This evening at the NGS conference in Charleston, South Carolina, Ancestry.com offered a sneak preview of the company's products and services to be released within the next nine months or so. I had a chance to attend and was furiously taking notes as Josh Hanna and Eric Shoupe made announcement after announcement. I don't believe any other company in the genealogy business has ever been able to make this many announcements at once!
Disclaimer: Ancestry.com is the exclusive advertiser in this newsletter so perhaps I m biased. However, I honestly think I would have written this article even if they were not a sponsor.
You will note that my notes are not always in the form of proper sentences. I took these in a hurry and want to get them published as soon as possible. The notes have not been edited and are offered "as is:"
The session opened with a description of new content to be added as presented by Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Marketing. Josh was a serious genealogist for some time before he joined Ancestry.com about ten years ago. I have known Josh for about ten years and can vouch that he is a serious genealogist and it is great to see him amongst the senior management team at the company. When he talks about content, he knows what he is talking about!
Here are my notes taken as Josh talked:
- Ancestry.com has spent more than $100 million over the past 10 years acquiring records and plans to spend at least as much again in the next ten years or so
- More than 6 billion records are online on the site today, including 30,000 different collections, 24 million family trees, 2.4 billion people in those trees, as well as 60 million photos and stories uploaded
- Recent content launches include: 200 new collections launched in 2010 including such things as Ireland's Griffiths Valuation & Tithe Applotment Books, US Passport applications, US Civil War Cemeteries, UK Liverpool Parish Registers, New Zealand Electoral Rolls
- In 2011, Ancestry.com launched the World Memory Project in partnership with the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum (these records will be free forever).
Upcoming collections will include:
- US Navy Ship Muster Rolls 1939-1949 to be launched on or about Memorial Day of this year, including records of all Navy enlisted personnel of those years, ship assignments, promotions, transfers, discharges
- Numerous additions to the present US Birth and Death Records to be added this fall, including a number of states not previously available online
- British Postal Service Appointment Books 1737-1956 with 600,000 records (but not 600,000 people as there are duplicates, promotions of some people so they appear two or more times in the records, etc.)
- 1940 US Federal Census some time after NARA releases the records on April 2, 2012. This huge collection includes 132 million people on 3.2 million images. Unlike the NARA version, the Ancestry.com version will be FULLY INDEXED when released. The collection will not be available on Ancestry.com on April 2 as it will require some months to create the indexes. Look for the records to appear online WITH INDEXES later in the year.
Eric Shoupe, Senior Vice President of Product, then described both recent and soon-to-be-released products. Eric started by stating that he had not been a genealogist prior to joining Ancestry.com nearly three years ago. However, I happen to know that he has "joined the ranks" of dedicated genealogists and has found a lot of records of his own family tree since then.
My notes from Eric's presentation include:
Reviewing new products and services of the past year or so:
- Ancestry.com presently has 1.6 million subscribers
- 3.7 billion online searches were performed in 2010
- 7 million user contributed additions and corrections which have been added to the the online databases (Comment: I was amazed at that number. That is a LOT of corrections and we all benefit!)
- The Ancestry.com iPhone/iPad application has been downloaded more than one million times since it was first announced a year ago
- 250,000 copies of Family Tree Maker were sold (I believe that includes both the Windows and Macintosh versions)
- Search forms and filters have been greatly improved
- Browse pages have been greatly improved, will now allow browsing by places
- A new Tree Viewer, much improved over the previous version
- A new Relationship Calculator is about to become available. The old one was good but several new improvements have recently been added.
- Merge of family data has been greatly improved (within past few weeks)
- Family Tree Maker 2011 and the new Family Tree Maker for Macintosh are recent additions
- A new iPhone/iPad application was added about a year ago
- More record & photo hints with better control of the display of those hints with an "all hints" pageHere is a major announcement: A new image viewer upgrade will appear in the next few months. The new version will be significantly faster as well as more stable and easier to use. Mac users will be happy to hear that the new image viewer will work equally well on all browsers and on all platforms (Windows, Mac, and more)
- Ability to merge duplicate people in your online tree
- Improve the existing iPhone/iPad app
- Another major announcement: A new Android app will appear later this year that is similar to the present iPhone/iPad application
- Family Tree Maker 2012 will sync both ways (includes today's one-way push or your data on your local computer to Ancestry.com and will also add the capability to download from Ancestry.com to your computer, although not including the shoebox
- If your data is stored in Ancestry.com, you will be able to access your data from Family Tree Maker 2012 or from the iPhone/iPad app or (soon) the Android app, wherever you are, at home, at a conference, at the library, while riding the commuter train, or most anyplace else.
What I see as a major announcement is a great new search engine for genealogy web sites will become available later this year. It will feature one-click access to external genealogy sites. It will clearly identify those sites' names and URLs before the user clicks, will allow exact/fuzzy/Soundex searches, will also make it easy to abstract and citations to the online trees, and will only crawl web sites that allow web crawling. The new search engine will be FREE and will be integrated into the Ancestry.com web site. More information is available NOW at www.websearch.com/websearch
Then Eric did something that surprised me: he demo'ed an alpha version of Family Tree Maker 2012. Company executives in the software industry normally don't demo alpha software but Eric did just that. He warned the audience that it was alpha code and that it might crash in mid-demonstration as it was not yet de-bugged. Even with his warning, it didn't crash.
The production version of Family Tree Maker 2012 for Windows will be available to everyone late in 2011 while the Macintosh version will be available a few months later, either in very late 2011 or early in 2012.
All in all, it was an eye-opener of a demonstration. I have sat through announcements of new products from many different companies but I don't remember any company, in the genealogy business or not, that ever offered so many new announcements in one session.
My fingers are sore from typing all the notes on my laptop computer!
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