Friday, April 21, 2017

Serendipity in a Box

Glenda U'Ren Clyde photograph of John and Grace Uren childrenOver 40 years ago Glen and Joyce Alt lived in Platteville, Wisconsin where they became friends with Glenda Clyde and her husband. After several years, the two couples moved their separate ways, the Alts to Massachusetts, the Clydes to Washington state, and the couples had no further contact.

Years passed by. One day Glen’s parents were participating in a household auction in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. When they bought a box of stuff for a few dollars, the auctioneer threw in another for free. The Alts found the second box contained a bunch of old photographs and a piece of paper with names, dates, and places. For some reason, Glen’s mother threw them into a drawer instead of throwing them away. Eventually, she passed them on to Glen. Glen felt there must be someone out there who would place great value on the photographs, so he began investing great efforts in finding them. He had a clue. The paper identified the family as the Urens of Blanchardville, Wisconsin.

Glen started looking, but without success. When he went to Wisconsin on vacation three years later, he availed himself of the opportunity to ask around. He asked some old friends in Platteville if they knew any Urens. One remembered that they had a mutual friend whose maiden name was U’Ren: Glenda Clyde.

Twenty-eight years after they had last communicated, Glen found Glenda on social media. She thought the photographs and information might be of her family, so Glen sent the photographs and the paper to her. Glenda discovered that the pictures and paper were of her great-grandfather’s brother’s family. The information gave her seven new families and 31 new names.

“These precious pictures/paper were bought in the Midwest, given to Glen on the East Coast and then sent to me, a family member, on the West Coast,” Glenda wrote. “Considering the incredible preservation and journey of this valuable information, to us, it truly is a miracle.”


Retold with the permission of Glenda Clyde. You can also read her story in R. Scott Lloyd, “Family History Moments: Package Deal,” Deseret News ( : 16 March 2017). Photograph contributed by Glenda Clyde.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ancestry Offering Irish Heritage Tour

Springfield Castle, Family Home to Lord Muskerry, IrelandAncestry ProGenealogists, in conjunction with Go Ahead Tours, is offering an 11 day tour to the Emerald Isle. “Discover the country’s highlights and enduring heritage with special insight from the expert AncestryProGenealogists team.” This guided tour visits Dublin, County Cork, County Kerry , Galway, and back to Dublin. For an extra cost, “continue your experience by adding an ancestral home visit to the places where your family members once lived, worked, worshipped, and went to school.” The tour runs 22 October through 1 November 2017.

For more information, visit

Photograph by Gary Deane, used under license.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Erroneous AncestryDNA Genetic Community

North American Genetic Communities map from AncestryDNAReader Clytee Gold wrote me about an apparently erroneous AncestryDNA Genetic Community assignment. One of her two communities is “Mormon Pioneers in the West.” (First, I am jealous that she has two community assignments.) She is rather positive that none of her ancestors were ever Mormons. She has done extensive research and has never found any connection to the Church. As there are still pockets of prejudice against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this assignment could be highly offensive to some people. Coincidentally—or not—it is not offensive to Clytee. Forty years ago she joined the Church and moved to Utah. She is, literally, the “Mormon Pioneer in the West” of her family.

I’m not qualified to explain how this misassignment occurred, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Perhaps experts among my readers can correct me. Clytee gave one possible explanation:

The only thing I can figure out is that is based on OTHERS testing (guess that makes a community - who else took the test to compare to), and that somewhere, 5-6 generations back a sibling of a great-great something of mine joined the church in Denmark in the late 1800's and came to Utah as a "Mormon Pioneer in the west" and populated the west and there are lots of descendants who took the DNA test.

Ancestry has explained that they use an algorithm called community detection to detect groups of individuals with a large number of interconnections. I think of it like large DNA Circles that don’t require common ancestors. The Mormon Pioneers community contains 89,000 testers. Just like a DNA Circle, Ancestry states a confidence level for your membership in the genetic community. My connection to the Mormon Pioneers community is “Very Likely.”

Ancestry says they then examine the Ancestry Member Trees of the genetic community “to learn about the historical forces that may have brought their ancestors together.” Of course, some testers don’t have trees, some don’t include all their ancestors, some have ancestors without complete location information, and some have complete garbage in their trees. I assume Ancestry looks for common locations in 25-year increments. If they find a large number of ancestors who lived in the same place at the same time, they look into the history of that time period and why there was a large number of individuals there. Then they give that community a name.

For example, the sweet spot for one genetic community is centered on Massachusetts in 1725-1750 (shown on the map, below left). Ancestry chose to name that community, “Settlers of Colonial New England.” Another centered on Utah at a much later time period, 1875-1900 (below, right). Ancestry called this one “Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West.”

AncestryDNA genetic community map for Settlers of Colonial New England, 1725-1750. AncestryDNA genetic community map for Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West, 1875-1900

I assume Ancestry can follow the group forward and backward in time, up and down the member trees. This provides additional touchpoints to compare against historical sources and decide if they have correctly identified and named the genetic communities. Moving forward in time gives an interesting view on migration that may not be available from other demographic sources. This may truly be groundbreaking demographic tools. For example, look at the 1900-1925 map (below) of the descendants of early residents of Chihuahua and Durango. If I am interpreting the map right, by that time they were as likely to be living in El Paso as Chihuahua. (The large circle over central Texas represents ancestors whose member trees didn’t specify where in Texas they lived.)

AncestryDNA genetic community map for early residents of Chihuahua and Durango, 1900-1925

Moving backwards in time gives an interesting view on where the Mormons who settled in Utah came from. In the period 1825-1850, most were living in England, with a fair number in Denmark. (See map, below.) The surnames associated with the Mormon pioneer genetic community further point to Denmark:

Jensen, Christensen, Larsen, Hansen, Allred, Nielsen, Olsen, Sorensen, Nielson, Rasmussen, Christiansen, Madsen, Peterson, Anderson, Barney, Leavitt, Child, Andersen, Petersen, and Jorgensen

AncestryDNA genetic community map for Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West, 1825-1850

Once they are sure they have identified the genetic community, Ancestry can take information from history books about that group and display it next to the migration map. However, the information may not apply to your ancestors who didn’t participate in the chain migration. That is how Clytee may have been put in a migratory group that her ancestors didn’t participate in. She told me her ancestry:

My father was half Swiss (4 generations from the immigrant to Missouri) and half German (5 generations from the immigrant to Missouri).  Mother half Norwegian (2nd generation from the immigrant to Iowa) and half Danish (2nd generation from the immigrant to Iowa).

I think the conjunction on Denmark is more than coincidence. Clytee’s Danish ancestors didn’t have to join the Mormon church for her ancestors to share DNA with those that did. I don’t think it had to have been a sibling in genealogic-time, either. I think Ancestry is looking at shared DNA in a closed community with hundreds of years of intermarriages.

There is a possibility that the genetic community Ancestry has identified is actually more specific than “all Mormon pioneers.” Ancestry may have identified DNA of Mormon pioneers of Danish origin. Look back at the dominant surnames for this genetic community. Does it look more English or Danish?

There are other possibilities. Remember the mention of confidence level? Clytee may not belong to the genetic community at all. Her DNA may just be a statistical anomaly. Remember the mention of garbage trees? Ancestry may be running calculations overwhelmed by erroneous information.

GIGO. Garbage in—garbage out.

Thank you, Clytee, for your message.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Mailbox: Browsing Ancestry Database Images

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

The database "Pennsylvania Wills and Probate Records 1683-1993," offers the subscriber a "Browse this collection" window which works perfectly for all Pennsylvania counties except for Philadelphia County. The list of available images for Philadelphia County never shows up anymore—it did when the database was first launched. Perhaps because it is such a huge amount of data, it cannot load properly. Because the list of digitized probate files for Philadelphia County can only be accessed by clicking on a link from this "Browse" function (administrations, etc), it is now not possible to access those files since there is no dropdown menu.

If you know someone at Ancestry who could correct this, I know many researchers would be grateful.

With thanks,

Sandi Hewlett

Dear Sandi,

I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, there is a workaround. There are two ways to access the browse capability of an Ancestry collection. One is the browse you have identified on the collection page. The other is accessed via the breadcrumb path at the top of the page, underneath the title when viewing an image. If you can find a way to see any image, then you can browse to any other image. You can get to an image via browsing one of the other counties that works, or by searching for a common name. Or do this:

1. Start at

2. Underneath the collection title at the top of the page, click on “Administration Files, 1764.”

3. Select from the available options.


---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, April 14, 2017

Darned Undertaking

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable. Records say the darnedest things!

Kenneth H. Rich was the undertaker. He was also the decedent. Weird.

Kenneth H. Rich of Kokomo, Indiana was his own undertaker.

After 30 years as an undertaker, Kenneth retired just 7 weeks before his doctor started treating him for interstitial nephritis. Less than 6 weeks later, Kenneth was gone. His son, Robert, took over the family business. Six years after his father’s passing, Robert had his first born son. He named him Kenneth.

Reader Naomi Martineau shared this record with me. Thanks, Naomi!

Image credit:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Funny AncestryDNA Commercial Parody

"Have you ever questioned your family’s ancestry?" by 22 Minutes, CBC ComedyA coworker alerted me to this video from the CBC show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. It is titled, “"Have you ever questioned your family’s ancestry?"

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Mailbox: AncestryDNA Genetic Community List of Surnames

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I was playing with this new feature but I did not see the list of Associated Last Names. Would you tell me where to find it please? It is fun to play with but I don't see that it gave me any new information; anything that I have not already researched.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale

Dear Colleen,

Do you see on the third line down in the screen shot, below, where it says “STORY | CONNECTION”? Click on CONNECTION. Scroll to the bottom of the page; it’s on the right hand side.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ancestry Launches New Genetic Communities

North American Genetic Communities map from AncestryDNAAncestry launched Genetic Communities last week. “Think of the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates on steroids, and you’ll have a sense of what this is,” Tim Sullivan told RootsTech attendees last February. While ethnicity estimates show your genetic origins from hundreds to thousands of years ago, the Genetic Communities feature shows groups of people you are related to in the last few hundred years. Ancestry defines a Genetic Community as “a group of people who are connected to each other through DNA, most likely because they share a common history or lived in the same places.”

Kendall Hulet said, “Applying rigorous statistics and scientific development, we’ve created a unique experience that can connect you through your DNA to places your ancestors called home and the migration paths they followed to get there.” This doesn’t necessarily pin your particular ancestors to a particular place, since your ancestor may have been an outlier. Chances are good, however, that Ancestry will nail part of your ancestry to a particular region and timeframe.

AncestryDNA has identified over 300 communities with plans to release more in the future. Brad Argent of AncestryUK says that most people are members of at least one Genetic Community, some people are members of two, and, rarely, some are members of three. In my case, I am a member of one.

My ethnicity map now shows my ethnicity estimates on a dark azure map. (Can I just say, I don’t like this new color scheme?) Notice that Ancestry has narrowed (not!) my Native American ancestry to the entire Western hemisphere. Not very helpful in determining my tribal origin (Massachuset).

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA

But notice the small Orange spot on Utah? That’s my genetic community, “Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West.”

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA with a Genetic Community noted

While my genetic community is of no surprise to me (I’m 5th generation Mormon on every single line—my ancestors all being good genealogists—I was born into a completely full, 7-generation pedigree), a Genetic Community could be very interesting to someone vaguely aware of—say—Germanic roots.

Your Genetic Communities are listed beneath your ethnicity pie chart on the left side of the page. The way statistics work, AncestryDNA can’t say with 100% confidence that you are a member of a community.

Ethnicity estimate pie chart and Genetic Communities list

When you click on your community, you are given an overview of the community.


Scrolling past the overview reveals migration time periods with commentary.

Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community

Selecting a time period shows a migration map, different for each time period. Orange dots show birthplaces from community members’ Ancestry Trees during that time period. Pins show birthplaces from your own tree. Animated lines show the direction of migration.

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

Did you notice, I’m aboot one-fourth Canadian, eh?

Beneath the community name, two buttons select between the default Story view, which I’ve shown above, and Connection view. Connection view states that they are 95% confident that I am a member of the Mormon Pioneers Genetic Community, and that it has 89,000 members. Connection view provides a link to see all 737 of the ones that I am related to. It also lists common surnames in the community:

Last names associated with my genetic community

Hmmm. Anything jump out at you?

To see Genetic Communities, you don’t need to have a tree or a paid Ancestry subscription. It is available for free to everyone who has had an AncestryDNA test.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Mailbox: Find A Grave

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Many of you had strong feelings about Ancestry’s new design of Find A Grave. You can see it at

Here are some representative samples:

This new format sucks!!! … So disappointed! … I absolutely HATE IT. … Another website ruined by people who don't use it. … Do.. Not.. Like.. It … New and improved??? It's absolutely horrible, isn't it??? …

From Irene Sheridan:

The new site would not take my email and password. Is it a separate registration to try the test site? I don't want to mess with my "real" login info. :)

Dear Irene,

If I understand correctly, the account systems are currently separate. Your email address and real password won’t work on the staging site and vice versa. You have to register again to try some of the functionality of the staging site.

Angela and others found that the information is messed up:

I just looked at my great grandfather's memorial on the new site. It doesn't have his wife, children and parents attached to him like it does on the old site. It says there are no family members currently associated with this memorial. So that is not right and did not flow over to the new site like it should have. I also now manage his memorial as the lady who originally made his memorial transferred him over to me. It does not list me as being the person managing his memorial. The new site also says that there is no bio information on him but I added his obituary to the old site so it is not on the new site. I also left a flower on his memorial for the old site but he does not have any flowers on the new site. I don't like the new site at all.

I forgot to warn you that the data isn’t always real. Don’t worry about that. It is just test data. A corollary is that any changes you make on this staging site is thrown away! Don’t do any real work on it.

Diane Gould Hall commented that the layout is a step backward:

Everything should still be nicely located on one page, as it is now. Now made so you have to click, click, click to find things. The photos are put into that little box, just like on the new and horrible Ancestry site. I understand updating code. I don't understand a complete new format that makes this beloved website more difficult to navigate and ugly to look at.

Toot echoed that theme:

Just from what I see here, the grey with white text is difficult to read, hard on the eyes. The pleasant colors on the "old" site with black text was very easy on the eyes, and pleasant to look at (why the ugly colors of death needed?). Understand the need for new code, but don't understand the need to change to ugly colors, hard to read text, and reformat of the page. Hopefully, the attached spouse, children, Bio, etc., will flow over in the "new." And hopefully, the name and date will continue to be on the photo's contributed, as well as Flowers contributed. Photo size needs to be large enough to see the text on the Headstones (as it is now,) not some little Thumbnail you can barely see. Name of person (with link) who manages the Memorial is important, unless FaG is going to "manage" all Memorials, which I don't forsee. The current page format is easy to use, easy on the eyes, and does NOT need to be changed. As someone else stated in their comment, it is obvious that the persons coding, and changing the platform/format, are NOT users of FaG!

As did Anna:

The new site is not a pleasant one to use, at least in this beta version. Too much wasted space, too much scrolling, the photos look funny, and too much clicking around to see what used to be one tidy page with everything instantly visible.

It has caused me great wonder that design experts mess up websites when they get involved. Designers think that poorly utilizing screen space and decreasing contract is somehow a good thing. (Do a Google search for [graphic design white space] and [design "never use black"] . After the designers have been paid and move on, websites and relent to user demand and switch back to black text on white. Unfortunately, they never seem to fix the “whitespace is good” problem that results in so many extra clicks scrolling or switching tabs.

Michael Dorsey Iams stole my thunder and preached my usual sermon:

I work in the software industry although not for any of the genealogy companies. I thought it would be useful to talk about how users can most effectively provide actionable feedback to software developers.

First of all, I applaud the Find A Grave team for publishing a public beta site. Developers are reluctant to show work they know is not complete, but it is in everyone’s best interest to get direct user feedback early and often during the development process. Second, we all need to acknowledge that user interfaces need to change over time although the benefits of those changes are not often immediately apparent. And finally, recognize their job is to make money. On a free site, that means they need to increase traffic. Concepts such as internationalization and mobile support are significant to them.

1) Generally, don’t focus on colors and fonts. Everyone has difficulty accepting the unfamiliar, and everyone adjusts with time. Although Google is an extreme example (, major companies employ experts and detailed processes for deciding these things.

2) One exception to this I believe is handicapped people. Although there are tools and guidelines for accessibility, real-world feedback is still encouraged in this area.

3) Mobile support is about providing a good user experience a variety of resolutions. Try this experiment. Pick up a corner of your browser displaying the Gravestage site. Adjust it bigger and smaller. The elements change to accommodate. A good design finds ways to continue to show the most important information as the screen size drops. This is called responsive design and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. Pick a resolution that matches your mobile screen resolution and provide feedback in this context.

4) Developers aren’t genealogists so it is all too easy for them to make false assumptions. Help them understand with specific, actionable insights into what you want to accomplish and how you go about it. If there are enough people like you, they will surely try to accommodate.

5) It is generally accepted that reducing number of clicks is important, and I think this is a very fair criticism.

6) Provide your feedback with context describing what type of user you are and how you use the site. Even a specialized site such as Find A Grave has dozens of different types of users that use the site in different ways. They need to be able to all these constituencies.

7) It is safe to assume they are familiar with similar sites in the industry, but the internet is a very big place and I find it helpful when someone says "I like to do X with the site, and I find that Y site does this particular function very well".

As they finish the site, they will fix all the bugs like photo cropping and stuff. But, they need help with understanding the many diverse use cases that ultimately affect the broad structure and design of the site.

Mander asked:

Is there a link we can use to send our feedback and suggestions to Find a Grave?

Lisa replied:

Yes, when you are on the page, there is a feedback link in the bottom right corner of the page.

So, good readers, go use it!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Old Find A Grave to Live On?

imageThe specter of a new design for Find A Grave has many a Graver rolling over in his grave photos. As I reported earlier, Ancestry showed the new Find A Grave website design at RootsTech. (See “The New and Improved Find A Grave Shown at #RootsTech.”) Users have provided a variety of responses. I will publish some of them on Monday.

imageAs the feelings continue to rise, rumors have started surfacing of the chance that the old design for the Find A Grave website might live on. A Chinese-language website reports that a student at 愚人节大學 University has created a website that is indistinguishable from the current Find A Grave website. (See “Find A Grave to Live On.” Warning: the article is in Chinese and Google does a terrible job translating it. What follows is a cleaned up version of the Google translation for a portion of the article.)

Student Yu Renjie said, compared to what you imagine, the distinguished website to meet the modern standards, while still maintaining the old appearance, it is easier. The student's website even complies with Ancestry's global intentions and has been available in English or Chinese. While the original "Find Grave" site requires a lot of scrolling on a small smartphone screen, the student site can be seamlessly integrated and automatically slide the view into the view as needed. Students want to sell their work to their ancestors. [I think they meant, “to Ancestry.”]

Ever the skeptic, this development seemed too good to be true. It all became clear, though, when I translated the name of the university into English. So… What do you think? Too good to be true?

imageCredits: Headstone image, public domain from pixabay. Chinese calligraphy and engraving produced by Image manipulation by the author.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Elusive Bug in Ancestry Search

Elusive bug in Ancestry searchFor years people have told me that there are bugs in Ancestry’s search. It was returning something it shouldn’t. But each time they sent me an example, I found the search system was working as intended. It was displaying results that partially mismatched because other parts matched so strongly. There was a distinct possibility it really was the person you were looking for, albeit you might have provided a little bit of incorrect information, or the record itself contained a little bit of erroneous information. Now whether you agree or disagree with that approach, the fact remains, the system was working as Ancestry intended it to work.

Another scenario users experience is that the library version returned different results than the home edition. I haven’t bothered to track that one down, but I don’t believe it. It would require adding special code to handicap one or the other. There is no incentive for them to add extra code that would lead library users to believe Ancestry works poorly. If you experience this phenomena, chances are more likely that you have the filters set differently between the two.

Another phenomena users experience is that they perform the same search twice in a row and once it returns less results. When I instruct them to try it several more times, it always returns the greater number of results. This is not a bug in their code, although I suppose it should be considered a bug in their architecture. Years ago Ancestry met with bloggers and explained that their search system divided up global searches among several computers. The search system took the results from the several computers and assembled them for presentation to you. This architecture had two ramifications. The several computers didn’t all finish at the same time and the order they completed was not fixed, resulting in the search results being in a different order each time. I don’t know if they still have that architecture, but if they do, it explains why once in a great while a search returns fewer results than it does every other time you run it. What happens is that one of the computers assigned part of the global search completely failed. It’s results were never returned to you.

Still, the specter of an elusive bug persists.

Well, I think I finally have evidence that the bug exists.

If you perform this search, the only result is Thelma I Raymond (shown below). 

Thelma I Raymond is the only result.

One of the search parameters specifies she was born in 1909. If I remove that constraint, I should get additional results—and I do. But she still matches, so she should be included in those results—and she isn’t (shown below). I get six results and she isn’t one of them. She matches better than the other six results so she should be included.

Thelma I Raymond is not among the results.

I don’t believe this is the intended behavior. That makes it a bug. So if you have long believed you’ve experienced erroneous results, you may be right.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ancestry and Family Tree Maker Synchronization Announcement

Ancestry Member Trees will synchronize with Family Tree Maker.Last week Ancestry announced that Ancestry editions of Family Tree Maker will cease to synchronize with Ancestry Member Trees as of 29 March 2017. Instead, synchronization will be available in Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker 2017 edition, which will be released on 31 March 2017. Said Ancestry:

In the new [Software MacKiev Family Tree Maker 2017] FamilySync, Ancestry’s search, merge, and Ancestry hints will all work as they do now for users who sync with their Ancestry trees and you can also look forward to more exciting new improvements.

You can upgrade to Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker 2017 edition for free if you purchased it since 1 March 2016. According to the Ancestry announcement:

Those with previous Ancestry editions, or who got a free copy of Family Tree Maker 2014.1 or Mac 3.1, are eligible for discounted upgrades. The pre-order upgrade is $29.95 for those who sign up for Software MacKiev’s mailing list before March 29 and the upgrade will continue to be a discounted price ($39.95) for a limited time after March 29.

You will recall that Ancestry discontinued Family Tree Maker back in December 2015. (See “Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software” on the Ancestry blog.) In a 9 December 2015 clarification, they said they would continue to support synchronization with Member Trees through at least the end of 2016. (See “More Information on Family Tree Maker Desktop Software” on the Ancestry blog.) At that point in time they planned to allow other tree software to synchronize with Member Trees, but had no plans to sell Family Tree Maker to another vendor.

Public response was intense and a month later, Ancestry announced the sell of Family Tree Maker to Software MacKiev. (See “Family Tree Maker to Live On” on my blog.) They also announced that RootsMagic would be able to synchronize with Member Trees by the end of 2016.

In March 2016, Software MacKiev published their first edition of Family Tree Maker 2014. They gave free updates to users of Ancestry Family Tree Maker 2014. (See “Family Tree Maker Is Updated and Shipping” on the Ancestry blog.)

The Ancestry announcement did not mention when RootsMagic will be able to sync with Ancestry Member Trees. Earlier this month, RootsMagic announced that they are still in development. (See “A Sneak Peek from the Underground Labs” on the RootsMagic blog.) They are calling their synchronization TreeShare. They did not give a release date but it was demonstrated at the RootsTech RootsMagic booth by Michael Booth.

For more information about the Ancestry announcement, see “Software MacKiev introduces FamilySync™” on the Ancestry blog.

Image credit:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Mailbox: Preservation of Photos and Stories on FamilySearch

The Ancestry Insider's Monday Mailbox

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I have been using FamilySearch Memories as my main repository for family history-related photographs and documents, with the hopes that this material will be preserved “forever.”  Do you think there is a chance that the LDS Church could abandon the FamilySearch Family Tree and Memories projects, with all of this material being lost?

Thomas Abbott

Dear Thomas,

There is always a chance your scanned images of photographs and documents could be lost. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently reaffirmed the Church’s belief that it will endure forever and one of its duties is offering ordinances to both the living and the dead. If he is correct ((and I believe he is), then your images are not in danger for reasons of the Church ceasing to exist or losing interest in family history work. However, there are other reasons to consider. Storing those images is very expensive and preserving them is more difficult than you might think. One can argue that preserving them is not essential to offering ordinances to the dead. There is always the possibility that the Church would divest that portion of their family history efforts to one of the many other companies offering that service. Failure of that 3rd party then becomes a possibility. There are no plans to do this, but one can not rule out the possibility that it could someday happen. And there is always the possibility of catastrophic failure that inadvertently destroys all the Church’s copies of your images. I think that would be nearly impossible, but stranger things happen.

Similar arguments can be applied to FamilySearch Family Tree. I believe there is an additional risk for Family Tree. If FamilySearch can’t find a way for non-genealogists and competent genealogists to coexist in the same tree, then Family Tree might collapse under its own weight.

I believe the lesson here is the same one we talked about last week: many copies of images and information increase the possibility that they will survive.

The Ancestry Insider

Saturday, March 25, 2017

NGS 2017 Conference Early Bird Registration Deadline is MONDAY (#NGS2017GEN)

Monday is the early bird deadline for the National Genealogical Society 2017 Family History Conference! Gak! I should have warned you earlier!

This year the conference is in Raleigh, North Carolina on the 10th through the 13th of May 2017 at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury Street. There are more than 175 lectures and workshops to choose from. Classes are organized in tracks, although you can move about classes without regard to the tracks:

  • African American
  • DNA
  • family stories
  • historical context
  • international
  • maps and locations
  • methodology
  • military
  • Native American
  • North Carolina research
  • organizing research
  • problem solving
  • records and repositories
  • regional movement
  • religion
  • research in the states
  • research planning
  • skill building
  • technology
  • tips and techniques
  • working with records

For more information, check out the registration brochure and visit the conference website.

I am honored to again be accepted as an official social media contributor for the conference!

The Ancestry Insider is a member of the official social media press for the the National Genealogical Society 2017 Family History Conference.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The New and Improved Find A Grave Shown at #RootsTech

Peter Drinkwater at RootsTech 2017At RootsTech 2017 Peter Drinkwater showed off a late-alpha prototype for a new Find A Grave website. Fearing the worst, he was quite happy when the presentation didn’t devolve into a lynching. Find A Grave diehards are that passionate. Peter asked for a show of hands of those who use Find A Grave. Every hand went up except for one older gentleman who had, apparently, fallen asleep. He asked for a show of hands of those who have contributed to Find A Grave. I think up to half of the attendees raised a hand. This was a crowd to be feared.

Peter Drinkwater is the general manager for Find A Grave, a website owned by Ancestry. While the session was titled “Getting to Know the New Find A Grave,” Peter first helped us get to know the old Find A Grave. Find A Grave was created in 1995 by Jim Tipton. “Jim Tipton lived here in Salt Lake and he had a hobby of collecting dirt from famous people’s graves,” Peter said. “He created Find A Grave as a place to document that and let other people share the locations of [famous] graves.” In 2000 he added the ability to document the graves of ordinary people. In January 2017 there were 157 million graves. For all those years, the website looked almost the same.

“It is with great trepidation that I even think about touching this,” he said. Why would we make a change, he asked? The code is quite old and there aren’t many developers who are comfortable in it. Modernizing the code will make it more secure, easier to work on, and make it possible to use new tools to improve the site.

The second reason to change it is to make it usable via a mobile device. More than 30% of visits to the site are on a tablet or phone. The ability of a webpage to adapt to smaller screen sizes is called responsive design.

The third reason to change the site is to internationalize it, making it available in a variety of languages.

The goal of the initial project is to convert Find A Grave to new code, not to add new features. That effort is well along and Peter showed off the new site to us. Peter expressed gratitude that there were no pitchforks and flames.

The new Find A Grave home page appearance

It can be found at, although a password is required to see it. Peter shared the password with us, but I didn’t get permission to share it with you. What say you, Peter? Can I share it with people?

The biggest change is immediately obvious: the search form is available on the home page. I think that is a great change. Entering the location has been simplified. Rather than selecting state then county, you start typing the name of the location (cemetery, city, county, state, or country) and select it from the list.

Search results look as shown below and can be sorted in various ways.

Search results on the new Find A Grave alpha site look like this.

An individual result looks like this:

An individual grave record in the new Find My Past website will look like this.

Peter told us the rollout plan is to follow these stages:

  1. Let people play with the beta of the new website. It operates like a sandbox. You can do anything you want, but everything you do will be thrown away. Nothing you do will effect the real Find A Grave website.
  2. Once it is ready, launch the new website as an option. Users can choose which one to use. will take you to the old website. Both show the same data and changes in one appear in the other.
  3. Once users are ready, switch and make take you to the new website. The goal is to be to this point by the end of April.
  4. I can’t remember what he said about end-of-life for the old website. Perhaps it will be kept online for a little while after the new website becomes the main site.

Any bookmarks or copies of URLs (website addresses) to the old website will still work with the new. However, going forward all new URLs will be simpler.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

AncestryDNA Personal Discoveries Project

AncestryDNA Personal DiscoveriesI visited my DNA page last Saturday to see if the new Genetic Communities feature has launched yet. It hasn’t. But I did see something new. Ancestry gave me the opportunity to take a survey. It is part of the “Personal Discoveries Project.”

They posed the question, “Can we discover more from your DNA?” They invited me to take a survey to learn things about me that I might share with my genetic relatives. Participation is optional.

They gave several possible motives. “If we launch a new AncestryDNA project or feature inspired by your responses, you will be the first to know,” they said. They warned that they would combine the data—reasonably hiding your identity—for study and possible sharing on social media or used in advertisements, emails, or promotional offers. The FAQ page states

Learning more about our customers and what you may have in common with your genetic relatives and other AncestryDNA customers will help us provide a better user experience as we develop new products and features. Your feedback can help us identify patterns within groups of people connected by DNA so that we may enhance your AncestryDNA experience.

When I interviewed Kendall Hulet at RootsTech, he talked about Ancestry’s desire to open up the DNA experience more to non-genealogists. My guess is that this is part of that effort.

The survey asked about a dozen questions in each of eight different categories: personality, life story, lifestyle and behavior, travel and culture, traits and characteristics, family details, hobbies and interests, and fun and entertainment. They asked if I was a cat or dog person (dog), if I wore glasses (yes), if I snore (not anymore), what my favorite kind of car is (one that still runs), if I preferred coffee or tea (neither), if my earlobes are attached (no), if I was born in the same country as my grandparents (I lied), if I had ever been to a rodeo (yes), and would I sit it out or dance (dance).

I don’t know if this is a random-sampled survey, but I suspect they want as much data as they can get, to correlate against DNA data. I suspect if you go to your DNA page, you will see the invitation also.

For more information, see the FAQ page at

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don’t Let Your Research Be Flushed Down the Toilet

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxThe Monday Mailbox, “17 Years of Research Being Flushed Down the Toilet,” drew lots of great suggestions on ways Larry—or anyone else—can preserve your research before you are gone.

Doris Wheeler suggested the many copies approach to sharing your tree online:

I still advocate also using GEDCOM to post my tree (without images) to Wikitree, RootsWeb WorldConnect, Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and any other place I can. The thought of losing the fruits of all that hard work is unbearable.

(Sarah V offered to help out if you wish to go the Wikitree route. Just reply to her message.) I said in my article that no one could see your Ancestry tree but subscribers. Barry M Spinner reminded me that Ancestry is available in many libraries, whose patrons will also be able to see your tree.

While some people are concerned about sharing, Carol Yocom said, “I've always shared my work gladly. There are mistakes, but most of it is well sourced.” She said posting several thousand images is “labor intensive, but I'll be damned if 45+ years of work ends up in a dumpster.” She hopes “it proves useful to others after I've collected my ticket outta town!”

Proofreader said, “It's hard to beat good old fashioned paper.” Plenty of people agreed, and again advocated the many copies approach. Mary Chamberlain said,

I think it's important to get hard copies of the tree and any source documents to as many libraries, historical societies, and genealogical societies as possible. Not just those in the area where Larry lives now, but those in areas where branches of the family once lived.

Jim Culbert said that some societies accept paper, some electronic, and some will not be interested at all.

Cat fan said,

If you can create a report with all your family research information and images,and save the document (MS Word or PDF); you can send it to the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne IN. They will print a copy for reference at the library and send you a copy.

For more information, see

If you check with them beforehand, the FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City also accepts donations of books you’ve written. However, they are very picky. Books must be readable, very well organized family history books, rich in standard, genealogical information about people. The preferred format is electronic: a Word or PDF file. Next best is unbound, double sided printed pages. You must be the copyright holder and sign a document giving FamilySearch permission to freely make copies of your book. (I’m pretty sure this includes digital copies posted for free use on the Internet.) They do not accept family tree databases, nor collections of pedigree charts and family group sheets. (I assume that these can be elements of your well-written family history book.) Don’t think you can print out your GEDCOM, throw a hard cover on it, and send it to the Library.) Before donating, contact the donation staff at or call 1-801-240-1855.

I think if you produce a book of Family History Library quality, you should have no problem placing copies in several libraries of various types and town, county, and state genealogical and historical societies. Nancy Smith Gibson warned not to forget your local genealogical society:

I would suggest donating your research, both your tree(s) and back-up information to your local genealogical library or organization. Our local genealogical library benefits greatly from donated research, books, pictures, etc. Sooner or later, somebody either comes in, calls, or emails looking for information and we are so happy to be able to provide some detail that gets overlooked when the majority of information is digitalized. We have many volunteers who work one, two, or more days a month to organize and file. Don't forget your local organizations.

Nancy Smith Gibson
The Melting Pot Genealogical Society and Library
Hot Springs and Garland County, Arkansas

Joseph Martin additionally sent his books to some 65 family members and published about 30 articles in various genealogy magazines, “trying to assure that my 45 years of research will be preserved.”

Connie Moretti pointed out that if you qualify for membership in a lineage or heritage society like the DAR, SAR, Mayflower, and Jamestowne societies, they will preserve your application and all the documentation.


Regarding saving your photos and document images to I had asked Legacy, “Does Legacy allow uploading source images to FamilySearch Family Tree?” Legacy responded: 

We would LOVE to see this but FamilySearch does not allow this, at least not yet.  We can only do what FamilySearch allows (they call the shots on what features we can have).  As soon as they give us the go ahead our programmers will make it happen.  For now, you have to upload photos manually on FamilySearch itself.

Enhancement Requests
Legacy Family Tree

According to P Walker, Ancestral Quest is already doing it:

I imported my RootsMagic gedcom into Ancestral Quest (wasn't happy with how images were treated during the import, however, but maybe other imports, such as from Legacy and PAF would do better) and then synched those with FamilySearch Family Tree and it's really going quickly getting images up into FS and also downloading any new ones anyone has added.

It's taking longer for RootsMagic and Legacy to add this as it's not a priority of theirs right now…

The Ancestral Quest page on indicates P. Walker is correct.

As I reported last Monday, RootsFinder will soon (if they don’t already) have the capability to upload to FamilySearch Memories the photos associated with a GEDCOM.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Insider Ketchup for 17 March 2017

Insider KetchupLot’s of stories I didn’t get to this week. Time to ketchup.

Bullet I received my March 2017 newsletter from Ancestry. The newsletter linked to an Ancestry sponsored three minute YouTube video from the Photo Detective, Maureen Taylor. Maureen explains how to care for your old photos and relates some of her experience identifying people in old photos. The newsletter pointed out that Ancestry will be at the NGS Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, 10-13 May 2017 and invited readers to register. Finally, the newsletter pointed to an article/advertisement that you might find interesting. AncestryDNA product manager, Anna Swayne, compares her Irish-ness to that of her sisters.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

FamilySearch tree bullet FamilySearch posted “How to Add Sources” on their blog. It explains three ways to add sources to FamilySearch Family Tree. You might find it helpful if you are a Family Tree user.


Gak! Out of time.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Watch #RootsTech 2017 Videos

RootsTech 2017 was in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.I’ve written a lot about RootsTech 2017. Whew! That was quite the conference. According to FamilySearch, RootsTech reached 180,000 people around the world. More than 13,000 from most U.S. states and 43 countries gathered in person. More than 100,000 watched live via the Internet. On Saturday, 20,000 more gathered for the free Family Discovery Day. The Expo Hall had 170 vendors. There were more than 300 sessions.

Many of those sessions and classes are now available to watch online. Here are some of them:

Next year RootsTech will be a little later in the year, 28 February 2018 to 3 March 2018. Planning is already underway! Start your plans as well.


Some additional videos are available for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Additions to Ancestry Management

Ancestry announced recently the addition of two members to their executive management team:

  • Nat Natarajan, from Intuit, Executive Vice President of Product and Technology
  • Vineet Mehra, from Johnson & Johnson, Executive Vice President and
    Chief Marketing Officer

Ancestry wrote:

Nat Natarajan, named Ancestry’s Executive Vice President of Product and TechnologyNat Natarajan, named Ancestry’s Executive Vice President of Product and Technology, comes from Intuit where he recently served as senior vice president and chief information security and fraud officer. His tenure at Intuit also included holding the position of chief technology officer and senior vice president of product and engineering for the Consumer Tax Group, which serves a customer base of more than 30 million.
Vineet Mehra joins Ancestry as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing OfficerVineet Mehra joins Ancestry as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the company. He joins Ancestry from Johnson & Johnson where he was Global President of J&J’s multi-billion dollar flagship Baby Care business. His tenure at J&J also included holding the position of President for J&J’s Global Marketing Services organization, where he led J&J’s core consumer marketing functions across the globe including Consumer Insights, Business Analytics, Digital Marketing, and J&J’s Media organization, where he managed more than $2 billion USD in spend around the world.

Both Natarajan and Mehra will be based in Ancestry's San Francisco office.

For more information, read the Ancestry press release.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Future of Family History Center Microfilm

Microfilm readers and cabinets at the Riverton FamilySearch Center. Photograph by the Ancestry Insider.FamilySearch Family History Center staff are increasingly having hard times keeping their microfilm readers operational. Parts are becoming hard to obtain. On a Yahoo discussion group, one staff member reported using O rings from a local machine shop to replace belts. Another staffer reported being quite concerned last October when FamilySearch support indicated that “Film ordering will be going away eventually and now is a great time to start removing unneeded readers.” This startled her because she understood it would be decades before all the microfilms that could be digitized would be posted on FamilySearch. Another staffer reported hearing at RootsTech that only 7% of the records had been digitized. Another reported that some microfilm would never be digitized because of “copyright.” (It’s actually not a copyright issue, but other legal impediments.)

Steve Fox, manager of cataloging and metadata services at FamilySearch International, stepped in to clarify the situation. Steve said the 7% number is incorrect. You’ll recall my report from RootsTech that FamilySearch executives said 50% of the vault has been scanned.

Steve said, “The more critical issue is that raw microfilm used for making copies for distribution is no longer available at an affordable cost. In fact, it will soon be unavailable at any cost.” He said, “I can’t give an exact time frame, but microfilm circulation will go away in the near future, regardless.”

He acknowledged the “copyright” issues and said, “Creative solutions to these issues are in review.”

Steve went on to disclose that some films have been digitized that are not available in historical record collections. These contain 100s of millions of images and are accessible only through the FamilySearch catalog. Including the images available through historical record collections, there are nearly 2 billion images accessible through the catalog. To access images through the catalog, look up a film as you usually would. Then look for a camera icon in the column to the right of the film number. Click the camera icon to access the images. “Images viewed this way are not structured like the browse collections, but mimic the microfilm roll experience,” Steve said. “If something is on Item 3, you need to scroll down through the thumbnails looking for Item 3, like cranking through a roll of film.”

Images accessed through the catalog are subject to the same conditions as those in historical record collections. Some require that you login. Some will require that you be at a FamilySearch family history center, or even the Salt Lake library.

Monday, March 13, 2017

No, They Can’t Change Your FamilySearch Genealogies File

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxI responded to a question about preserving genealogies in my article “17 Years of Research Being Flushed Down the Toilet.” I pointed out FamilySearch Genealogies. Among the responses were several that clarified FamilySearch Genealogies. (There were a lot of suggestions on other ways to preserve. I’ll share those next week.)

Dear Ancestry Insider,

My problem, quite honestly, with FamilySearch trees, is that anyone can add (or delete) members of your tree.  FamilySearch needs to have some method to "lock down trees" so that only the tree owner, or someone that has edit privileges, can change the tree.  I won't put my tree on FamilySearch until the trees are locked down.

Brenda Hare

Dear Readers,

I responded privately to Brenda and she pointed out a big flaw in my article. I failed to point out that FamilySearch Genealogies, the kind I explained in that article, are “locked down.” No one else can modify your tree. FamilySearch offers both systems: personal trees that no one can modify, and a public tree that everyone can modify. Read the article for instructions on how to upload your GEDCOM to FamilySearch Genealogies.

The downside is that you cannot edit your FamilySearch Genealogies online and you can’t give edit privileges to anyone else. To update your tree you must replace it with a new GEDCOM.

The Ancestry Insider


Dear Ancestry Insider,

RootsFinder might be a good solution for this.

It is a new free service that lets you upload a GEDCOM, and then work on your personal tree from there. It supports “publishing” your RootsFinder tree to FamilySearch Genealogies and keeping it up to date. So instead of blowing away your previous upload (thus breaking long-lived links) and re-uploading, RootsFinder sends deltas to keep your Genealogy on FamilySearch up to date (with no user interaction required—it’s kept as an up-to-date copy).

By the end of this month, they will have an app you can download (for Windows and Mac) that will take your GEDCOM and the pictures it references on your local hard drive and upload them all to RootsFinder.

They’re also working towards being able to preserve images in RootsFinder as Memories in FamilySearch, linked from Genealogies. (I don’t have a due date for that feature).

At that point, you should be able to use the RootsFinder app to upload your GEDCOM + images to RootsFinder, indicate that you want to publish it on FamilySearch, and the GEDCOM and images should all be preserved.

Randy Wilson

Dear Randy,

Thanks for alerting us to this new FamilySearch partner. We also heard from RootsFinder directly.

The Ancestry Insider


Dear Ancestry Insider,

We also have a free new online family tree you might want to check out at It allows you to upload a GEDCOM and preserve your data in FamilySearch's free Genealogies long-term preservation service, and we’re working with FamilySearch to give you the option to preserve your RootsFinder pictures as well.

As has been pointed out, GEDCOM only transfers data, not images. But by the end of the month we will have a media transfer utility which will allow you to upload your GEDCOM along with the media from your computer so you won't have to upload your media later; it will all import everything at once and everything will stay attached.

We're still new and getting the word out about this; in fact we were semifinalists at the RootsTech Innovator Showdown. If you want to check it out we appreciate your feedback!


Dear RootsFinder,

Thanks for letting us know! (What’s up with these people who identify themselves only via pseudonym? Don’t you hate that?)

The, um, Ancestry Insider

Friday, March 10, 2017

Legassick Serendipity

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad train, "The Prospector," traveled Salt Lake City to Denver back in the 50s.Christine Edwards submitted this tale of serendipity to my RootsTech contest. Thank you, Christine!

I was staying for a week at a small hotel in downtown Salt Lake City and spending my days at the Family History Library. On Friday I came down for breakfast late, considering what I wanted to work on that day. In walked a stranger who sat down in the next booth. We chatted for a few minutes and it was obvious the woman had an English accent. Joy had been in Mexico and was on her way to Denver by a series of trains. She decided to stop over for only one night at a youth hostel in Salt Lake. She didn’t like the looks of it, so she had the taxi operator drive her around downtown Salt Lake City looking for a hotel that appealed to her. She finally checked into my hotel about midnight the night before.

Here comes the serendipity. Since I was born in England, I mentioned her accent and asked what part of England she came from. “Totnes,” was her answer. “Oh, I’ve been there,” I responded. “I have distant relatives close by. In fact, I have relatives and ancestors from all over Devonshire.”

“Oh, really,” she responded. “What are their names?”

“Windsor, Luscombe, Pulliblank and Legassick,” was my response.

She didn’t say anything, just bowed her head. Then she spoke softly, “I’m a Legassick.”

Yes, she is my third cousin! We ran to a computer and found ourselves on the same family website. I spent most of that day with her and took her to the train station at night so she could continue her journey to Denver. Since then I’ve visited her in Plymouth and she has introduced me to other cousins.

I called it serendipity.  My sister called it a blessing.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It Keeps Ancestry’s Kendall Hulet Up At Nights -- #RootsTech

The Ancestry Insider and Kendall Hulet at RootsTech 2017I had a chance to speak with Ancestry’s Kendall Hulet at RootsTech 2017. Kendall has been with Ancestry since about 2003 and has risen to the position of senior vice president of product management.

I asked Kendall what keeps him up at nights. “Protecting people’s privacy and the security of their data,” he said. Ancestry is making massive investments in this area. He said it will probably always keep him up. He warned us as well. “Be super careful with your data because it is your DNA and you just need to be thoughtful about it.” Privacy is one reason Kendall gave for the lack of an AncestryDNA chromosome browser. (He warned that he would probably butcher technical information about DNA. I know less than he does, so please add comments to correct me. Anyway…) He said a chromosome browser exposes actual SNPs (“snips”) for your matches. Ancestry has to be really thoughtful about doing that. They have to decide if that makes sense. Ultimately, people’s privacy is more important than a chromosome browser, he said.

According to Kendall, another reason Ancestry doesn’t offer a chromosome browser is something called pileups. You share 50% of your DNA with a banana, so obviously you share a ton of DNA with other people. Kendall said some people are attempting to triangulate on places that are pileups where a lot of people match. “It’s not because they are really amazing matches; it’s actually just because you are humans or you both happen to be from the same rough area of the world,” he said. So while Ancestry has had extensive discussions internally about such tools, users may inadvertently focus on pileups and not know it. “You think it is telling you something interesting and it’s not,” he said. “You really have to know what you’re doing.”

Kendall said Ancestry offers two alternatives. He explained that since they have 3 million people in their database, they can analyze across millions of people to determine what are pileups and what are not. They then identify matches in common with you. When you view a DNA match, select Shared Matches to see a list of users who share SNPs with you and that DNA match. The other alternative is DNA Circles. Circles have diagrams showing matches between your matches.

[Below is an example from the Insider’s DNA. I share DNA with DF and our common ancestor, Julia Ann Hammer. Ancestry doesn’t disclose the particulars other than indicating we share 8.9 centimorgans on one DNA segment. You can see that DF and BJ do not match because there is no line between them. ]

An AncestryDNA circle indicates what triangulations exist among the ancestor's descendants.

The other thing that keeps Kendall up at nights is “somebody we don’t see coming, from a business perspective, with a disruptive approach to things.”

Kendall said that DNA could have been that thing, but Ancestry has successfully turned it into a “massive, positive thing.” They are poised to release Genetic Communities (see Tim Sullivan’s announcement). The feature shows migration patterns for groups of people at a much finer level than gross ethnic origins. “It is very rich in telling the story of these people and how you connect into them and how they’ve moved over time,” Kendall said. “I think it is going to be a game changer for DNA and family history.”

They hope to accomplish another game changer for the casual DNA test taker. Kendall said that while lists of matches are great for the family historian, Ancestry wants to make DNA more fun. A lot of people they talk to just want to see a bunch of photographs of cousins to see how much they look alike. “Ultimately, what we want to do is have a more social experience where people can connect to each other,” he said.

“If you could achieve great handwriting recognition, it’d be a game changer for the industry,” Kendall said. “That’s the kind of disruptive thing that could be crazy interesting.” [I know FamilySearch has said it would take 300 years to index their collection using human volunteers.] Kendall said that handwriting recognition would be incredible. “It’s the holy grail.”

Kendall said that if enough descendants of a deceased person were to take a DNA test, Ancestry may eventually be able to reconstruct a significant portion of that person’s DNA. That might tell you all sorts of interesting things, like eye color or if they suffered from male pattern baldness. “Who knows. Maybe you could try and figure out what they looked like,” he said. “That’s like crazy way out there.”