Make Sure You Are Climbing YOUR Family Tree and Not Someone Else’s

Crista Cowan has posted an article in the Ancestry Blog that I would suggest be required reading for all genealogists, especially those who are new to researching their family tree.

One of the common errors made by not-so-experienced genealogists is finding a family tree online that “looks like my family” and making an erroneous assumption that it is indeed their own ancestors. I don’t know the error rate of such assumptions but it must be high. I have seem many “family trees” with impossible information, such as a mother giving birth at the age of three or a child born to a father who had been deceased for ten years at the time of the child’ birth. Too many people find a name and a location that “must be my ancestor” and add it to their so-called family tree.

Ancestry.com has added a new Facts View to the Ancestry online tree. The big change in the new versions is that sources to support the displayed facts and relationships are now front and center.

Old Ancestor Profile [Left] New LifeStory and Facts View [Right]

If you use Ancestry.com, you NEED to read The New Facts View: Make Sure You Are Climbing YOUR Family Tree and Not Someone Else’s by Crista Cowan at http://goo.gl/Jum9UJ.

35 Comments

Reading the comments after Crista’s column, it seems lots of folks are not happy with these changes for varying reasons. Maybe it will be helpful for those who have not yet uploaded their trees to Ancestry. I think I will remain content to use my Ancestry subscription for great hints after which I will do my own research for specific documents and continue to use my trusty Family Tree Maker program for keeping track of my ancestors and extended families.

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The “new” Ancestry is an absolute trainwreck. I don’t know what they were thinking with this “improvement.” Am looking for alternative on-line, open sourced tree services.

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I’ve never found Ancestry’s family tree interface useable or useful and use TMG for all my data. Whilst I commend the spirit of Ancestry’s changes, the fact is that there will still be huge amounts of unsubstantiated garbage cluttering up the site. Erroneous bits of information spread across it like an invasive species. It is going to be this way unless or until Ancestry develops a very sophisticated form of AI/ fuzzy logic based software to interrogate information (as in Dick’s example, mother giving birth at the age of 3) or, even better, to stitch together evidence-based research from multiple sources. As it is, there are too flights of fancy on Ancestry of the kind “I’ve traced my family back to the year 1200”.

It’s been a while since I actually used Ancestry, but one thing they could do is look at Stack Exchange’s upvoting and downvoting system, where members can support or challenge the quality of information submitted (which is more rigorous than, say, submitting a change request relating to a transcription). But that will be difficult for Ancestry, as everyone’s money is the worth the same, regardless of whether someone’s misguided efforts actually reduce the effectiveness of the site for people who know what they are doing.

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    “..everyone’s money is worth the same…” Thank you, Monty, for the philosophy of Ancestry.com in a nutshell. I will continue to use my FTM software separate from Ancestry, so when they ultimately wreck the train, I will give up my subscription and transfer my gedcom to a more friendly site. Perhaps we should all plan for this. Which sites would you all recommend?

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Am absolutely baffled by people complaints about the new Ancestry. It is such an improvement and adjusted quite easily and happily. Not sure what anyone is having an issue with,

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I am horrified by the format changes in the ‘new’ Ancestry. Could the font be any larger?!!! I don’t need a map staring in me the face first thing. Takes forever to scroll down. and for what – a ton of extraneous verbiage? EXAMPLE: “When Edward C. Maus was born on November 24, 1916, in Dubuque, Iowa, his father, Edward, was 33 and his mother, Laura, was 29. He had six siblings. He died on August 2, 1964, in his hometown, at the age of 47.” I don’t want a novel – just the facts, ma’am. How about a choice – offering the family condensed on a single-page format with links to the ‘War and Peace’ version. I can’t imagine plodding thru the boxes to see if there is someone of interest to you. Not user friendly for serious genealogists with large trees. Who did they beta test this one?

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Josh is baffled at what’s wrong with the “new ancestry.” I don’t even know where to start. For one, documents and pdf’s and anything that is not a jpeg file (photo) is no long associated with the event to which it was attached. It’s just in a “gallery” unconnected to anything. The novella write up is based on whatever garbage it thinks it is reading, and none of them correct, Ellen’s example notwithstanding. Place names are a mess, the words “about” “before” and “after” for dates have completely disappeared, making it appear that, say, a marriage “before” xyz date is now actually that date. Huge pop up children’s story book pictures on the time line telling that, GEE WHIZ! They grew tobacco in Viginia in the 1600s and used it for currency!” is insulting. This continuous dumbing down for the unwashed masses may be good for ancestry’s bottom line, but it’s horrible for serious genealogists. Maybe they should roll out a version for the advanced class. We’re not all stupid.

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    “it’s horrible for serious genealogists” – you mean some serious genealogists use Ancestry Trees?? 🙂

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    brucfuimous: Some serious genealogists post their own trees, and hope the newbies or even the grabbers will look and learn.

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    The previous ancestry display did show “abt” or date ranges for a fact either when those dates were entered in Family Tree maker and uploaded. There is no difference in this problem between old and new.

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I’m confused. My trees still show the basic profile page it always has had and then shows a link to a “Story View”, which is superfluous junk as far as I’m concerned. I never look at it. But it seems different than this Facts View. Is this change being rolled out and I just don’t have it yet? I sure don’t want it. I want the normal profile page. It’s not perfect, but have gotten used to it over the years and it works just fine.

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I don’t subscribe to Ancestry but I have been there a few times. I’m not a betting man but, Id be the rate of errors on Ancestry is WAY higher than the rate of errors in individually maintained family sites. Given that sourcing on Ancestry is basically point and click it’s shocking how poorly sourced most Ancestry trees are.

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    Barbara Curtindale June 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Don’t blame Ancestry.com for the garbage that so called genealogists put in their trees. As has been said earlier messed up dates giving birth at age 3 etc. mother died before their child is born, attaching a child born and the mom died and father remarried to the 2nd spouse messed up the blood line. review what you enter. Just because it appears in print on internet or a book doesn’t always make it correct information!!. Some people are really not genealogists but name gatherers.

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    Ancestry provides hints and access to records that allow users to be as relaxed or as rigorous as they want to be. That being the case I don’t understand the way some more serious genealogists bemoan and curse the inaccuracy of the public trees. You’d be checking sources and accuracy for your own tree in any case, so how does the fact of (perhaps) general inaccuracy affect you any differently? If some people are satisfied with what they find, how does it hurt anyone?

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To be fair, it’s a work in progress. Not all functionality has been implemented. But as you find these errors, let them know. Change is always hard to accept. 🙂

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Well, it might have been nice to be able to read the rest of the blog & it’s comments but smack in the middle and unable to get rid of it was this “Powered by Share this”

“SHARE THIS WITH YOU FRIENDS” The New Facts View: Make Sure You Are Climbing YOUR Family Tree and Not Someone Else’s Posted by Crista Cowan, on June 8, 2015 in Ancestry.com Site, , Site Features, Have you seen the new Facts . . .http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/08/the-new-facts . . .

No “X” to close this, click on the “do not share” and end up with more annoyance – guess what – backed out and said Ta Ta!

What bits I could see has confirmed that there is no way I would want to work my family tree from an online site – sharing is good, but working using a program that won’t change the way things are done overnight is better – what a horror to wake up to – learn a new/revised program system whether you want to or not – UGH!

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Serious genealogists can use Ancestry as long as you know the limitations. My trees are currently on Ancestry because PAF is no longer supported and I am shopping for a new genealogy program but I want one that won’t be obsolete in a couple of years and that I can access from anywhere. I have turned off the family tree hints and take the time to verify the Ancestry hints that come up. Having said that, I will occasionally search other family trees when I am stuck just to point me in the right direction.
Ancestry is just one tool with the same pitfalls as other sites such as My Heritage or Family Search.

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    PAF was always a very stable program and really basically easy to use. However you did have to pre-plan how you would enter your source information before you started. It had some limitations too. It can still be used…if you can get a disk to install it. It can’t be downloaded. It was the most problem free program because they didn’t keep making upgrades. So once you had the latest version, you had it all. The GEDCOM feature was at one time the best. Now other programs have different and more fields for information so it is limited. I use it as my reference database.

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This has been my biggest complaint with online trees. There are so many errors in them, they are practically useless but also dangerous as so many copy them and perpetuate the errors even further. I’ve found people with children older than the parents. Many just grab names whether there’s any proof or connection at all.

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I really like the new user interface on family trees posted to ancestry.
It is a huge improvement and clearly focuses on the links between facts and sources.

I suspect that many of the complaints are coming from people who are uncomfortable adapting to a different way of doing thing and who have errors in their trees because they have not completely sourced all their facts.

There are some missing features that are promised for the near future.

I think some of the complaints are coming from people who have small monitors so that some important stuff is scrolled off the screen. The world is changing, improvements that require more complex graphics will also require bigger monitors that have a higher pixel count.

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I appreciate Ancestry’s efforts to attract a wider audience (and I also use it as others do, as primarily a research site). Nonetheless, this latest update has me very concerned. The flaws are deep, particularly the auto-changes for locations in “story” text & map illustrations, which insert best-guess place names, despite historical inaccuracies. For example, in my situation, Bohemia of the mid-1800s was changed to Czech Republic, which didn’t exist until after 1945. The auto-substitution process needs to recognize both place and time-frame and be sensitive, at least, to major historical events. One wouldn’t expect a birth in Jamestown, circa 1650, to be listed as occurring in the United States, but this is the way Ancestry is rewriting personal histories. Ironic, no?

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And that is why my trees are no longer public! Watched people grab from my trees, insert into theirs in impossible relationships and refuse to remove when notified of their error.

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    My trees are public. I have no doubt there are errors, because I wasn’t very experienced when I started and because I’m human. I’m constantly revising and upgrading based on real documentation and I no longer copy hints willy-nilly. Having said that, I share my information. What people choose to do with it is their concern and not my business. Ancestry provides tools for everyone to be as relaxed or as rigorous as they want. What more can we ask for?

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This change is horrid. Too much extraneous Information, even the “fact” setting has a “story” aspect added. The grey/black background does not show the information adequately — I have used Ancestry.ca in the past as most of my ancestors were from Quebec and fortunately they are still using the old format at least for now.

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The Times I have contacted someone who I am absolutely sure has the wrong family, I find I never hear from them. This is when I have documents proving my point. I know it is easy to get on the wrong track in some cases. Because of DNA testing I just found an error.

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David Paul Davenport June 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I’m not bothered by these changes as long as Ancestry continues to provide access to databases (“all” of which have transcription errors that can usually be overcome by browsing). My bigger concern is overhearing people at my local FHC encourage poor work using Ancestry, FamilySearch (including Puzzilla), etc. The vast majority of people want easy answers, and connecting to someone else’s work eliminates the need to think. Even more tragic is the encouragement people receive to “do your own research using the internet at home.” Genealogy requires skills, and these are not acquired by allowing people to post the latest nonsense. I am still arguing with a person using BYU relatives finder about the validity of her relationship to Brigham Young. The chart she printed states that she has in common with B.Y. a married couple named Nicholas Cheyney and Elizabeth Cockayne. Unfortunately, for her and I suspect the entire website, Mr Cheyney died in 1435, 18 years before Elizabeth was born. Do you think for a minute she would stop asserting that she is a cousin of B.Y. – absolutely not. She is 100% convinced that the Church authorities wouldn’t allow anything to be published that wasn’t accurate. So I’ve given up. All I can do is do my best to make certain that my research is “flawless” and when people ask me to consult I ask them to show me what they have done and to provide documentation. And when I find on Ancestry an egregious mistake I add a comment.

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    Problem is, it now looks as though the comments I have added to several trees, supplying information on the next generation back through the brick wall or (hopefully tactfully and sensitively) questioning an error, are now being suppressed by Ancestry, so it is apparently no longer worth the time spent.

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    CathiM – Comments are available in the New Ancestry. When on a person profile just click the TOOLS menu on the top right and view comments.

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This is NOT the new great future way of doing things – it is marketing fluff. With computers going to tablets and I-Pads, Ancestry is going to huge screen-wasting inaccurate nonsense. What are they thinking?

The sad part is that Ancestry still holds billions of poorly indexed records captive in their Card Catalog. These never show up as hints – instead we get the very suspect Family Data Collection. And now we also get vague generalities about what our ancestors were doing at a certain period of time in history.

I don’t even want to think about presiding over our next Genealogy Society meeting. I fear a headache from the shouting rants by a room full of highly experienced genealogists.

Dick please beg MyHeritage to offer a paid monthly try-out subscription. I can’t afford to make a mistake and spend that much money on an annual subscription if I don’t like it either.

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    I never use the “Story View.” My understanding is that is how you get to that cluttered mess. So far the system seems to do fairly well with hints of
    records, once you have entered something it can work with. That does give me a leg-up.

    For years I have complained about the frills they keep adding to the site; 75% of which I will never use. I agree with most of the folks above. But they have to keep making money and making changes to the website and the FTM program is how they do it. All software companies do it. And it will never change.

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There really is not much difference between the Ancestry.com we’re used to and the new Ancestry. You can turn off the story line if you want. As for public member trees being wrong, well, that’s part of being in a public accommodation. I’m not perfect — mine is a work in progress, and I presume the same of other trees. Use other people’s data at your own risk. If you want your genealogy hermetically-sealed, Ancestry.com might not be for you.

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Some of the entries above are the reason I deleted my tree on familysearch.org. I got tired of some yahoos out there changing the info I had entered. It would have been better if they had emailed me with the areas that conflicted with what they had on their tree, along with their sources. But no one ever did. It was not difficult to notice the errors on my tree as their entries were in a totally different format from mine. Although we are on ancestry.com, I like the FTM, especially since sources can be documented.
Ken

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    Ken, familysearch.org has only 1 (read one) tree. They are trying to connect EVERYONE! Anyone can go into the one tree and make additions or changes. You don’t have an individual tree even though it seems you do. Only the most recent of your people are likely to remain the unchanged. A few generations, and then somehow it’s combined with the one tree and if anyone wants to makes changes, they can. I don’t like that.

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I will never renew my subscription to Ancestry. It offers less and less of value and turned into a 3-ring circus making people think they are “researching” their families. Ancestry has become an aggregator of free sites and trash. I find I am using it as a last resort and usually come away disgusted with it.

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