Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sorry Ancestry.com: About your 1940 Ace program

Yesterday at 5pm, less than a week before the scheduled release of the 1940 US Census images at 1940census.archives.gov,  I received an invitation from Ancestry.com to participate in their 1940 Ace program for genealogy bloggers to develop interest in the 1940 census at Ancestry.com.

It's a little too late.

Ol' Myrt is already committed to the innovative collaborative (read that "not single-website") effort to provide access to the 1940 census images by creating an index as outlined at the1940census.com, popularly known as The 1940 Census Project. The project rolled out on 1 Feb 2012 at the Official Bloggers Banquet the night before RootsTech 2012 opened. Since then, this project has been a major focus among genealogy bloggers and their readers.

Ol' Myrt here has stated publicly in my blog, during DearMYRTLE webinars, at meetings in Second Life, in my YouTube video (yes, I actually made one!), at Slide Share and at various genealogy society meetings:

THREE, count 'em, 3 genealogy entities are pooling their resources to make the images and indexing process possible. Collaboration is a concept.
Archives.com, FamilySearch.org and FindMyPast.com decided to take the plunge and work together on at The 1940 Census Project. No point in duplicating efforts and expenses at every major genealogy website. Since The 1940 Census Project index is a double, blind data entry system using the proven FamilySearchIndexing.org model, we can expect the error rate to be significantly lower than a single data entry system.

Yes, Ancestry.com is accountable to shareholders. But a business model can't always be about self-promotion ~ sometimes ya gotta play nice together in the sand box. The release of the 1940 census is too big NOT to have participated in the collaboration. The emphasis on the term "competitors" (as opposed to collaborators) was glaringly obvious during Ancestry.com's Saturday presentation at RootsTech 2012 seen here. Everyone else at RootsTech was talking collaboration.

In Ol' Myrt's opinion, The 1940 Census Project is so important, that I made the plea my blog post titled 1940 Census: Calling all presenters to add these slides. To date I've heard from 48 genealogy lecturers who have made the commitment "even when the lecture topic isn't about the census.

Ancestry.com provides a wonderful service, and I happily pay the annual fee to have full access to all content. Ancestry.com indexes and images alike have assisted in my personal research. The coders work tirelessly to improve search algorithms. The genealogists at Ancestry.com have always understood the need for better citation models and that online trees do not one's genealogy make. For a few years Ancestry.com reached out to certain members of the genealogy community to refine how the site works, and to understand how the genealogy community relates to the site. Unfortunately that has gone to the way side since Andrew left. On the plus side, Ancestry.com has significantly improved the "category" of genealogy by sponsoring the Who Do You Think You Are? NBC television series in the US.

Ol' Myrt here doesn't begrudge Ancestry.com making money since they utilize revenues received to preserve and digitize other records throughout the world. Ancestry's extensive preservation work is something to be lauded. In today's economy, all to frequently, local churches, archives and libraries lack funding to care for their own records. I'll never forget the picture of Gretna Green Scotland marriage records before Ancestry was able to work with them.

It's just that in the case of the 1940 Census Project, Ancestry.com missed the boat.

Of course, I will continue to see that Ancestry.com 1940 census press releases are posted in my blog or at GeneaPress.com.

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


  1. Myrt,

    I'll grant that Ancestry dropped the ball when it comes to the ACE program but...

    To castigate Ancestry for not joining in the group effort without knowing 'all the facts' may be a bit of overreach - for instance:

    What was the date that the joint project was conceived and organizations invited to join it?

    What was the date Ancestry started planning for the 1940 census?

    Could it be that by the time Ancestry was approached about joining the project that they had already invested too much time, effort, and money into their own project to simply write it off and join the joint project?

    Had Ancestry already signed contracts with companies to provide indexing services, etc.?

    Until answers to such questions are known it is simply unfair to say that Ancestry "missed the boat" on joining the joint project.

    You and I both have seen first hand that Ancestry's lead time on a project can be over a year or more on even smaller projects.

    On the other hand, Ancestry may have been contacted in time to join the joint project.

    The point is we simply don't know. Since we don't know the reasons, we really can't judge if Ancestry was right or wrong in not joining the project.

    Andy hatchett

    1. Dear Andy,
      We were told that Ancestry.com was invited, but for what ever reason, declined to participate.


    2. Exactly- and that is *all* we were told.

      My point is that until the reason for declining is known it is extremely unfair to castigate Ancestry for not joining.

      It would be like you planning to attend your granddaughter's wedding and then being invited to accept the Blogger of the year award scheduled at the same time as the wedding and you declining (without stating a reason) and then the whole blogging community jumping on you for snubbing their event of the year.

      To say Ancestry declined is a fair statement- the say that they missed the boat is unjust.

    3. Hiya Andy,
      It is nice to see you defending Ancestry.com for a change. We are each entitled to our opinion. That's why I authorized posting of yours.