 20 years ago looking for the graves of my aunt and uncle. I was driving a convertible with the top down and was leaving the cemetery because I was unsuccessful at finding them. It started raining so I got out to put the top up, happened to look at the grave stones on the ground next to me when I was getting back in, and there they were. I was shocked!

The second time was two years ago in South Dakota. I found my grandparents graves the day before, but was unsuccessful at finding my great grandparents, who I knew were buried there also. I discovered when I stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas the next morning that I had apparently lost my wallet. I went back to the cemetery to see if I could find it, and found both sets of great grandparents and a lot of great aunts and uncles I didn't remember also being there. This with the assistance of cemetery workers who hadn't been available the day before, but just happened to arrive while I was there. I also found my wallet in the back seat of my car, where I had slept during the night since I was short of funds. I believe I was called back.

Another is from Joan (Myers) Young.

While going through Hampton Reformed Cemetery in Hampton, Adams County, PA, I was looking for the graves of my 2nd grandparents who I already knew were buried there. The surname is MYERS and those familiar with this area will understand that about half of the surnames in that cemetery are MYERS. I searched and searched and could not find them. I told my husband we might as well leave for our long drive home because it was getting late and would be getting dark soon. On my way out of the cemetery a bird flew right into my face. It was a Killdeer defending its nest. The bird forced me back to get away from its attack...and I ended up staring directly into the inscription on my grandparents' stone, with the names as plain as could be. Had it not been for that Killdeer I'd never have found them. Somehow I feel they wanted to be found and reached out to me in the only way they knew how...through that bird.

Margaret Rutledge shared another:

Serendipity is amazing. I was helping a distant relative who wanted to find a marriage record in a New Jersey town's records. My local family history center had the film in its library, so I volunteered to find it for him. When I looked at the film every page was ripped, blotched and stained and the film images were so dark the words were almost illegible. I dutifully made digital scans of every page anyway. I randomly picked a page to attach to my e-mail to illustrate how hard it would be to find anything in them. To my absolute amazement, in the middle of my screen appeared the very marriage record he was looking for.

That is serendipity.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

News Ketchup for 26 May 2016

Ancestry Insider KetchupBehind again. Time to catch up.

BulletTreeDrew Smith, the most recent recipient of the National Genealogical Society’s Filby Award, recently shared a fun genealogy version of Jeopardy. See https://jeopardylabs.com/play/genealogical-librarian. Challenge a genealogy friend to a match! I think you’ll like it.

BulletTreeThe Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy has announced several scholarships to attend their annual institute. “SLIG will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center hotel, January 22-27, 2017. Fourteen courses of in-depth study on a wide array of genealogical topics are being offered to help students ‘elevate [their] genealogical education to new heights.’” For more information about the scholarships, see http://ugagenealogy.blogspot.com/2016/05/slig-scholarship-opportunities.html.

Bullet Ancestry.comAncestry.com has purchased Adpay, Inc., owners of Memoriams.com, an obituary submission website. Memoriams.com is a website that allows funeral directors to place obituaries in local newspaper and out-of-area publications in a single order. It supports 3,000 newspapers in the U.S. The website is designed for funeral homes and newspapers, so don’t look to use it personally. I don’t know if Ancestry will leverage the website to acquire obituaries for Ancestry.com, but I’m hoping it does. See the full announcement at http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2016/05/ancestry-acquires-adpay-inc/.

Bullet Ancestry.comEarlier this month Ancestry enhanced their DNA analysis software. The enhancement increases the precision of DNA matching while changing recall of correct matches. You’ll recall Ancestry vice president Kendall Hulet defined the two terms in his RootsTech 2016 luncheon. “Precision is finding the right stuff,” he said. In other words, some percentage of DNA matches are wrong and this enhancement decreases that percentage. Matching algorithms not only return a few bad results, they also miss a few good ones. The ability to match all the good results is called recall. The new enhancement changes the recall. A few good results that were previously returned now are not. If you starred or made notes about a match that no longer appears, Ancestry is allowing you to download them for a limited time. Click here for step-by-step instructions.

The enhancement is free for all customers and has already been applied to your results. For more information, see “AncestryDNA’s Cutting-Edge Science Gets Even Sharper” on the Ancestry blog. For a high level overview of the advances in the science, see “The Science Behind a More Precise DNA Matching Algorithm” on the Ancestry technology blog. For a deep dive into the science, see “AncestryDNA Matching White Paper,” a 46 page PDF file.

Bullet Ancestry.comSpeaking of AncestryDNA, Facebook reader Frank Guzzo has alerted me to a preliminary ruling in the trademark infringement case involving AncestryDNA and AncestrybyDNA. The court has denied Ancestry’s request for a preliminary injunction. Ancestry had asked that the judge make DNA Diagnostic Center (DDC) stop using the trademark AncestrybyDNA immediately. The judge ruled that DDC can continue using their trademark AncestrybyDNA while the case is litigated.

Ancestry registered the trademark ANCESTRYDNA on 22 January 2013. The ANCESTRYBYDNA trademark was placed on the Principal Register on 25 March 2008. However, Ancestry has asked that the DDC trademark be cancelled due to alleged fraud.

For more information about the case, see “Ancestry.com Files a Trademark Case Against DNA Diagnostics Center” on CeCe Moore’s blog, Your Genetic Genealogist. To read the judge’s order, see “Ancestry.com Operations Inc. et al v. DNA Diagnostic Center, Inc., Filing 60” on the Justia website. (Thank you, Frank.)

Bullet Ancestry.comAncestry spent $77.1 million in measured media advertising in 2015, up from $63 in 2015. During the first quarter, Ancestry.com had 8.3 million unique visitors. This is up from 7.4 million unique visitors for all of 2015 and 8.2 for 2014. For more information, see “Omnicom Adds Ancestry.com to Continue Winning Streak” at Adweek.

Ach! I didn’t even have time to catch up!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ancestry.com Preparing Large German Record Collection

Fraktur font city directory sampleAnd I’m guessing it is German city directories.

A number of years ago Ancestry.com developed technology allowing its computers to “read” (technically called OCR, or optical character recognition) and interpret U.S. city directories. (See “Data Extraction Technology at Ancestry.com.”) While the technology sometimes produces silly results, overall, it allowed Ancestry to publish over two billion records in record time and at minimal cost. The tradeoff seems reasonable.

Ancestry has nearly 700 German city directories but has yet to apply the technology to them. “The main challenge with German is the common use of the Gothic or Fraktur font when printing,” says Laryn Brown, Ancestry product manager. “This special script-like font is particularly difficult to recognize using the best OCR [optical character recognition] tools available today. Words and especially names can be misread as many of the characters in this special font are extremely similar.”

Ancestry’s solution is a quality-assurance check that compares the names the computer thinks it’s reading against a list of known names. If the computer sees something not in the name list, a reviewer is alerted. If the computer has identified a name not in the name list, the reviewer adds it. Otherwise, the name is mapped to the correct name or deleted. The results of these reviews are fed back to the computer so it can learn from its mistakes. It re-reads the books and the process is repeated. 

“When these records are finished, a random list of German words in a very difficult-to-read font will have been turned into a set of records about people that looks a lot like an annual census,” said Laryn.

This new collection will become available over several years and will include millions of pages of new content.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ancestry ProGenealogists Expands to Larger Facility

Ancestry ProGenealogist Salt Lake officesAncestry.com recently expanded the Salt Lake City facilities of their professional research subsidiary, ProGenealogists. They held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the now 22,000 square foot facility on 12 May 2016. (See a short video clip of the ribbon clipping.) Ancestry ProGenealogists employs 90 people worldwide, including San Francisco, Dublin, and London. They plan on hiring another ten this year.

Ancestry bought ProGenealogists in 2010. (See “Ancestry.com Acquires Genealogy Research Firm.”) Ancestry had been spending so much engaging them for researching the Who Do You Think You Are television series, it made sense to acquire the company outright. Under Ancestry’s ownership business has grown tremendously.

For more information, see “AncestryProGenealogists Office and Staff Expand” on the Ancestry blog.

Photo showing inside the ProGenealogists new offices
Inside the ProGenealogists new offices

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Genealogy Search Engines

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,


You some time ago (yeah, real helpful) published an article about a search engine where you only had to enter information once and then it would save it while you searched multiple sites, one at a time. I have lost the link. (Getting old and, at 70, starting to suffer from crs :) Thanks.

Richard E. A'Hern AFGC, SBH

Dear Richard,

You don’t have to be 70 to have bad memory. I’ve started losing memory with a vengeance. I might remember many years ago reviewing a website that did this, but I can’t remember what it was called.

I’ve dug around more recent articles and found two of interest.

---The Ancestry Insider

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ancestry.com Provides Some Free Educational Opportunities

At RootsTech, Ancestry.com interviewed some genealogical experts. They are posting short, educational clips on YouTube taken from the interviews. They recently posted a couple that may catch your interest.

Loretta Evans, “Exploring U.S. Military Pension Files with Loretta Evans”Loretta Evans answers questions about U.S. Military Pension Files in an eight minute video titled, “Exploring U.S. Military Pension Files with Loretta Evans.” Ancestry posted this information about the video:

Loretta Evans, AG ® specializes in researching the Midwestern United States. Her recent projects have included writing family histories, digitizing photographs, and cataloging family heirlooms.

Loretta shares what many consider to be among the richest family history records, pension files! Learn about some of the often overlooked details that can be found in military pension files + examples of how pensions have unlocked mysteries in Loretta's research.

Search Ancestry's military pension collections here: http://ancstry.me/23IxMNt

Pamela Boyer Sayre and Rick Sayre, “Historical Maps Reveal Much More Than We Think.”Pamela Boyer Sayre and Rick Sayre presented an eight minute video titled, “Historical Maps Reveal Much More Than We Think.” Ancestry provided this information about the video:

Certified Genealogists, Pamela Boyer Sayre & Rick Sayre share why maps reveal more than meets the eye along with their favorite online and offline resources to find maps to use in your family history research.

Find the Library of Congress Map Collections here: https://www.loc.gov/maps/collections/
University of Virginia Census Browser: http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/
Newberry Library Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/
Explore Preserve the Pensions effort here: http://www.preservethepensions.org/

Learn more about Rick and Pamela, explore their services and connect with them here: http://www.sayreandsayre.com/

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ancestry Day by the Bay

Ancestry Day by the BayAncestry.com and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation are hosting a full day of classes on Saturday, 18 June 2016 at the South San Francisco Conference Center. Registration for “Ancestry Day by the Bay” is $50 and proceeds will benefit the Foundation. A light breakfast is included. Classes include

  • Ancestry 101: New & Review
  • Getting the Most from Ancestry.com
  • Using AncestryDNA to Further Your Family History Research
  • Sharing Your Family Story.

Ancestry is arranging for representatives to attend from several area libraries and societies. The list tentatively includes the African American Genealogical Society, the California Genealogical Society, the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, the San Francisco Public Library, the San Mateo County Genealogical Society, the Sutro Library at SF State U., and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Ancestry is offering a $38 optional luncheon featuring retired NBC Universal executive Paula Williams Madison, Jamaican-Chinese-African American author and filmmaker of Finding Samuel Lowe (http://findingsamuellowe.com/). I met her and listened to her present at RootsTech 2016. It is an amazing story, with real genealogical research. (Watch Paula’s RootsTech presentation for free on the RootsTech website.)

Ancestry has organized a pre-conference outing to Angel Island on Friday. The $60 admission covers the ferry from San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, shuttle to the Immigration Station, a box lunch, Immigration Station admission, lectures, and a tote bag. Lectures about immigration and other government records will be presented by Zack Wilske, historian with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Marisa Louie Lee, former archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration. More information about the Angel Island outing can be found at http://aiisf.org/about/events/1081.

The California Genealogical Society has organized a free open house Friday, 10:00 am to 6 pm, at their library in Oakland. There is normally a $5 fee for non-members. Experts will be available for consultations. Sign up before hand and submit your questions at the event webpage. Light refreshments will be served at 4.

The deadline is 11 June 2016 for some options, and space is limited. For more information, see the event webpage.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Irish Catholic Parish Registers

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Do you know if findmypast and Ancestry.com indexed the Irish Catholic Parish registers from NLI separately, or if they are using the same index? Since both announced the collections at about the same time, I am suspicious that they have collaborated in some way. I can't get a direct answer from either, but I think it is important for users of both sites to understand what they are searching.  Any clues who could answer that?

Will FamilySearch ever have the index?

Just wondering if you have the scoop!


Dear Lise,

Something, something, something… yes, important for researchers to know… something, something, something…

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I hate to interrupt. Here’s the answer from the source:

“It was a joint venture. They both worked on this together! Regards,

“Christina McDonnell
Genealogy Advisory Service
National Library of Ireland”


Dear Lise,

Glad I could help. Smile

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, May 13, 2016

Serendipity and Susan

Generic photograph of a cemetery by Peyri HerreraIt is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidences. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracles. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

Margaret McCleskey shared with me a simple story of serendipity.

There is a small cemetery in the Hill County of Texas where I had been told that a great, great grandmother was buried. I had walked that cemetery several times without finding the grave. Then one day my daughter was with me looking. She asked what name we were looking for and I told her. She literally took two steps, turned around and said, “Here it is.” The irony is that gggrandmother's name was Susan...so is my daughter's. I will always believe that gggrandmother was calling out to my daughter, “Here I am.”


Photo credit: Peyri Herrera. Under license.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Findmypast Makes Good on Mocavo Promise

Mocavo has now moved to Findmypast.Good news for Mocavo users and—basically—all genealogists. After my story “Mocavo’s Free Forever Promise No Longer” Findmypast content marketing manager, Jim Shaughnessy, reached out with this comment:

All the Mocavo content either is or will shortly be published for free on Findmypast in line with our promise to Mocavo customers. All that is required to access the content will be for users to register and create a free account (just the same as was done for Mocavo).

Jim has since informed me:

I can now confirm that all US Census years are now free on Findmypast as per our Mocavo promise.

I verified access to a couple of the census years. I logged in with the free account I created last time. I think it is entirely appropriate for them to require registration. We should expect to put some skin in the game. I didn’t have to provide a credit card number and there is no automatic conversion to a paid subscription. I was able to view complete index entries and images with no hassles. I wasn’t plagued by nag-ware. Findmypast has done a completely classy implementation.

Thank you Jim, and thank you Findmypast for this generous gift to the genealogical community. Hat’s off to you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Insider Named Official Blogger for BYU Conference

imageI’m honored to announce that Brigham Young University has asked me to serve as an official blogger at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.

The conference will be held 26-29 July 2016 at the Conference Center (730 East University Parkway, Provo, Utah) on the BYU campus. Registration is now open. There will be more than 100 classes on topics including

  • Youth and Genealogy
  • LDS Family History Callings
  • FamilySearch Family Tree
  • DNA Research
  • Google Genealogy
  • ICAPGen (The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists)
  • U.S. Research
  • Methodology
  • International Research
  • Scandinavian Research

Keynote speakers will be Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch and Paul Milner. Paul is a professional genealogist, author, and lecturer. He authored Discover English Parish Records, Genealogy at a Glance: English Research and coauthored A Genealogists Guide to Discovering your English Ancestors and A Genealogists Guide to Discovering your Scottish Ancestors. As you can see from his book titles, he is one of the leading experts on British Isles research and migration. While born and raised in England, he has lived in the states since 1975, so he has lots of US research experience as well.

The conference draws members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as members of the general public. Steve’s address will be spiritually centered and some tracks are LDS-specific. But there is definitely something for everyone. The conference is held about an hour away from the Salt Lake Family History Library, so you may wish to combine a trip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ancestry Updates Handling of Media

Ancestry.com has enhanced the photo upload experienceAncestry.com has updated their media upload experience. You can drag and drop files to upload or select them explicitly. While the upload takes place, you can add additional metadata about each file: title, media type (photo, document, etc.), place, and description. And you can link the file to persons in your trees.

I prefer selecting files, myself. And I’m glad they’ve updated the upload code. I suffered a horrendous problem with it several years ago. I dragged a handful of files onto the uploader and Ancestry uploaded a hundred or more photographs, many with living people in them. I had to go through, one by one, and delete the errant photographs.

I know Life Story is a favorite topic for all of you, so I hesitate to bring it up. (You need to let the anger go before it consumes you.) Anyway, Ancestry has changed media display for multiple media attached to a single event. Photographs now flow horizontally in addition to the previous vertical layout.

Ancestry.com Life Story photographs use a vertical layout

For more information, see “Ancestry Product Update: Media Enhancements” on the Ancestry Blog.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

#NGS2016GEN Crista Cowan, Ancestry.com

Crista Cowan presenting in the Ancestry booth at NGS 2016 in Ft LauderdaleI grabbed the opportunity to attend one of Crista Cowan’s presentations in the Ancestry.com booth at the 2016 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference. While just 30 minutes in length, attendees loved it. Crista packs a 300-seat room at RootsTech. Just imagine how pleased a dozen people were to be able to get personal attention from her and have their particular questions answered. Even when a lady walking by voiced a particular frustration, Crista quickly showed her how to fix it. The woman beamed. After the presentation one lady behind me told another that she had learned more in that short 30 minutes than she had in the conference session she had attended earlier.

Here are just some of the things she talked about.

The new website utilizes a concept known as “responsive design.” That’s important because everyone is using different devices now to access websites, from something as small as a phone, to something as large as a television monitor. Responsive design means the screen layout of a page will adjust for the size of the screen. Here is the way the profile page changes as screen real estate is lost. At full size, the page looks like the example, below-left. As the device screen gets smaller, the first thing that happens is text wraps and boxes squish, as shown below-right.

Ancestry.com responsive design adjustments  Ancestry.com responsive design adjustments

As the screen continues to shrink, something has to give and it is simultaneous access to all three columns. As shown below-left, accessing the sources or family columns takes an additional tap. Eventually, the design hits a minimum size, shown below-right. Beyond that, users must scroll left-and-right to see the entire interface.

Ancestry.com responsive design adjustments  Ancestry.com responsive design adjustments

If you have indicated who you are in your tree, then the header shows your relationship to that person.

Ancestry Member Trees indicate the relationship of the displayed person to you.

Profile portraits can be cropped and adjusted for size.

Ancestry Member Tree portraits can be cropped and adjusted for sizel

Under the Edit button one can find the Edit Relationships link.

Ancestry Member Tree link for editing relationships is found in the edit menu.

The popup window (shown below) allows editing all relationships, mother, father, spouse, and children. Relationships with parents can be set to almost every conceivable type beyond the usual biological, adopted, and step. The spousal relationship type can be set to handle the realities of the complex families that have always existed.

Ancestry Member Tree Edit Relationship popup window

Crista said not to worry when an entire branch of your tree disappears from your pedigree chart after deleting a relationship. All those people are still in your tree, but don’t show up without a link. Link them up again and all is well.

When multiple parents exist, set the preferred setting to select one to display in pedigree charts. Crista pointed out that you should set it as desired, but anything besides biological can be confusing to those looking at your pedigree for DNA purposes.

Under the Tools menu is the Merge with Duplicate option. It is usually better to merge than delete. That way you don’t accidentally lose attachments to sources, and so forth.

Under Tools is also Notes. Crista uses this option extensively, to enter research transcriptions, notes, etc. Notes are private, even in public trees. Comments are public.

Under Tools is also a Show Research Tools option. Some people would like easier access to the tools shown in the tools menu. After enabling Show Research Tools, the page displays the functions along the bottom of the header.

The Show Research Tools option displays functions along the bottom of the header.

The Facts view of the profile page is the research view. Sources are so important for researching, Ancestry moved the Sources section from bottom right to front and center. Further, if you click on a source, it shows which facts it supports (as shown below-left). Vice-versa, if you click a fact, it shows which sources support it (as shown below-right). In a Source, you can edit the citation, even if it is a citation Ancestry created when you attached the source.

Select a source to see all the facts it supports.  Select a fact to see all the supporting sources.

Crista has shared her tree with other family members. Her brother likes family history, but not research. The Facts view is for researchers and leaves him bored. Ancestry created Lifestory as a way to share your family story with others. Ancestry creates a timeline, but you can adjust things. Edit the narrative. Customize the events. Show or hide historical events, either all of them or individually ones. Show or hide the basic events from the lives of other family members. Hide individual facts. Lifestory really works for Crista’s brother.

Friday, May 6, 2016

#NGS2016GEN Opening Session Info about the National Genealogical Society

Jordan Jones NGS presidentJordan Jones, president, opened the 2016 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference on Wednesday. Prior to Connie Lester’s opening keynote, he covered a number of items.

He thanked the organizers and the various volunteers. A local family history society hosts the conference each year. The Florida State Genealogical Society hosted this year’s event and provided 80 essential volunteers. An additional 30 volunteers were here from other societies. Hats off to these many volunteers. Jordan mentioned that NGS is now 113 years old. Their mission is “to serve and grow the genealogical community by providing education and training, fostering increased quality and standards, and promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records.”

Jordan reviewed some of the society’s many educational offerings.

  • They have a book series titled “Research in the States.” He announced two new titles available exclusively here at the conference, and thereafter on the online store: Florida and Texas. That brings the total number of titles in the series to 24.
  • NGS announced a new title coming this summer: Genetic Genealogy in Practice. It is part of their “Special Topics Series.” The two existing titles of the series have proven very popular: Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones and Genealogy and the Law by Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich.
  • NGS offers a series of cloud-based interactive educational courses.
  • NGS sponsors research trips to important repositories like the FamilySearch Salt Lake Family History Library.

Jordan and Chuck Mason, NGS awards committee chairman announced a number of awards. You may know three of the recipients:

  • Cyndi Ingle, creator and curator of Cyndi’s List received a presidential citation in recognition for her service to the community.
  • Dick Eastman received a presidential citation for 20 years publication of the Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter. More than 75,000 people read his newsletter.
  • Drew Smith, one of the hosts of The Genealogy Guys podcast, received an award for outstanding genealogical librarianship.

At the close of the session, as is tradition, Jordan announced the location of the conferences year after next. The 2017 conference has already been announced for Raleigh, North Carolina. The 2018 conference will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Congratulations to Cyndi, Dick, Drew, and the many award recipients I left unnamed. You can read the announcement with the full list of awards and the announcement of Drew’s award on the NGS Conference website.


Image credit: Scott Stewart, 2013 NGS Conference

Thursday, May 5, 2016

#NGS2016GEN Michael Hall Presents FamilySearch Luncheon

Antonio de Mederios BrihanteAt the 2016 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference, Michael J. Hall spoke to the title, “Discovering the Memories of Your Ancestors through FamilySearch.” Michael is a deputy chief genealogical officer at FamilySearch.

FamilySearch is not

  • perfect.

But there are a number of things that it is. FamilySearch is

  • Robust
  • It is dynamic. There’s something coming up neat and new, weekly and sometimes daily.
  • It is informative.
  • It is challenging. You’ve worked hard and put your tree on FamilySearch and someone comes up and changes it. Michael looks at that as a challenge, “a challenge to reexamine my sources.”
  • It is engaging. Michael was having lunch one day with FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer, David Rencher. In through the door came a group of rough looking construction workers. What were they talking about? FamilySearch and why it was so fun and why he was having success. Michael said it was fun listening, the workers not knowing whom he and David were. FamilySearch is engaging.
  • It is a tool.

Michael related his experiences sharing photos and stories on FamilySearch. Michael is half Portuguese. His mother immigrated from the Azores. He showed her fan chart and how much he has been able to accomplish. He has been able to find more than just facts. He’s been able to find many photos and stories.

Michael showed the ancestor page on FamilySearch.org for his ancestor Antonio de Mederios Brihante. Antonio has 20 memories (photos, stories, and documents). Michael has contributed some of them and relatives have contributed the rest. (To see Antonio’s page in FamilySearch Family Tree, you must register for a free account. But anyone can see the photos, stories, and documents.)

As a result of posting photos and stories on FamilySearch.org, Michael has had correspondence from all over the world.

Michael Hall made contacts with relatives across the world.

By posting, Michael found a cousin that knew family stories he hadn’t heard. He found that another ancestor had stowed away on a ship. Someone in India showed how he was related to Vasco de Gama. Someone in the Netherlands was able to extend his Portuguese line back to the Netherlands. He was able to access a letter from a shipwrecked ancestor, possibly from Scotland. He has been able to get copies of photographs of ancestors in the Azores.

Michael has experienced many benefits using FamilySearch:

  • Meeting previously unknown relatives
  • Finding previously unknown photos and documents
  • Discovering new and interesting stores about his ancestors

“Using FamilySearch will help you to know your family,” Michael said.


Image credit: Richard Brilhante, contributor; untitled photograph of six men, four women, and one infant, with the seated man identified as Antonio de Mederios Brihante, filename 10021401.JPG; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/photos/images/10567782 : accessed 4 May 2016).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#NGS2016GEN Connie Lester Opening Keynote

Dr. Connie L. Lester
Image credit:
University of
Central Florida

Dr. Connie Lester presented the keynote address at the 2016 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference. She titled her address, “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, 1870-1945.”

All of us have farmers in our past, she said. They didn’t leave a lot of records. They were too busy providing for their families. We don’t understand the foundation they laid for modern life. Before the establishment of the agricultural colleges, a lot of the experimentation done to find the best varieties of citrus to grow in Florida was done by individuals. While land speculators were telling people up North how great the soil and climate were, Floridians were experiencing something different.

“You know you have become a real Floridian,” she said, “when you know exactly how many of bags of mulch will fit in your trunk.”

The climate is also a challenge. The citrus freeze of 1894-95 was especially severe. It killed both fruit and tree. There was nothing like it before and there has been nothing like it since. It took years to rebuild.

Prince Butler Boston was one of the ordinary people living an extraordinary life at the time. Prince was the black son of a former slave owner. They came to Florida in 1885 when he was 12 years old. After the freeze, his father left the industry and moved away. The farm went to Prince. He was one of the citrus pioneers of Central Florida, although he isn’t mentioned in the citrus hall of fame. He carried on key citrus experiments. He was extraordinary. One measure is his children: He had ten and all ten graduated from college. (See https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/blackoviedo/boston.)

Connie is working to preserve the stories of these individual farmers through a project called RICHES. They are capturing the history of individuals from Central Florida. They approach the small museums and archives to find information about the individual farmers. These are stories not captured in the large archives. Even individual users can make contributions. Check it out at http://riches.cah.ucf.edu/mosaic.php.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Do I Specify Periods In Searches

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Insider,

How do FamilySearch and Ancestry "handle" periods following an initial in records searches?

Would I be better off not including the period in my search phrase?

Example:  John J. Smith (for John Jay Smith or John Jones Smith)

Gary Barton

Dear Gary,

As I wrote back on 28 April 2016, FamilySearch ignores periods you specify. FamilySearch instructs indexers to leave periods out and I am guessing when they buy an index from someone else, they strip out any they find—for consistency.

Back on 23 April 2016 when I wrote this, I searched for “A P Raymond” (set to exact) on Ancestry.com. I received matches for both “A. P. Raymond” and “A P Raymond”. I did the same search with periods and got the same result, so apparently it doesn’t matter.

Short answer: it doesn’t matter.

Incidentally, Ancestry also gave matches for “P A Raymond”, and “L A Lyle P Raymond”. Apparently, they use the same rules for exact searches that FamilySearch used to use. Exact search on Ancestry requires the specified names be present, but additional names may be present and the specified names may be present in any order. You’ll recall FamilySearch changed their exact search recently. They changed their exact to be “exact” (ignoring punctuation, …).

---The Ancestry Insider


Note: This article was corrected on 22 May 2016 as noted in a comment below.