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: pixabay.com.

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 www.gravestage.com, 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. FindAGrave.com 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 FindAGrave.com 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 https://support.ancestry.com/s/surveysFAQ.