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. 




  1. Here are 3 questions that I have previously given to Ancestry at a meeting at the National Archives for which I never received a response. The questions are:

    1. Ancestry has reorganized some of the Federal census images by dividing enumeration districts (ED) into incorporated places as specified on the heading of the census form. As a result the pages for a ED may no longer be in family number order if the census enumerator made an error. I am concerned that the 1940 Federal census will also be reorganized.

    I was browsing through the 1920 Census records for Conway County, Arkansas. I selected Lick Mountain Township. There are 24 images in this Township. On image 1, I saw that only a portion of the Holaway family was displayed nor was there a dwelling number or family number displayed. On the heading of the page, the township was Lick Mountain and the Name of Incorporated Place was blank. When I searched for the Head of the Holaway family, I found that the Head of the Holaway family was included in a separate Township (Center Ridge Township).

    When I viewed the Center Ridge Township, I saw that there were 10 images in this group. I found the Head of the Holaway family at the bottom of the page on image 9 of the 10 images. At the top of the page, I saw that the Township was actually Lick Mountain, but the Name of Incorporated Place was Center Ridge.

    When I viewed image 10 of the Center Ridge Township, I saw that it was not connected to any of the 10 images in the township group. Eventually I found that it belonged as image 10 in the Lick Mountain Township.

    On a positive note, when I searched for all Holaways in Conway County, Arkansas, the system found both those who were in Lick Mountain Township as well as Center Ridge Township.

    2. When I search the War of 1812 Service Records and display an individual soldier, it shows the name of the soldier, his unit, and rank. It also shows the roll box number. All of these records came from Microfilm Publication M602 which is reflected in the Source Information statement. However, in the statement for the individual there is a reference to “Roll Exct: 602”. What does “Exct” mean and why doesn’t it say “Microfilm Publication M602”?

    3. The War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815 (which is Microfilm Publication M313) is simply a digital copy of the microfilm roll. You view the data by selecting a Surname Range. The problem with the Surname Ranges is that the groupings are not in alphabetical order. For example, if you look at the groupings that begin with a “C”, you will see that the first group is Carm-Cast, the second group is Casw-Che, and the third group is C-Carl. The third group should be the first group. There are similar problems in other parts of the grouping.

    Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Harold McClendon

  2. Myrt...
    Ask not only Ancestry but the other developers, vendors, etc. just how they are qoing to react when the bloggers quit asking questions of them and start DEMANDING answers?

    I suggest to you and all other bloggers that RootsTech 2012 is the perfect venue for the blogging community to come of age and really start representing the end users.

    1. The genealogy bloggers have accomplished a great deal in working with We have brought specific items to their attention, and have been a cause in the matter.

      Diversity among genealogy bloggers represents differing points of view on any given topic about improving the experience. Their business model is just that, a business model. must remain a viable company to be able to keep planing the game. We benefit, regardless of say, the search experience, because we have access to more records at the click of our mouse than ever before.

      Being overly demanding and caustic has alienated at least one member of the genealogy blogging community.

      There is always the "honey vs. lemons" concept to consider.

      I don't sugarcoat things as well you know, DearANDY. Ancestry has been responsive. Nothing is perfect though.

      But I agree, and wish our priorities were more readily adopted by these major genealogy websites.

      Thanks for your comment.
      Myrt :)

  3. About a year ago I sent some feedback to on what they could do to improve "my experience", as requested. I made a few suggestions, but to date, none of them have been implemented. The one thing I find very annoying is that, by default, any photo I add to a family member automatically becomes that person's profile picture. I do not want to identify with an ancestor by a picture of, say, a tombstone, for example. I asked that a prompt be added to the file upload or attach photo so it's a one step process.

    1. On the other hand, if all I have on an ancestor is a picture of their tombstone, it's fine with me if that is the profile picture.

      That's just me, I guess.
      M :)

  4. From Linda Brennan via email:

    Why doesn't put the SSDI back on rootsweb where it was

    Their "explanation" is that it's to protect privacy of sensitive
    information. Bull! So, you protect privacy for free information, but
    privacy is not an issue if people are paying for the information? Oh,
    really--have them explain that.

    We know why ancestry really took the SSDI off rootsweb--to make more
    money by forcing people to pay to see what was free before. Just
    another step down the slippery slope of breaking their promise to keep
    rootsweb free.

    I used to be an ancestry member for quite a few years, but due to
    their increased costs, and shoddy behavior like this, I'll not go back
    to them, and I advise others not to subscribe.

    One other point of contention with them is over their current sales
    pitch, "You don't have to know what you're looking for, you just have
    to start looking." Again, I say, "Bull."

    I've had people come to me (who know I've been a genealogist for many
    years) and ask if subscribing to is really how they
    should start researching their family history. I think it's clear
    ancestry is ONLY interested in making money, and not in promoting
    genealogy or educating people on the proper process. Regardless of
    what they may claim.

    I then take those people by the hand and show them how to get started:
    by collecting the information they have, getting information from
    their living relatives, and organizing it to see what they have and
    what they need to get. Their first expenditure, in my opinion, is to
    get a genealogy program to organize their information.

    Then, they may be ready for, but first I point them to
    all of the free resources out there. In these difficult financial
    times, most of us can't casually put out the fees that ancestry
    charges, and I think it's negligent of them to be telling novices that
    "they don't have to know what they are looking for."

    Yes, I guess you can tell I'm angry at them.

    Kind Regards,
    Linda Brennan

    1. DearLINDA,
      Remember it is the US Congress and Senate that are directing the issues concerning the SSDI. RPAC is working on this very hard, as I observed a member of the team working on it during SLIG this past week.

      RPAC - Records Preservation and Access Committee

      Try to be calm. There is a lot of good being done in the world of genealogy by the big players like

      I agree with the "education" component of your comments.

      Stay tuned.

    2. I teach genealogy and often have students ask me about subscribing to I advise them to use the 2 week free trial. And I also show them the list of mistakes I've collected and use as examples in class on the crazy transcribing errors that can make it hard for beginners (and some of us experienced researchers) to find their ancestors.

  5. I second your question concerning syching FTM 2012 and It started well but has now ended up causing havoc for me.