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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How forthcoming IS Ancestry?

Sub Title: A Visit with “Myrt’s Skype Friend”

Sub-Sub Title: Why Ol'Myrt cannot type fast enough to keep up with this burning issue today.

Last night during a Skype conversation with a friend, hereafter called “Myrt’s Skype Friend” or MSF for short, the topic of big corporations and challenges of being responsive to subscriber needs came up with the focus on how Ancestry conducts business.

As someone who has attended functions at NGS and FGS annual conferences for years, it is the impression of MSF that there is too much corporate hype and posturing and not enough response to member needs. MSF thinks the average Joe genealogist feels the same way.

Even though no longer an employee, Ol’ Myrt here humbly begged to differ, stating that has been reaching out more successfully since the fiasco of Ancestry’s now defunct American Biography Collection. That project was certainly brought to a halt due to protests by membership, and it was the first instance where I was aware that was truly responding to member feedback. (The majority of genealogy bloggers the stepped up to remind they don’t own the ancestral content others placed on the free pages at RootsWeb, and cannot then copyright those pages and include them in their paid subscription data area – hence the demise of the ABC.)

Myrt suggested to MSF the differences between’s stated policies and courses of action were brought to light with the emergence of “The Ancestry Insider” Blog. (Now that employee no longer works for Ancestry, and though his postings are still insightful and spare no punches, there is less info about the inside workings at MSF explains that you’d have to know about AI, in order to read his blogs. And with literally thousands of genealogy blogs out there, MSF doesn’t know how a newbie would ever catch on.

In fact, “Myrt’s Skype Friend” had just read the most current issue of Ancestry Magazine, and remarked “although the usually 1-page articles were informative, they were all about how to use” MSF also mentioned a lack of context, for instance, “if you cannot find it at, is that really a dead-end?” Myrt did acknowledge that competing genealogy magazines Family Chronicle and Family Tree Magazine aren’t restrained by limiting content discussion to the databases on a single website since neither are affiliated with a genealogy database website.

Myrt suggested to “Myrt’s Skype Friend” that it is easy to see what’s happening at Ancestry through at least the following blogs:

But when Ol’ Myrt decided to look at the website, she discovered it is not easy for those who haven’t followed the saga over the years to find the blogs that detail new procedures, options, website maintenance schedules, etc.

So just as Ol’ Myrt here was beginning to formulate the design of this blog entry, Beth Gay made a posting on the public APG Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list about the mailing list she created:

Beth Gay wrote:
I started a new mailing list for the discussion of topics relating to the subscription service, If you would like to become a member follow the instructions in this link:

Then Beth Gay wrote:
Unfortunately Ancestry has decided to remove this list from Rootsweb. This message was posted to the mailing list today:

Dear Ancestrycom List Members,
We wanted to let you know that in the next coming days the recently created Ancestrycom mailing list will be removed from the site. We definitely don't want to discourage discussion about the website, but currently there are two very active message boards dedicated to the discussion of One is called Ancestry Site Comments (mainly used for general comments about the site) and the other is called Ancestry Improvements (mainly used to submit suggested improvements and site feedback).

Ancestry Site Comments
On -

On -

Ancestry Improvements

On -

On -

Our Product Managers and other staff are active on these message boards and try to visit them regularly to read the recent posts. We are worried that with an additional outlet for discussion about we may not have enough staff to stay on top of things and may miss some of the comments that would have been made to the message boards. We want to make sure that we can understand everyone's feedback about the site and can offer our comments when it is helpful and keeping it focused on these two message boards will help with that.

Thanks in advance for your understanding as we try to use these messages boards instead of this new mailing list. We understand that some of you prefer to use mailing lists rather than the message boards and hope that this doesn't inconvenience you too much.


Anna Fechter
Community Operations Manager
The Generations Network
360 W 4800 N Provo, UT 84604 family tree maker

I was shocked to see that had removed a mailing list created and approved by the once independent RootsWeb Mailing lists, now a division of Ancestry always promised RootsWeb wouldn’t go away, and that it would remain an independent voice. Using Google Alerts, and RSS feeds, Ol’ Myrt here manages to keep up with any online mention of DearMYRTLE or Dear Myrtle, and such. Why can’t the techies over at do the same?

Why does feel it necessary to stifle this grass roots effort of Beth’s to set up a mailing list? Ancestry isn’t going to quash discussion. It will merely end up on websites such as Yahoo or Google Groups. BAD CHOICE to attempt to exert control, Ancestry!

So it would appear that while verbal top level corporate policy statements lead participants of the January 2009 “secret bloggers’ summit” at Ancestry headquarters to understand a change about open communication was the priority when it came to tending to members’ needs -- the day-to-day policy doesn't have the same focus.

PS – Wouldn’t you know that while Myrt was spell checking this blog post, fellow genea-blogger, Hugh Watkins created the first post on the “Unofficial Ancestry subscription group”? There are now 41 members.

That’s how fast the genea-blogosphere reacts to company policy.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.


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© 2009 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.

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