HeritageQuest Online Now Provides Data from Ancestry

HeritageQuest Online (a division of ProQuest) has supplied genealogy information to libraries for years. Many public libraries subscribe to HeritageQuest Online and make the information available to patrons who visit the library. Some libraries also offer in-home access to library card holders through the library’s website.

HeritageQuest Online has now announced that the genealogy information within its service is being replaced with information from Ancestry.com. Indeed, I logged onto my local public library’s web site this morning, went to the HeritageQuest Online database, and performed a search for an elusive great-great-grandfather of mine. When a census page appeared on the screen it looked clearer than what I have seen before and it also had an Ancestry logo in the upper-left corner:

The changes will be uncomfortable to those who are used to searching through the old menus. They may have to learn to use new menus. However, the census image that appeared on my screen appeared to be sharper than what I have seen before. So did a few other pages I looked at although I obviously could not check all the millions of pages to see if they were all the same or not.

Parent company ProQuest did issue a press release about the change five days ago although I apparently missed it. Here is the announcement that I found this morning after performing a Google search to look for it:

ProQuest Advances Genealogical Research with HeritageQuest Online
Authoritative family history resource is now powered by Ancestry

ANN ARBOR, MI, March 4, 2015 – ProQuest is advancing the research experience for family history enthusiasts and genealogical experts with a new version of its popular HeritageQuest® Online http://bit.ly/1Dv5beg, a treasury of high quality genealogical and historical information. This authoritative family history resource, which can be accessed from the library or remotely through the library portal, has a new interface powered by Ancestry, enriching the search experience and streamlining the research process.

The new HeritageQuest Online offers new capabilities and benefits to patrons:

  • The intuitive interface provides a fresh user experience that will be familiar to Ancestry.com users.
  • The U.S. Federal Census 1790-1940 – a highly valued resource that now includes complete every-name indexes and unique interactive maps.
  • Census data exceeding 700 million records that can now be discovered using Exact Match, Phonetic, Variant, Soundex, Wildcard and Keyword Searches.
  • Searching full-text of the expanded collection of more than 40,000 family and local history books – is now enhanced with thumbnail images and hit highlighting.
  • A new Image Viewer offers basic and advanced capabilities without any plug-in, making it easy to share images with family and friends.
  • Image resolution that is significantly improved with the addition of greyscale and color.

“The enhancements in HeritageQuest Online illustrate a commitment to transforming the research experience for the growing community of genealogists,” said Andon Baltakov, vice president, product management, ProQuest. “ProQuest’s comprehensive collection of family history resources and historical news delivers a winning combination to help library patrons discover their family history.”

The enhancements are a result of the expanded partnership and distribution agreement between ProQuest and Ancestry announced last June. Extensive training services and materials from both companies provide learning opportunities for library staff and patrons alike. For example, the new Research Aid will replace the Learning Center and include topics such as Getting Started, Census, Beyond the Basics, Military and Ethnic.

ProQuest also publishes LibGuides and 2-minute videos, and hosts complimentary full-day workshops and webinars for genealogy librarians. Register for webinars here.

The new version of HeritageQuest Online is available now to all subscribing libraries. ProQuest offers libraries a broad portfolio of quality genealogical products with breadth and depth in content that delivers a complete research solution for beginner and advanced family historians.

About ProQuest (www.proquest.com)

ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create and manage information.

The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Dialog®, ebrary®, EBL® and Serials Solutions® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the RefWorks® Flow™ collaboration platform, the Pivot™ research development tool and the Intota™ library services platform. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.

44 Comments

I’m devastated with the loss of the discrete searching capabilities offered by the original Heritage Quest. The option for “Exact Match” on the new system doesn’t work. I was often able to find the person on Heritage Quest because their name index was different than Ancestry’s. Now they are identical and you get all the excess results you didn’t want to see. This is not an improvement for genealogists. Can anyone retrieve the old system Heritage Quest had and make it available again – even as an extra cost option?

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    Ditto. I appreciated the different indexing and that some of the images were much clearer on Heritage Quest than on Ancestry.

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    I teach beginning genealogy and one of the things I would always point out was HeritageQuest’s advanced search feature. It was wonderful. I found many people using that quite quickly because I could not find them on Ancestry. We now also lose that terrific feature of results being returned by county breakdown. This is a huge disappointment. Very often when Ancestry takes over an existing database, it is not always an improvement. I personally wish HeritageQuest would have thought this through more. When you can’t find your ancestor on one census database use another one. This has just taken one more opportunity away.

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    Exactly. Ancestry’s new search this last year is dismal. I frequently have gone over to HeritageQuest in the census to find something I couldn’t find on Ancestry. I’m dismayed that that functionality has gone away! What were they thinking?

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    I likewise found the alternate indices from HeritageQuest of tremendous value over the years. However, HQ had only done a partial index for 1930 and it had remained that way since its release over 12 years ago. I also hadn’t noticed a marked difference–if any–in the 1940 HQ index. Ultimately, replacing HQ’s indices, search algorithms, and interface with those from Ancestry is a loss for researchers.

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    I agree 100%. Period.

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Thank you for sharing this with Dick Eastman. I just took a look at the new format, and all I can say right now, is it doesn’t work as well as the old version. Using the old search engine, I was able to find people using their first name only, with a few other parameters, and by narrowing down to county and city. Last year I found an infant who had been adopted later by using his approximate age in 1900 and the county, Santa Clara, California. He and his mother were both in an infirmary, but not listed next to each other. I tried doing the same with the new program. Not only did I not get the infant, I could not get him by using his name. Trying to use “exact” did nothing. I still got lots of hits, but not the one I was looking for. I’m very disappointed. It was worth having the scratchy old census pages just to be able to do these obscure searches.

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So now what’s the point in a HeritageQuest subscription?

Formerly, the different census indices made it worthwhile – I don’t see any reason for a library to spend scarce funds on a parallel subscription to the same stuff.

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    Libraries are also Federal repositories. Back in the day, it was possible to go to the library and look at the census on microfilm. If you want to see the census at the library now, you use a computer to access Ancestry Library. Heritage Quest is another database that now uses Ancestry’s censuses. They broke something that didn’t need fixing.

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It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I use HeritageQuest at home through my state library. I had learned to work around the limitations of the old HQ census. Most of their high-contrast images were superior to FamilySearch’s or Ancestry ‘s lower contrast images. Even tho HQ didn’t index every name and some years were not indexed at all, their indexing had fewer errors than Ancestry does. I’ve not tried the other HQ databases, yet.
I still have a bunch of HQ census CD’s that I bought about 15 years ago — haven’t used them in a long time. Not sure if they would work with today’s computer systems.

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I haven’t tried the new HQ system, and it sounds like some who have done so are disappointed. In the past, I’ve found that it picks up some people more easily than Ancestry does while not having thousands of extraneous hits for common surnames. If those differences are indeed lost and all that’s gained is clarity of image, I don’t see any advantage. I have Ancestry, and it’s valuable, but HQ used to be a separate very useful resource. I agree, if it’s not broke, why fix it? It seems another example of the big players in genealogy scarfing up the smaller useful ones with distinct features and making them all look like the big guys. Pretty soon there will be no choices.

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How disappointing! WHY would they do that? Heritage Quest’s search function was (IMO) superior to Ancestry’s. Ancestry’s search function doesn’t improve simply because it’s available in more places. If it ain’t broke, replace it with one that is. Yawn….

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Thank you for this information. Being a Beginner Genealogist, I did not know my library offered HeritageQuest. I immediately searched out my library card and logged in to HQ at home.

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I have to add my voice to those expressing dissatisfaction. I am a FHL volunteer as well as the go-to genealogy person on staff at a public library. I was a hug proponent of Heritage Quest, mostly because it offered a different way to search from both Ancestry and FamilySearch. It really has become useless now.

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Wow! What a shaft for the genealogists! We lost, as said by others, the best indexing site for locating hard to find family. More revenue and required allegiance to Ancestry! I’m saddened by this move. Too bad Ancestry couldn’t have left the old index up as an alternative

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Ray Maki said it best – “I’m devastated with the loss of the discrete searching capabilities offered by the original Heritage Quest. The option for “Exact Match” on the new system doesn’t work. I was often able to find the person on Heritage Quest because their name index was different than Ancestry’s. Now they are identical and you get all the excess results you didn’t want to see. This is not an improvement for genealogists. Can anyone retrieve the old system Heritage Quest had and make it available again – even as an extra cost option?”
I am also devastated, frustrated, and just plain angry…..must ancestry own everything even when it is not in the best interest of the genealogist?

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Hate it…my go-to book can no longer be found on the new version even tho I used to read it on H Quest all the time…so many useless “hits” Heritage Quest is useless now !!! Can’t even search “hits” in a history book…used to be invaluable…now its a mess !!

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I too mourn the loss of HQ’s search capabilities. I’ve often had success there after frustrating, no-reasonable-results searches on other sites. I’ve also gone there to get clearer images of pages I’ve found elsewhere. This Is no boon to genealogists!

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Advantages:
The 1830, 1840,and 1850 are now indexed on HQ. That wasn’t much of a problem before, as they could be located in the FamilySearch indexes as to the page number, and then be located on a “search by page number” on HQ.

Neutral:
They retained the HQ manner of listing results by census years. This makes HQ *SUPERIOR* to using Ancestry, even though they are the same index and images. On Ancestry, if you search all census **at once**, it throws in meaningless results. As an example, if you search all census at once at Ancestry, and then want to see results from “1820s” it will include tax list results from 1885 because it is in a database of of tax/census from 1810-1900. Do the same on HQ of search all census at once, and then see 1820, and you will get **only census** for 1820. On Ancestry, to get **only** census results, you had to search each census year individually, rather than all at once.

Disadvantage:
The alternative index and images are no longer available. Many times I found an image that was not readable on Ancestry (too dark or too light) that was clear on HQ because they enhanced the images. Those are now lost. To lose the HQ images is the equivalent of an Archives throwing away loose original wills because “we have the same thing in the bound books.” To lose the HQ index is the equivalent of a library throwing away the old published indexes because “they are all online now.”

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This is bad. I can’t tell you how many census records I’ve found over the years on HQ that simply would not turn up on Ancestry! Their indexing was so far superior to Ancestry’s. What a loss.

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Hopefully the relevant people at ancestry.com will see the complaints at Dick’s high visibility site and respond. My library has had heritagequest (remote access, but incomplete censuses) and the library version of ancestry (multiple databases, but required visit to library), and I was looking forward to the transition to avoid trips to the library.

However, the new heritagequest, despite the addition of additional censuses and directories, is poorly implemented. Something as simple as searching for a last name with a place name does not work correctly. What kind of quality control was performed if a search so basic fails?

I am an optimist so let’s hope this gets resolved quickly.

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How come the first time I hear about Heritage Quest is to be told it’s now useless?

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So sad to see Ancestry take control of Heritage Quest which had lots better quality and exact research results. Bad but still yet will HQ remain free for those of us unable to pay $$$$ to Ancestry. First Family Search goes to Ancestry which I disliked now HQ. Indeed I am sad and do hope that HQ, Family Search and Ancestry make this better? I will await a reply from all three soon.

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Well… My carefully collected links to dozens of Heritage Quest webpages don’t work. Time to redo my last several months of research. Thanks again Ancestry…

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Count me in the group of disappointed as well. Many, many times I was able to find someone that couldn’t be found elsewhere because of HQ’s different searching abilities. And if I couldn’t read a census image on Ancestry, I would try HQ because their census images were from different sources, and often I could read the HQ version better because it was filmed better.

When I tried HQ out this time on another project (finding all Graves in Cayuga Co, NY in 1810), I was sorely disappointed that I did not get my usual very directed list from HQ but a moddled hodge podge more similar to what I would get on Ancestry. And I mourn the loss of the ability to search by age range! I can’t tell you how many times that came in handy.

Dick, while I love your newsletter, I’m sure ProQuest isn’t reading it just to see our comments. Do you know who we can contact with compliments/complaints?

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I get Heritage Quest through my local public library. So today, while doing errands, I stopped by to talk with the librarian to ask to whom I should make my complaint about the changes to Heritage Quest. She herself doesn’t use the database, but I showed her how the census search doesn’t work. She pointed out that it is a service of ProQuest and that down at the bottom of the Heritage Quest home page, there is a link for comments. That link wll take you to another page with a link on the left side of the middle of the page for customer support. Click on that to get the form to register your complaint. The librarian filed a complaint saying simply that the census search does not work, and please fix it. http://www.proquest.com/contact/general-contact.html. I hope this works.

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I got my response from ProQuest.
“Thank you for contacting ProQuest Technical Support and appreciate for the feedback of new HQO interface.

“I am sorry that because HQO is powered by Ancestry now, they will support the content and functionality issue. Could you please contact them at libraryedition@ancestry.com.”

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Earlier this week, we were getting ghosts of images from heavens knows what collections when viewing files on Ancestry. Does anyone really think that they will fix issues we have on Heritage Quest now that we’re stuck relying on them for service there, too? This is just as bad as what they did to Genealogy.com, take a good genealogy-based website, neglect it for years, then shut it down. Terrible.

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Don’t forget how Ancestry gutted the message boards by taking over Rootsweb!

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I wonder… since libraries have a library version of Ancestry which is not as complete as what’s available to individual subscribers, is the new Ancestry-provided census & other records incomplete as well? In other words, are the new Ancestry records on HeritageQuest a library version or a home subscribers version? As with others, I, too, would sometimes go to HeritageQuest to find someone or to get a clearer census picture. It’s true – I could find people there even though they were not indexed in Ancestry or indexed correctly.

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If I understood the press release correctly, ProQuest has not sold HeritageQuest outright to Ancestry, but contracted/licensed Ancestry to distribute it for a period.

For how long? When this distribution ends, will HeritageQuest revert to ProQuest, and will the undesirable Ancestry features be removed? Did ProQuest foresee the negative implications of this arrangement, and the loss of long-term customer goodwill?

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I am also devastated by this news because I find Ancestry’s search functions unhelpful. I, too, would be willing to pay “extra” for HeritageQuest’s census records. In some cases, the HeritageQuest image was readable whereas Ancestry’s was not. Also, vice versa. I am extremely disappointed in HeritageQuest’s questionable move.

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I have used HQ for some Census records, especially 1910, as their images were superior to those of Ancestry. It has been a while since I needed one, so don’t know if it is still the same or not. I don’t like Ancestry taking over everything in genealogy. A monopoly controls pricing!

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ProQuest was very useful as previously formatted. Why has it now gone backwards in its formatting and usefulness?

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Pro Quest please do not renew your agreement with Ancestry…I would PAY to get your books back ! I would PAY to get the Rev War pensions back even though I am a subscriber to Fold3…your simple search is faster…I would PAY to get Persi back…please rethink this agreement…and LIBRARIES please note how important the original form of Heritage Quest was and consider this at contract renewal time ! ! !

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Now it’s my turn to be upset over Ancestry taking over HQ. I just tried to access PERSI via HeritageQuest Online, and it’s not there, so far as I can tell. I could only access it via FindMyPast but without a subscription, only skeletal info is available. I join fullerton in asking ProQuest to revert to the original form of Heritage Quest.

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Heritage Quest is exactly like Ancestry. A devastating mistake has been made, possibly by those that have never done any genealogical research. The Census search offered by Heritage Quest is the best of any genealogical tool offered to the public. Why pay for two of the same? One will be dropped by users and it will be Heritage Quest. Why? Ancestry offers Census research as well as other records. If you cannot change back to the older format, please let users purchase a CD with the old format.

I ask that all researchers and/or libraries contact Heritage Quest and express your opinion.

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I hate that ancestry has Heritage Quest. I never liked the way Ancestry finds my searches.
On the old Heritage search engine I could narrow search all last names in certain countys and have whole possible family members for the area. I am researching right now and I get a message Opps try later to see Image. Hate it! I also use to teach a class on Heritage Quest and loved it. Now I can’t even begin to get excited about a lesson.

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I have never used Heritage Quest just Ancestry but it too has gotten worse. I tried to find some information and the old method I used for searching has also changed and my link shortcuts didn’t work either. So they have messed up both genealogical programs. I was sent an evaluation form and I give them very low scores on all their questions but it probably won’t do any good.

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So since we all disagree with the new ancestry partnership, will anybody listen and bring back the old Heritage quest? I doubt it, somewhere money is talking and this is just another lost cause… unless somebody out there can revive our old search method under a new site.

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Anne Spencer yankura January 12, 2016 at 10:15 pm

I am 85 years old and HATE the new format. The old Heritage Quest was very easy for me to navigate. I Hate Ancestry. That’s why I told my kids never to give it to me as a present!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Just this past weekend I learned that Ancestry had the new database Northamptonshire, England Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths which has allowed me to add 100 years of ‘great’ grandparents, back to late 1600’s as well as fill in siblings etc for more recent great grandparents’ families in 1700’s. Now if Buckinghamshire and Wiltshire Church Records would come online…here’s hoping.

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I agree with the above comments. Heritage Quest doesn’t exist anymore. The Ancestry search engine returns junk even when you choose “exact.” Records are missing that were there before. Libraries should not renew this worthless resource until they change it back. It is obvious that the people who make these changes don’t actually do research or use the site. What a loss for researchers!

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