Ancestry.com

U.S. Content Update: Maintenance to U.S. Census, Tennessee Marriages and more

Posted by Ancestry.com on July 25, 2008 in Ancestry.com Site, Content

8d08679r.jpgBelow are some updates on maintenance of U.S. content collections on Ancestry.com:

1) As part of our partnership with FamilySearch to improve the U.S. Federal Census collection on both sites, we’ll be performing maintenance to fix many known issues with the current collection, like misspelled place names, missing counties, and missing or blurry images, among other things.  As a consumer of this historical data, I’m anxious to see the improved versions of these invaluable databases published.

2) All images for the Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002 database had to be taken down temporarily for some unforeseen maintenance, but will be back up soon.  An alert has been posted on the database home page, “Images for this database have been temporarily disabled.”

3) The recent release of naturalizations as one database has been split into two databases,  U.S. Naturalization Records – Original Documents, 1795-1972 and U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995.

4) A microfilm roll-based browse was added to the New Jersey State Census, 1895 database to allow users to browse each roll of film from start to end, beginning at the first frame of the physical roll and ending at the last frame.  All images, regardless of whether any names or data were keyed, are accessible via the Browse Images Sequentially link in the browse table on the database home page.  I’m interested to know whether or not you think such a roll browse would be helpful in other databases.

5) The image viewer search box for the U.S. School Yearbooks database isn’t working quite the way we want it to.  We are planning to adjust it to search only within the book currently being viewed.  If you like the functionality as it is now, please let me know so I can consider your input before the change is made.

Finally, I want to assure you that I’m aware of maintenance needs with other U.S. content collections not mentioned here.  Please feel free to contact me to discuss maintenance needs with U.S. content on Ancestry.com.

25 comments

Comments
1 MikeJuly 25, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Chris,

Re the census changes, I hope what is also going to be changed is getting rid of the arrangement by township/district that Ancestry has for many states in certain census years *when such is not totally clear*. The people who grouped such images often did not understand how to do so properly. Ancestry needs to serve up the census records in the exact order they are found on the microfilm AND INCLUDE BLANK AND SPOILED PAGES. The reason it is necessary to include blank/spoiled pages is that doing so is often necessary to check if all the pages are there or not when the enumerator started from 1 with house/dwelling numbers at the top of each page.

Re the Tenn marriage database, thanks for the attempt at an explanation. But why couldn’t you just be totally honest and say the company screwed up by putting up images for marriages that are too recent to be released and that the database must be corrected to remove same? That avoids the longer explanation that means the same thing.

Also, why does not the more info part explaining the database in detail explicitly mention which counties are *not* included? Like Sullivan County for example. And whether/when such counties can be added?

Thanks,

Mike

2 Carol A. H.July 25, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Missing images(s) for 1920 Census, Peabody, Essex County, Massachusetts: ED 243, sheet 7A and sheet 7B, Ward 3, Supv Dist 5. No immage(s) in Ancestry but they are on the film at the FHC. Names are also NOT indexed.

Sheet 8A of the same ED and Ward is cut off short on the right hand side. I notified Ancetry several years ago but nothing was done and I received NO acknowledgement of my report.

3 RobertJuly 27, 2008 at 8:30 pm

MISSING PAGES 1900 census the pages Ancestry left out sheet # 3-B and the other pages after that one. Split Rock, Carlton, Minnesota names are not indexed
The new North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975 the morons that indexed this can not get the names of the townships,city,or County right, and if a son with the last name of JONES the father should be JONES not BONES . you get what you pay for ,and as a Ancestry subscriber we are NOT getting what we are paying for

4 Bullish BankersJuly 27, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Great post, there’s some missing information in the update.. but a lot of it is quite useful.

5 XanderJuly 27, 2008 at 9:56 pm

“Chris is the U.S. Content product manager at Ancestry.com. Since 2004, he’s been focused primarily on U.S. content strategy, acquisition and production.”

Given your pathetic track record for “strategy” and “production” in the past four years, should we even bother talking to you?

6 Don GriffithJuly 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

Chris, I would like to see a re-filming of the WW I draft registration cards. Most of the WW I draft card images are fair to poor in quality, and it appears this is due to a choice to use a very low resolution scan. The scanning is the issue, not the quality of the source material. This database of images is a great resource, but I have found way too many images that are nearly illegible.

7 Tony CousinsJuly 28, 2008 at 10:17 am

I’m not really sure where this post should be but I thought – here is as good a place as any – it’s regarding UK content.

When searching the 1901 UK census there is a drop down to select County, really very helpful – except Ancestry has included Sheffield – Sheffield is a town.

This is yet another exapmle of the poor quality control that is presently being attained by Ancestry. If they can’t get a simple thing like that right what chance do we stand.

TonyC

8 Tony CousinsJuly 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

That should have read ‘example’ so I guess my quality control is also suspect ;)

9 michaelJuly 30, 2008 at 9:24 am

i just want to communicate with ancestry.com and cannot find another way… the “contact us” link just takes me to “help”… i am having a problem when trying to associate info from a census with one of my people… it reverses the first and last names when it does that… it did it to two different individuals… i believe it is a software issue on your site…

10 kkandtcJuly 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I appreciate ya’ll getting the TN marriage images back online today. The links to correct transcription errors is missing. I just found a family of 9 that needs to be corrected.

11 Jerry BryanAugust 1, 2008 at 8:43 am

Ditto on getting the TN marriages images back online. It’s one of my favorite databases. Getting the images back online is great! Thanks. By the way, the message that says they are down for maintenance is still there.

12 Chris LydiksenAugust 1, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Thank you for saying thank you on the republication of the Tennessee marriages images. Yes, the images are back up, but we had to disable record correction because of a bug, which will be fixed shortly.

In response to some of the other comments:

1-3) As stated, every U.S. census will be re-released with improved indexes and images in cooperation with FamilySearch.

4) Bullish Bankers, what else is on your mind?

5) Xander, I am an avid consumer of Ancestry.com data too, and when errors exist, it is frustrating. I wish we could be 100% correct with 100% of the databases we publish 100% of the time. Each day we invest time and money to improve both quantity and quality. Yes, I’m the right person to talk to about U.S. content.

6) Don, the WWI draft registration cards image quality requires some more research on my part. I’ll get back to you on this.

13 kkandtcAugust 2, 2008 at 3:20 pm

I have spent much of my day attempting to get through the TN marriages. I spent over an hour doing corrections. Was the indexing of these documents outsourced to a foreign country?

http://content.ancestry.com/iexec/?htx=List&dbid=1169&offerid=0%3a7858%3a0

Do a search on the surname Besbeass, county Monroe and look at some of those names. Besbeass=Beshears.

It doesn’t matter how fancy you make a search engine, if the databases are broken. I truly appreciate these documents being put online. However you need to put a group together to fix the index.

I saved the best for last. The indexed name was “B S S ??Oyster married to ??Rah Ann Frisby”

B D S Royston married to Sarah Ann Frisby.

It wasn’t even my family, but I figured it out by checking the census records. On the marriage record I knew it was Roys??? so not hard to figure it out!

14 ReedAugust 5, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Chris,

Here’s a message I sent earlier to the “Ancestry Insider” (back when he still worked for y’all). I never got a response on this issue, so I pass it along to you. I apologize for the length, but I’ve heard specific examples are helpful, so here they are… (All searches done with Old Search; it’s faster, easier and more accurate):

There appears to be a serious problem with the “Historical Newspapers, BMD Announcements, 1851-2003″ database. Apparently there are some very large “holes” in the coverage of the BMD data, including years prior to the 1960s.

Recently I learned death-date info on two relatives, both from my Chicago BAKER family, and went looking for their obits in the “Historical Newspapers, BMD Announcements, 1851-2003″ by using an exact search by newspaper title + location + date. Here’s what happened for one of them:

Subject is Minnie Baker NOLTON, d. Chicago, 4 Aug 1948.

Searched for her obit in Chicago [any paper, any date] and: Not found.

Searched for all Aug., 1948 obits in the Chicago Tribune and: No obits at all, for anyone! None.

So, I searched Chicago Tribune, 1948, obits (no month specified). Result: No obits for the year 1948.

So, how about ANY kind of BMD records in the Chicago Tribune, 1948? Aha! 818 records: 3 [sic] BIRTH announcements and 815 MARRIAGE announcements! It seems that marriage records have decent coverage (though I don’t know if 815 announcements represents anything close to the total number actually published in the Tribune in 1948 or not). Only 3 birth records and no death records indicate something is amiss.

So now I’m suspicious, and I ran several searches to see how the BMD records are represented throughout the period 1945-1955.

Parameters: newspaper=Tribune + location=Chicago + date=1950 (+/- 5 years) + record type=BIRTH.
Results: 11 (eleven) notices from the period 30 Sept 1945 to 10 Aug 1955.

Parameters: newspaper=Tribune + location=Chicago + date=1950 (+/- 5 years) + record type=MARRIAGE.
Results: 17,998 notices from the period 2 Jan 1945 to 31 Dec 1955. (That seems more like it.)

Parameters: newspaper=Tribune + location=Chicago + date=1950 (+/- 5 years) + record type=DEATH.
Results: 0 (zero) death notices from the period 2 Jan 1945 to 31 Dec 1955.

At this point I got angry enough (and depressed enough) that I stopped. I now understood that the “Historical Newspapers, BMD Announcements, 1851-2003″ is—at best—a serious misnomer. After all, one would assume that—as the home page for the search engine states—this database contains 135 years of Chicago Tribune BMD records:
“Source Information:
Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: […] The Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL, USA: The Chicago Tribune, 1850-1985. […]

So I decided to click on the “more information” link. Perhaps that link would explain which records are missing for which year? Details? Nope. Just this one nonchalant sentence buried in the paragraph:

“Note: There may not be records for all three vital events included in this database for each newspaper and year combination.”

That’s putting it mildly! Now, like many Ancestry users, I assumed that this meant the occasional page of records might be missing, or even a few issues of a given paper might not be in the database, especially in the nineteenth-century editions. And, this being Chicago, perhaps the pre-Fire years (1855-1871) will be spotty. But really, an entire DECADE of post-WW2 obituaries (1945-1955) missing? And only eleven birth records from the same period? From the “newspaper of record” of the largest metropolis between the coasts? And who knows how many other gaping holes exist in the database? I haven’t the heart to check.

But it seems to me that Ancestry SHOULD check, and should ACCURATELY LABEL the database. After all, if I go to my local public or academic library and look up a newspaper or periodical in their collections, I expect (and will get) an accurate catalog listing with the start and end dates of the item AND a list of missing issues. From this unhappy customer’s view, it seems that either (1) ProQuest has sold Ancestry a seriously flawed database—which must be fixed ASAP—or (2) Ancestry already knows how extensive the problems are and has been hiding that information from its subscribers—which must be corrected ASAP.

Ancestry needs to speak honestly and plainly to the subscriber/users of the so-called “Historical Newspapers, BMD Announcements, 1851-2003″ database so that we know the limitations of the database. The lack of this information is a serious impediment to our use of the data, may cause researchers to reach false conclusions about ancestors with BMD events in these major cities and, most importantly, it veers awfully close to false advertising, something which any self-respecting business should want to avoid at all costs.

Sorry for the rant, but I’ve been using this database for almost two years and did not realize how really, really poor the coverage of the BMD image collection is. The gaps in the data must be identified, clearly and conspicuously labeled, and—one hopes—fixed.

Thank you for your patience. I do appreciate the size and complexity of Ancestry’s operation, but this situation is way beyond what is acceptable.

I look forward to your reply.

—Reed

P. S. And by the way, Ancestry’s “Historical Newspapers: Chicago Daily News” *collection* is such an extreme example of “false advertising” it would be laughable if it were not symptomatic of this apparently widespread problem of unlabeled-missing-issues of many of the newspapers in Ancestry’s collection. In fact, your “collection” of the “The Chicago Daily News, the city’s first penny paper and the most widely read publication in Chicago during the late nineteenth century” [Encyclopedia of Chicago, online] published for 103 years (1875 -1978), consists of the six pages published on 9 October 1879! ONE SINGLE ISSUE! What’s up with that???

15 Marjorie NorthernAugust 7, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I am still not getting the actual marriage certificate/bond image – only the back of it. According to information the second image should follow the first image and that is the way it was when first released.
What happened?

16 Julia MitchelAugust 7, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Your 1900 census for Kentucky is a mess. The Caldwell County census is reversed with BUTLER County census and vice versa.
I sent three issue reports and tried to emain the error, but all I get is Auto Response.
Guess you guys are gettin too big for us common folk.

17 Julia MitchelAugust 7, 2008 at 10:25 pm

Your 1900 census for Kentucky is a mess. The Caldwell County census is reversed with BUTLER County census and vice versa.
I sent three issue reports and tried to email the error, but all I get is Auto Response.
Guess you guys are gettin too big for us common folk.

18 Mary Beth MarchantAugust 12, 2008 at 7:43 am

If y’all are updating the census pages, it would be a courtesy to let us know. At this time this morning census images are out for at least decades 1850 through 1900. All I and others are getting is “error processing image”. We can be patient if we know ahead of time when and how long but very impatient when things just go offline with no notice or explanation.

19 JMauleAugust 12, 2008 at 5:27 pm

A well run operation would leave the current image database in place, put the new one on a new server, and then do a switchover. Instead, they’ve taken down the census records (and other images) and they leave them down. The quality of service on ancestry.com has been going downhill rapidly. Its value to me has been going downhill just as quickly. Customer service shuts down at 5 or 6, and then they close down databases without notice, and there is no one to call. Have they forgotten that when someone is paying them for a service, they need to serve?

20 DerekAugust 12, 2008 at 5:38 pm

I look forward to the new 1900 census content and particularly the enhanced index. Thanks for taking the effort. I am checking the database daily to see if the change has been implemented…

21 Mary Beth MarchantAugust 13, 2008 at 11:06 am

Same problem here with the census. We are getting this

Server Error in ‘/’ Application.
——————————————————————————–

Runtime Error
Description: An application error occurred on the server. The current custom error settings for this application prevent the details of the application error from being viewed remotely (for security reasons). It could, however, be viewed by browsers running on the local server machine.

Details: To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a tag within a “web.config” configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This tag should then have its “mode” attribute set to “Off”.

DONT’ YOU THINK WE DESERVE AN EXPLANATION OR AT LEAST A REFUND!!!!

22 Rich HrazanekAugust 21, 2008 at 11:13 am

Chris, I enjoyed listening to you on Dear Myrtle. I’m looking forward to the resources you will be adding to supplement the missing 1890 Federal Census. You asked for feedback as to what types of data Ancestry subscribers would like to see added in the future. I would love to see the following New York State Census records, 1892, 1905, 1915 & 1925. Next, I would like to see the Connecticut Military Census of 1917 added. Keep up the great work!

23 Shirley StarksAugust 29, 2008 at 6:16 am

Census:
We are so fortunate to have this resource. I use it a lot.

Please help those of us who know a name is there, but indexing is amiss.

I am often finding difficulty in a census search.
Known Profile:
Surname known
State of Residence known.
County known.
…………….
A while back:
I could fill in certain search blanks for the census, say, 1880. I found one lady with nothing more than a first name, birth year &
place.
……..
Recently, I was looking for a Ridenour surname in 1910. Known to be living in Clinton Co, MI. Not finding him by name, I sought to look at every Ridenour family in that Clinton Co, MI.
……….
What was offered by Ancestry…
I had to begin with all of that name in Arkansas and go through EVERY state in alphabetical order until I came to MICHIGAN. Then I had to wade through every county in that state! How fortunate that the county began with a ‘C’!!

I’ve had to do this procedure with VIRGINIA..! grrr!

24 Chris LydiksenSeptember 1, 2008 at 9:24 pm

6) Don, I’ve done some research on the WWI Draft images. Some images were produced many years ago with period technology. These images have been added to the list of those that could benefit from being re-scanned. Thank you.

25 Chris LydiksenSeptember 1, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Responding to more comments relevant to the topic at hand:

13) kkandtc, we’re constantly working to improve quality. That said, there is an optimal level for keying accuracy. I appreciate feedback like this so that I can use it to research and help improve quality.

14) Reed, I won’t promise to post an answer back here, but I do promise to look into this. Thanks.

15) Marjorie, please send me the link to the record.

16) Julia, thanks for reporting this. It will be prioritized against all other U.S. projects.

19) JMaule, More often than not, such problems are unforeseen and technical, and not the result of a conscious decision by a human to disable databases. We know how important access to the data on our servers is and we strive to continuously improve.

22) Rich, thanks for your kind remarks and input.

23) Shirley, please send me a link to a specific record in question. Thanks for your feedback.

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