Saturday, January 28, 2012 Questions from Ol' Myrt

Like Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings, Ol' Myrt here has been working on questions to ask during the upcoming RootsTech 2012 conference. I've already sent most of these questions to Ancestry with the hope these topics will be discussed during the Saturday AM panel discussion session with Tim Sullivan. Alternately, I expect to visit the booth in the exhibit hall at the Salt Palace as many of the department heads should be on hand.

  • How about contributing to the calendar, so that your web events aren't scheduled at the same time as other genealogy webinars?

Sometimes a single document doesn't answer the question "Who are the parents?"
  • What efforts are planned to bridge the gab between "casual visitors" to and the more "thoughtful researchers" who understand principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard? Inferential genealogy is a buzz-word among genealogists of late, but beginning researchers just assume one document will suffice for proving each generation. 
  • Alternately, is your focus simply to provide scanned images of old records leaving the analysis to others?
  • Doesn't an "hit list" imply some analysis, albeit via computer, which may or may not be accurate?
  • Doesn't the weighted / analyzed "hit list" lead to a responsibility to educate members about more than the mechanical use of the site?

  • Historically, what percentage of membership is retained year over year?
  • Is that trend improving?
  • What is being done to encourage renewals and avoid membership cancellations? (I think it would be educating your members.)

When the "shaking leaf" suggests looking at trees submitted by other researchers, they are listed in order, higher to lower in relation to the number of attached sources and records.
  • Would you consider having a "user weighted" evaluation, with both stars and comments option, on Public Member Trees, so that users can rate the research conclusions expressed in those trees? We see this on and eBay about products and services.

  • What percentage of your members are researching US/Canada/England versus other countries of the world?  
  • How does this compare to the localities represented in the collection?

I've noticed Ancestry has pulled back from participating at regional multi-day seminars (Family History Expos for example) and has decreased it's "footprint" in the exhibit hall at US national conferences. Additionally, purchased to add to to your Swedish collection, and subsequently released from employment the North American Genline rep who was adept at teaching in regional and national conferences.
  • How high a priority is educating members in the use of your records?
  • Distinguishing "selling membership" from "education about analysis and use of indexes and scanned images", what percent of your annual budget is dedicated to teaching members how to use your records in compiling a family history? 
  • What percent of's annual budget is spent in transporting and staffing a display at genealogy conferences in the US and internationally?
  • Do you consider it more cost effective to advertise on radio and television, and to sponsor shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and leave the methodology discussion to others?

The FTM 2012 (win) was released last year, touting the ability to sync both ways with Ancestry member trees. The beta board has been removed documenting the frustrated users who see this as a unreliable option -- working once or not at all.
  • What is the time frame for getting that sync option to work seamlessly?
  • Note: Tech support advised me to create a new GEDCOM file to upload to my Ancestry Public Tree. By doing that I lose all the photo, document and collaboration links in my existing tree that I've worked so hard to develop over the past few years. 

Having toured the facilities in Provo, Utah I am aware that tech support is divided in categories of expertise. Is all tech support handled through that facility?
  • What percent of tech support staffers are full time employees? Part time?
  • What plans are in the works as you reach out a global audience of visitors and members who live in different time zones and who speak different languages?

So, DearREADERs, what additional questions would you like me to ask of
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.