I 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.
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.
If you have indicated who you are in your tree, then the header shows your relationship to that person.
Profile portraits can be cropped and adjusted for size.
Under the Edit button one can find the Edit Relationships link.
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.
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 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.
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.