Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Please index all names in my Ancestry.com tree

Living without an every name index is like
A day without sunshine, but I digress.

Yesterday's Mondays with Myrt hangout featured a discussion introduced by Randy Seaver's "Does the Ancestry Member Tree  Index "Prune" Trees?" posted on his Genea-Musings blog. Since then the Ancestry.com message board query initially identifying the problem has been partially disabled, meaning no additional responses are permitted. I cannot help but think it will be harder than ever to politely encourage Ancestry to index every person in our Ancestry.com trees, Ol' Myrt here suggests a work-around at the close of this post.

Here's the direct link to our video discussion.


Here's the embedded video, with the "Ancestry Member Tree index pruning" discussion occurring at 34m45s into the hangout:

Randy Seaver worked through his reader's question, and found the original query, still available at the time of my initial reading, but now locked, permitting no additional responses. I have added my emphasis in three color enhancements of item 2 below:

" From [Ancestry's] Jim Mosher

1. The index for our Public Member Trees has not been updated since mid-November.

2. The current indexing rules do prune people from the index. These rules eliminate unusually large people (those with thousands of events or hundreds of immediate family members); those without any sources; and those with only a name. This makes the indexing more efficient (and it is still a big job to process the multiple billions of people in the trees system). THIS IS A CHANGE from what we used to do, so the statement of "only ever indexing those with records attached" is incorrect, but it DOES reflect the current system.

3. The Member Service agent was also correct in that she cannot connect you to our development staff to "talk to a tech." There are escalation channels within Member Services, and they can (and do) bring up issues with our Product and Development teams, but they will not put you on the phone with the development staff.

HOWEVER, we are investigating to see if something has failed with part of the tree index, and we are in-process of re-indexing the public member trees.

SOURCE: Ancestry.com and Ancestry Site Comments Message Board has an interesting thread titled "Public Tree Search Results" started by Vera on 3 February, with 29 comments to date, viewed 23 Feb 2016.

Cousin Russ Worthington wondered if people yelling about undocumented trees is what caused this decision in restructuring the criteria for indexing an Ancestry Tree.

From Lisa Gorrell: "Does this mean that my stripped-down tree that I posted for DNA purposes will never be found by anyone else also searching for my families?" In retrospect, Ol' Myrt here wonders if DNA matches work under a different tree-indexing criteria.

What is a stripped down version of our trees attached to our DNA results? Lisa Gorrell says "Yes, my tree has no citations. I have not spent the time to attach the 'leaves.' "

Russ Worthington suggests giving feedback to Ancestry.com by clicking help in the upper right side of the Ancestry menu bar. Be specific.

ITEM At 50:29 Bill West asks "Is this being done on all trees or just certain categories, like the free public trees?" Russ Worthington postulates that if a Ancestry Tree is not an Ancestry Member ($ubscriber) Tree, then an algorithm could be created to exclude it from the index.

DearMYRTLE wonders "What about deciding not to broker Ancestry mail communication between subscribers and non-subscribers?" Is this the why behind the current indexing algorithm policy?

Randy Seaver says "I think all trees should be searched."

Randy Seaver reads Danine Cozzens chat comment "This sounds like Ancestry programmers are making things simpler for efficiency without understanding how genealogists use their fine product."

M. Koalski : "I don't think it was a FEW people complaining [about undocumented trees] but I think Ancestry could satisfy everyone by just listing the most-documented cases at the top of the list [of possible matches with other Ancestry Member Trees.]"

Randy Seaver says he "suggested this very thing last year to Tim Sullivan [Ancestry CEO.]"

Patrick Shaul says "I also do a stripped down version for DNA, but I let Ancestry shake the leaves and apply the sources to make the information acceptable to others." 

Betty-Lu Burton says "Maybe with Ancestry starting to play nicely with the software companies then it will become easier to add citations. It gets rather tedious adding the same citations in 2 or 3 places." Ol' Myrt here agrees. After all, we are using computers, so let's take advantage of computing technology. Thank-you to Ancestry for partnering with RootsMagic to permit syncing by the end of this year. 

I'm wondering if there shouldn't be an expectation of "truth in advertising" where several different television ads show a person typing names in a tree at Ancestry.com is shown? The voice-over says things like "I just typed in a name and I found my grandmother." Maybe Ol' Myrt here is mixing up the shaking leaves, and tree indexing, but on the other hand:

After the hangout, Ol' Myrt began to wonder why Ancestry.com wouldn't want member and non-member trees with shaky leaves and matches to other trees for every individual on our trees? Each individual is a "doorway" for someone to make a connection with my tree.

Making the index of trees an every name index would only invite new interest in joining or continuing membership with Ancestry.com. Rather than losing the every name index, I'd choose to use the "ignore" option on un-sourced ancestors in trees. That way I could later revisit my sticky wicket ancestors and attempt communication with the owner of the other Ancestry tree.

Living without an every name index is like:
  • Attempting to search through US Civil War Pension files where only the soldier and spouse are listed. In my case, I had to order nine different files for a man by the name of Phillips. Do you know how many also had a wife named Louise? It was when the children were listed that I made the correct connection. Sometimes even badly formed trees may provide a clue that subsequent research may prove true.
  • Dealing with a county history published at the turn of the previous century. Certainly we know there are errors in a compiled history, but the clues often have some basis in fact.
  • A day without sunshine, but I digress.


1. Respond to the "Public Tree Search Results" post located here: http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?o=0&m=14608. In Ol' Myrt's case, I am inserting the following text:
Thank-you for sponsoring Ancestry Member Trees as an effective way for members to locate documents that possible match our ancestor profiles. Please do not prune those trees. Anytime an index is incomplete, there's a chance my ancestors will never be found. Please, Ancestry.com, index everyone in my trees.

My research requires I make every possible cousin connection and find every available document in your extensive library of images.
UPDATE: Before hitting the "publish" button on this post, I attempted to post my two paragraphs from above. Apparently this Ancestry topic has been closed to additional responses. I immediately checked with Randy Seaver, who confirms he is also unable to add a reply. This isn't playing fair, Ancestry. How are we to express ourselves and come to a mutual understanding?

2. Until Ancestry.com responds with a favorable change in the tree indexing policy, we may have to consider creating a .PDF file to attach to every "empty" person in our tree. The text would say something like this:
I've added this comment to work around the Ancestry.com Feb 2016 policy stating certain ancestral names would be excluded from their index specifically "those without any sources" and "those with only a name." Source: http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?o=0&m=14608.

This is indeed my brick wall, and I wish to communicate with others who may have information on this ancestor I've been unable to find despite my best efforts. Perhaps you've run across him in your research? Maybe this is a sibling to your direct line ancestors? 

But then, maybe that's Ancestry's game plan all along. They can then quote a higher number of "records added to member trees." Never mind it's a generic source attempting to fool Ancestry's current tree-indexing algorithm.

If I'm sounding cynical, it's because I am frustrated by the closing of the message query to additional responses that may prove useful to solving this problem in a way that meets the needs of both sides.

Let's keep responses to this post on topic, INDEXING EVERY NAME ON AN ANCESTRY TREE. Perhaps, Danine Cozzens said it best:

"This sounds like Ancestry programmers are making things simpler for efficiency without understanding how genealogists use their fine product."

Hangouts: Pay what you want. So it's simple. If you value the work Ol' Myrt, +Cousin Russ and our beloved panelists do week in and week out on your behalf, please:

Check the DearMYRTLE Hangouts Calendar for upcoming study groups and hangouts. There you'll find links to the GeneaConference (in-person) and the GeneaWebinars Calendar with over over 200 hours of online genealogy classes, webinars, live streams and tweetchats from other hosts and presenters over the next 12 months.

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