I mentioned Monday we had some really cool features in the works that required our Trees Service to go down for a while. It has taken longer than expected to get some kinks worked out of the system, so I apologize for building excitement and then going silent. What we’ve been working on is a fantastic upgrade to our Ancestry Hints system. We are now able to deliver hints based on what other users have created—trees, saved records, photos, and stories. These come from other public trees–trees (along with the people, photos, stories, etc. inside them) marked “personal” are not included in this hint system.
In short, you’ll now find in your family tree:
- Hints to other Ancestry Member Trees (Personal Member Trees are not included in this search)
- Hints to Records that other people have saved to this person in their tree
- Hints to Photos that other people have added
- Hints to Stories that other people have added
- New Family Merge
Also, when you find a photo or story you like when searching Ancestry, you’ll be able to save that photo or story to someone in your family tree.
New Family Merge Process
The previous family tree merge process focused on merging the information for the person receiving the hint, and then choosing how many generations of ancestors to add.
We’ve now taken this to the next level where we add (or merge) the person’s parents, spouse(s), and children into your family tree, and give you control over how this information is added to your tree.
We anticipate this type of family merge could also be used when adding Historical Records (e.g., US Census) to your family tree. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that many of you would love to have this, so it is high on our to-do list.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this page and process. (send me an email at kfreestone at tgn.com.) It is a complex interaction, but we hope we’ve made it simple enough for beginners and also flexible enough for the more advanced users.
Wow, what a complex feature!
The key to this technology is our ability to create what we call (at least around the office here) a “consolidated persona”. This consolidated persona includes the person we give the hint for, his parents, spouse(s) and children.
The way we’ve done this has a few critical improvements over what we have been doing with OneWorldTree. In the OneWorldTree system, we (in one big batch) stitch hundreds of millions of personas together into a single very large family tree. One frustration that results from this is the staleness of the information, because we are only able infrequently update OneWorldTree. This new hint system is always drawing on an up-to-date index of the member trees, so the consolidated persona is created on-the-fly in real time for each hint.
Now, there’s going to be times when you want to dive into the details and sort out for yourself which tree you trust and want to take information from. We’ve got a link on the family merge page (called “view 15 individual trees”) that goes to a handy comparison page where you see your person on one side of the page, and a scrolling list of the 15 other instances of that person on the other side of the page.
Sharing the Hints
When you accept a tree hint, our system can have higher confidence in that match, opening the door to suggest to you other hints from these trees, such as other records saved to this person, photos associated to the person, and stories about the person.
A couple of notes about the photos (and stories too)
We anticipate that some photos might be saved many times over as others with common ancestors save a copy of the photo to their own tree. A couple things to note on this feature. The photo saved is always a copy of the original, so the person saving the photo will NOT be able to change or remove the photo in your tree. Also, we only create an entry in the search index for the original instance of the photo. The saved photo will continue to give attribution to the original submitter of that photo. Finally, in your own tree you’ll be able to see a list of the other users who have saved your photo.
A Great Community
We really see these features as being able to help members connect with all the other people researching the same person or family line. Besides sharing the data, we hope this leads to great research collaborations and friendships. So next time you get a hint to a tree, a story, or a photo another person contributed, remember to reach out and make a connection—I’m sure you’ll find it richly rewarding.