Posted by on February 6, 2009 in Content

Two U.S. collections grew today:

Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925
Added the 1925 census, containing 1.8 million names.  The full collection now contains 8.2 Million Names.

kansas-census-david-eisenhower.jpg

State censuses were often taken in years between the federal censuses. In some places, local censuses were designed to collect specific data, such as the financial strengths and needs of communities; tallies of school-age children and potential school populations to predict needs for teachers and facilities; censuses of military strength, cavalry horse resources, and grain storage; enumeration for revenue assessment and urban planning; and lists to monitor African Americans moving into the northern cities.  Taken from Szucs, Loretto Dennis, “Research in Census Records.” In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).

Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000
10,000 maps and atlas pages were added from the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.  The full collection now contains over 50,000 maps.

maps-adams-township.jpgThis database is a collection of maps and atlases detailing land areas that comprise the present-day United States and Canada, as well as various other parts of the world. It contains a variety of maps and atlases created for different scopes and purposes, including land ownership atlases and bird’s-eye view maps. Land ownership atlases usually show the names of contemporary owners or occupants of land and structures. Some of the maps depict countries and wider geographical areas, while others depict counties, cities, towns, and smaller geographical areas.

25 Comments

1925 Kansas State Census Now at Ancestry.com 

[...] Indexes, State & Territorial Censuses on Feb.06, 2009 Chris Lydiksen, at the Ancestry.com Blog, today reported that the 1925 Kansas State Census has now been posted. According the the blog, the 1925 schedules [...]

February 6, 2009 at 6:55 pm
Reed 

Two potentially valuable resources (and some of the map images are much, much higher quality than before), BUT…

Wow, some of your indexes are seriously mixed-up. For example, the 1907 Atlas of Saunders County, Nebraska has so many incorrect links of title/description and image/map. It does not matter whether you use the links generated by the search fields, or if you manually search page after page of the atlas.

Examples? Try “Mariposa Precinct” and the map found is of Ashland Precinct. Try “Morse Bluff 2″ and you get: Ashland again. Try “Wahoo City 2″ and you get Cedar Bluffs, and on and on. Try any of the pages of family/individual photographs from the same atlas and you get the same page time after time…

Come on Ancestry, how about some quality control, eh?

—Reed

February 6, 2009 at 8:40 pm
Randy Seaver 

Chris,

Is the content complete for these two databases? Or are there more updates coming?

I’m waiting for Andrew County MO in 1877 because I copied the wrong page at the FHL last month!

Cheers — Randy

February 6, 2009 at 9:09 pm
Reed 

Oh, and RE my no. 2, above: Same problem with the 1873 Dodge County, Wisconsin atlas indexes not corresponding with images/maps.

When may we expect a fix?

February 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm
B. 

Thanks for the post, Chris. One question:

Why can’t we save the images in Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000 as files, as we can in other content collections?

The only two options in this collection are:

1) “Attach to someone in my tree: Add this record as a source for someone in your tree”

OR

2)”Save to my Shoebox: Save this record for later evaluation and organization”

With other collections, there is a “Save to your computer: Save this image to your hard drive” option available.

Why is this option with the Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000?

Thanks in advance for your answer.

February 6, 2009 at 11:49 pm
Michel Bryson 

Thank you, thank you, thank you! By matching the 1930 county plat with the names in the 1930 US census – I was able to find my great-grandfather’s farmland! And it only took me maybe 5 minutes from start to finish!

February 7, 2009 at 6:39 am
Jade 

Why are the Towns of Haynesville and Orient omitted from the 1877 Atlas of Aroostook County, Maine?

They are in the Table of Contents of the Atlas, of course, but not in your foolish links/index which does not list all of the Towns.

February 7, 2009 at 6:56 am
Jade 

Oops, sorry, found Orient Town, Aroostook Co; in the middle of a several-line list that begins with the name of a nearly uninhabited plantation . . . .

February 7, 2009 at 8:08 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Response to #2-#4:

Reed, thanks for the feedback. We did not create the index for this collection, but I’ll look into this and see when it can be fixed. FYI, we do have quality control, but with millions of records going out each week, it’s impossible to catch everything. That’s why observant customers like you are so important to improving the quality of the data on Ancestry.com.

Randy, I believe the Kansas State Census Collection is complete for the years covered, but you can call me if you need a more definitive answer. Ancestry.com’s map/atlas collection is not complete, and probably never will be (it will continue growing into the foreseeable future).

Thank you, Chris

February 7, 2009 at 1:51 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Response to #5:
This content was acquired from a third party under certain conditions and restrictions, one of those being stringent protection of the images. We felt it important to provide these extremely valuable maps and atlases to our users, even with the restrictions in place.

February 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Response to #6-#8:
This is the type of user success I love to hear about. I found my wife’s great-great-great grandfather’s farm in Iowa. That was quite thrilling to me, and it only took me about 15 minutes.

FYI: I’m hoping our technology gets to the point where we can offer these land ownership maps as a World Archives Project, empowering users to key in the names, resulting in a searchable index.

If you are interested in such a project, I’d like to hear about it.

February 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Mike 

Chris,

This is a pretty lame “database” or whatever. You get a 3rd party vendor to provide images that presumably are all in the public domain anyway (i.e. Ancestry could image them and have them here with no restrictions), have a sub-standard index for same with the excuse that a 3rd party vendor made it, and then lo and behold while you won’t allow these images to be saved, are so nice as to be willing to sell prints of them for $25 or $49 a pop or whatever depending on size (the price I saw for a large city map).

The bottom line is we are paying a subscription to get info we can use the way we want, which necessarily means being able to save it. Otherwise all Ancestry becomes is a private library with every book marked “R” for reference and can’t be taken home.

February 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm
Mike 

“one of those being stringent protection of the images”

Chris,

What is your definition of stringent? What happens if a subscriber loads an image they like, opens a new tab in Firefox and enters “about:cache” in the address bar, and then clicks on the first option of the memory cache, and then starts clicking on various cached items which can be right-click copied to some other program?

So I guess your definition of stringent is “non-savvy user who doesn’t know geeky workarounds and is too lazy to spend 30 minutes googling to find them”. Speaking of google and this 1×1 pixel stuff . . .

February 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm
Connie 

I was happy to see the content additions. Checked out the Land Ownership Maps; didn’t have the counties I needed for MO and OH, but that’s okay, not Ancestry’s fault.

Browsed Kansas; yay; you have Mitchell Co. for time period I needed. Clicked on Mitchell Co., clicked on the township I wanted (Solomon Rapids): oops, it’s linked to Beloit Twp. Clicked on Beloit Twp thinking they may have been switched; oops, it’s linked to Asherville Twp. Clicked on Table of Contents; it’s linked to Beloit City. Clicked on Mitchell Co. Outline Map; it’s linked to maps of the villages of Asherville, Victor, and Simpson, as is Glen Elder Twp and what should be a map for the villages of Glen Elder and Scottsville. And what does the link for what should be the map for Ashervilee, Victor and Simpson lead me to?

February 8, 2009 at 5:25 pm
Connie 

Oops, accidentally sent #14 before finishing:

The link for Asherville, Victor and Simpson takes me to a map of Asherville Twp.

Looks like Ancestry’s quality control is in fine shape again. It’s bad enough we have so many problems with Search, but to not be able to use Browse is really discouraging.

Sorry to complain; I was really hoping I could thank you for the content addition.

But until I have the time to click through all 15-20 links for Mitchell Co. Kansas to find the two I need (Solomon Rapids and Glen Elder), it’s not much use to me.

I’m afraid to try other states/counties now…

February 8, 2009 at 5:29 pm
Jade 

Chris, re: your #10:

(Response to #5):
“This content was acquired from a third party under certain conditions and restrictions, one of those being stringent protection of the images. We felt it important to provide these extremely valuable maps and atlases to our users, even with the restrictions in place.”

The real deal is you want to charge $16.95 (or is it more now?) for a paying subscriber to obtain a copy of a single page.

A tiny little halfway step forward would be to make it possible to select a filename when saving to Shoebox. Right now, all images from this database saved to Shoebox have identical filenames so you have no way to tell which is what. E.g., Indian River in Sussex Co., DE, 1869 – or Billings, Montana?

Before soliciting **volunteers** to do new indexing, make it possible to copy the pages. They are of very limited use at present. Many of the Atlases are already indexed anyway.

Or you could put volunteers to work fixing the non-indexed databases, such as Revolutionary War Compiled Service Records (footnote.com has an index for these, why doesn’t Ancestry?). Or fixing the extremely horrendously badly indexed databases, such as Delaware Marriages 1744-1915 (not only very bad name misreadings; also dates off by 100 years).

February 8, 2009 at 10:12 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Response to #12-#16:

- I do appreciate the constructive feedback.

- Yes, the index has errors. I will dig in and see when a fix can be accomplished.

- Yes, the map content is being provided through an agreement with a third party. The agreement does contain certain use restrictions. We evaluated the costs and benefits of posting this collection with the present functionality and made a decision to include this valuable collection on Ancestry.com.

- Sincere question, would you rather have this content on Ancestry.com as-is (with an improved index) or not at all?

- In general, would you rather have access to collections months sooner with images only (no index, just browse, or with a partial index) or would you rather wait months for collections to be released after indexes are complete?

- Although much of this map content is indeed public domain, access to it, in any format, is not without cost (if access can be had at all, many of these are very rare). Ancestry.com is in the business of providing access to billions of digitized historical records, both public domain as well as under license. Each content set costs significant dollars to acquire, digitize, index, prepare, host, search and maintain. In 2008 alone we spent over $10 million dollars on new content production (sans hosting and searching costs).

- It is true, the technically savvy can do a lot of things that the less savvy cannot do.

- Print sales of these images are key to the agreement which makes this content available to Ancestry.com subscribers. FYI: the print quality is impressive.

- The market price for many of these atlases, were you to purchase original copies, exceeds the cost of an Ancestry.com World Deluxe subscription.

- Perhaps the greatest value proposition Ancestry.com brings is that its vast collection is available to subscribers in the comfort of their own homes.

- I’m not aware of the shoebox filename issue. I will forward that to the appropriate product manager. Thank you.

- We are already moving forward with plans to offer World Archives Project contributors the opportunity to index existing non-indexed databases, as well as to re-index poorly-indexed databases, as Jade suggests.

February 9, 2009 at 9:39 am
Mike 

“Sincere question, would you rather have this content on Ancestry.com as-is (with an improved index) or not at all?”

While in the past I have encouraged Ancestry to host up unindexed original records (state/county level), this is not the same as it is a collection of unrelated items, albeit all the same type of item. So its use is heavily dependant on an accurate index.

That is my number reason for saying “not at all”. And the second reason is that if this is accepted as is, then that just furthers a culture of poor quality control on the part of Ancestry, which includes products from 3rd parties like this. Plus when you add Ancestry’s refusal to correct database errors before moving on to other things, then this is a definite “not at all” to me.

Now if you want to accept a product from a 3rd party vendor (with no saving restrictions like here) which has known errors and fix them, then DO IT IN ADVANCE OF RELEASE.

February 9, 2009 at 10:49 am
Chris Lydiksen 

The index is being analyzed right now. I agree that such issues should be captured before release. My main purpose with this blog is to open a direct line of communication with customers concerning U.S. content, to let you know what’s coming, what just got released, to take feedback, to answer questions, to incorporate suggestions, etc.

February 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm
Mike 

Chris,

I appreciate your efforts and communication, and the same for Anne and other product managers. And I wish I could be less negative in my responses in this blog and elsewhere because I love Ancestry and think the subscription is a good value to me (though largely because of good coverage of states I research a lot).

But it is not enough that the frontline people like you have a good and communicative attitude, because it matters more really what your bosses do. If they value quality control then as you say things like this will get taken care of in advance. And if they value content over marketing/PR, then they will spend accordingly. And most of all they will HAVE A *GOOD* PLAN for US content acquisition, instead of bouncing around from record group to record group.

Also I want to reiterate how bad I think this concept is of having maps that cannot be downloaded to one’s computer (without the technical knowledge I mentioned earlier). While you may be right that the print quality is impressive if one desires a large print of a map, most often a customer is only going to want a smaller average quality version to place in a report/memo etc. for future reference and study.

So my personal opinion is that besides the index issues, it is better off not to have this or other databases with these restrictions. If those companies won’t lease them to Ancestry without such restrictions, or Ancestry finds it prohibitive to pay for such an unrestricted lease, then let those vendors or repositories try to market it themselves.

February 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm
Jade 

Chris,

Re: #17, you asked “- In general, would you rather have access to collections months sooner with images only (no index, just browse, or with a partial index) or would you rather wait months for collections to be released after indexes are complete?”

That is not a question that can be answered in general.

Some collections are fairly intelligibly organized (say, roughly chronologically) and could be tediously browsed, frame by frame.

Others, while intelligbly organized, are too huge to browse and retrieve anything helpful within less than a week or so of steady browsing. An example is the Revolutionary War Manuscripts group that was included with so much fanfare. The National Archives has a subject and name index to this group, also on microfilm, but **you did not scan these microfilms**. So this manuscript group is just taking up space on your server, although the relatively few who can use the *index* microfilm at a NARA regional center or in DC could find this useful. This group does not even have a general guide, as do the NARA “Revolutionary War Rolls” (micropublication 246).

Further, y’all change names of databases so that when one tries to find them in, say, the “Military Records” list, to find the sundry Revolutionary War items one must look under R for Revoutionary, P for pension, ‘The’ and ‘U. S.’ as well as under some State listings, some of which you have name-changed so they don’t reflect the actual content of the records or title of the book. Where is the quality control here?

This naming weirdness has frustrated those searching for the two groups of England and Wales Birth records indexes – since the time frames are ID’d in their names, why does one have ‘The’ in front of it so it is hard to find?

A further issue is type of indexing. The England and Wales Birth records are being indexed by key-word instead of by name (lastname-firstname). This is idiotic and should be fixed. Stop doing the last half of the first chronological group this way, and begin fixing this, then do the last half correctly.

This keyword indexing is also what makes the California Voters Registration group so nearly unusable. Much effort for negligible *fruitful* result unless one is searching for a very unusual surname or first name. Since the street names have the same search value as surnames and first names (each indexed separately), totally irrelevant results vastly outnumber actually relevant hits. For the genealogist, surname-firstname is the way to go. When I am looking for Arnold Moore I ***do***not***care*** how many Arnolds and how many other Moores are in the database. ‘Exact’ search (for boolean case Arnold AND Moore on same page) does not work for this database, like many databases.

For the Delaware Marriages 1744-1915 database, the indexing is so appallingly faulty there appears to have been no quality-control by an English-speaker. Even basic handwriting-reading skills were lacking: double-ess read as ‘p’ (there really are no persons named Snodgrap, as an English-speaker would know, and probably no one named Hep), for example. And there is no excuse for all the 1902 dates (for example) given in the index as 1802. In this instance, some quality control the *first time* it was indexed would ameliorate having to re-do it.

February 10, 2009 at 6:09 am
Tony Brothers 

Chris Lydiksen asks:
“sincere question, would you rather…”
“In general, would you rather..”

Why are you asking these few knuckleheads here? They cannot be representative users, since they spend ALL their time moaning and griping on boards and blogs.

February 11, 2009 at 7:48 pm
Tony Brothers 

for Chris Lydiksen, in response to his question, “Sincere question, would you rather have this content on Ancestry.com as-is…”

Would you be apt to purchase a textbook with, say, every 5th page missing? Or with just the first 4 chapters out of 30?

Say! Here’s a thought! How about if my next subscription payment is made with only a PARTIAL credit card number?

February 12, 2009 at 9:01 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Response to #20-23:

- The index was fixed on Tuesday. I haven’t seen any complaints about it since then. Looks good, thanks for your feedback.

- Mike, although I understand where you’re coming from, I don’t agree that it would benefit users more to not have this content. Technology is moving toward a cloud computing framework (data stored online, accessible from anywhere). These maps will always be accessible to Ancestry.com subscribers.

- Jade, on the database naming, we do name databases in such a way as to help the average user understand what the set contains. The source information goes into more detail about the specifics of the source, and we have been adding the NARA/Archive publication/series numbers as well.

- For free text databases, it is a good practice, when searching for an exact phrase, to put the exact phrase in “quotation marks.”

- Quality control is a continual quest, and significant investment. For example, whereas achieving 95% accuracy might cost $100,000, 99% accuracy might cost triple that. The good news is: 1) we are constantly investing in better technology and better practices, and 2) we are working on technology to empower users to correct more and more of the errors they find in these records.

- On record completeness, while it’s true that humans and technology do err, often record sets come to us incomplete. Were we to enact a policy to turn away all incomplete record sets…well, I think you’d be displeased with the result.

February 12, 2009 at 11:05 am
costa 

the biggest problem i have is either the sensuis takers cant understand the accents of people or their writing was terrible.my fathers was hariloas piperakis.in 1920 they had my fathers name harney pappas in 1930 they had him as harlen pappas.he told me he always went as harilos piperakis.i finaly got it streighten out.its been fun though

February 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm