Ancestry.com

U.S. Content Update: Is Ancestry.com Slowing Down on U.S. Content? Nope!

Posted by Ancestry.com on February 26, 2009 in Content

I’ve been hearing from customers who are concerned that U.S. content releases are slowing down.  While I have responded in various forums to these concerns, I’d like to post a more official response here.

new-releases-list.jpgThe concern stems, I believe, from the format of the Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently list on Ancestry.com.  This list can be a bit confusing in that it displays all new releases regardless of country and size.  Also, notice the launch dates on the right side of the list.  For several months we’ve been releasing multiple books, mostly Canadian, each day. On the new releases list these stack up and visually overwhelm other, much larger databases. The number of U.S. records released thus far in 2009 is actually almost double the number released in 2008 for the same period.

card-catalog-new-us-releases.jpgTo see a list of only new or updated U.S. collections, use the new card catalog feature, filter by country and sort by date released.  Here’s a link straight to the list: New or Updated U.S. Collections.

Finally, this is shaping up to be a banner year for U.S. content, with many valuable new or updated collections in the works, including improved U.S. census images and indexes, state vital records, passenger lists, military records, city directories, state censuses, naturalization records, and maybe even a few nice surprises.

63 comments

Comments
1 Mark RoyFebruary 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Looks like there’s a bug on the “New or Updated” pages. With the “Sort By” set to “date updated”, hover over each title. As you hover, an info balloon shows the ‘date added’ and the ‘date updated’. Seems as though the two dates are always the same, and the updated date is inconsistent with the ordering in the list.

2 JadeFebruary 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm

So I went to Card Catalog, put in Update date of February 2009 and “United States” in the search box, and got this error message:

—————————-
Your Search for Database returned no matches
You searched for Database from 2009 – 2009
Why?

Exact search only shows results that match all of your search criteria.
See Search Tips
What should you do?

* Try removing search terms. This will increase your chances of getting a match on Exact Searches.
* Try un-checking the ‘Exact matches only’ box to show close matches even when no exact matches are found.
————————

This is foolishness because there is no ‘exact’ option on this search page.

I actually get this error message pretty frequently when I type an exact database name into the database-name field in the Card Catalog search page. It’s like the search engine cannot read what is entered there.

When I used your link, it logged me out and put me into New Fuzzy Search User Interface.

I don’t use New Fuzzy because it retrieves too much erroneous and unrelated material, excludes related relevant material, and makes searchinging a specific database too clicky hard to get to.

So I logged back in and clicked to return to Old Search, and I was redirected to useless (for me) Global Search.

BTW this happens every time I log in after using one of my many bookmarks to a specific database: log in, return to Old Search, get redirected to Global Search *instead of* to the bookmarked page. It is getting quite irritating. If I wanted to use the Global Search I would go there.

3 Chris LydiksenFebruary 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm

#1 – Mark, You’re right. The dates in the hover is a known issue and being looked at. Thanks for the feedback.

UPDATE: this is now fixed.

4 Chris LydiksenFebruary 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm

#2 – Jade, To generate the list of latest U.S. content collections yourself, just go to the Ancestry Card Catalog in the “New Ancestry Search” (http://search.ancestry.com/search/CardCatalog.aspx) user interface, select “USA” in the left column of the card catalog and sort the resulting list of databases by “Date Updated.”

Concerning your issues with the new search functionality, I’ll forward them on to the right folks.

5 JadeFebruary 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Chris, re your #4,

The point is that when I went to Card Catalog in Old Search, and in the field labeled “Date Last Updated” used the drop-down menu for month to select ‘February’ and typed in “2009″, and in field labeled “What Location are you interested in?” typed in “United States” – I got **no** results and the foolish error message.

This is a malfunction.

I do not want to use New Fuzzy Search User Interface. I have had enough of it. I have tried using it in various test scenarios detailed in Anne’s blog entries for it and previous ones as well. Just looking at its awful layout makes me grit my teeth, and reminds me of the right-hand pain incurred due to its frustrating clickiness during the times I tested it.

So I would have had a more satisfactory User Experience if you had said that the failure of the Search Engine to sort Card File in Old Search according to “Date Last Updated” and “Location” **was going to be addressed**.

Thank you.

6 BrettFebruary 26, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Jade, it works in the old search if you type in “USA.” the new search is more powerful, and you can do exact searches too, not just fuzzy.

7 MikeFebruary 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Chris,

While I am sure it is unintentional on your part, for you to say this is shaping up to be a banner year for US content and then give that link for stuff in the works, is very deceptive. Because on that page at the top of which says “coming soon”, has near the bottom “in the coming years”.

So to correct your statement you need to either say “the coming years will be banner ones for US content”, or you need to specify on that page you linked to exactly what is planned for *this* year.

As well you need to define terms correctly. There is a difference between new content or new updates to dynamic databases, and updates which correct errors as with those being corrected in the census collections by using images and improved indexes in partnership with Family Search. Those are two distinct things, i.e. new content and corrections, and they should not be lumped together to pump up perceptions of new content.

Mike

8 Chris LydiksenFebruary 27, 2009 at 11:38 am

#5, #6 – Jade and Brett, thanks for noticing this. “USA” does work. I’ll report this issue to the appropriate folks.

9 Chris LydiksenFebruary 27, 2009 at 11:50 am

#7 – Mike, There is no deception in providing you with a link to a page that shows content coming in this year and in coming years, especially when we say so right on the page. But, to placate your anxiousness, most of what you see on that page is planned for this year.

In terms of new vs. updated databases, the distinction has and is being made quite openly, IMO. Also, wouldn’t you agree that performing maintenance on a database that adds data to an index should count as newly-available data?

10 MikeFebruary 27, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Chris,

Thanks for the response. As to your question, “Also, wouldn’t you agree that performing maintenance on a database that adds data to an index should count as newly-available data?”, my answer is “it depends”.

If there were substantial new additions then yes (like if Ancestry finished the Tennessee Marriage database and added the missing counties or brought the Kentucky death certificate database up to what is currently available, i.e. 1958). But if not, like adding just a handful of new images, and thus mentioning it as having new content is just marketing hype, then no.

This is similar to how other vendors that concentrate on newspapers like to say “Gee Whiz we just added a bajillion titles!”. And then one finds that they are short runs, often just one or a handful of issues each, and that the company is artificially pumping up the size of their database measured by titles, when customers really need longer runs to find something.

I do again want to complement you on adding an agricultural census schedule for SC, and hope you continue to add those for other states. And the same for serving up any as yet unindexed records. Better to have access now than waiting years for indexing (or accepting bad indexes).

11 Ida FrenchFebruary 27, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I agree Ancestry has slowed down on the U.S. content. I use this site everyday and have been so disappointed in the lack of new content for the U.S. Today they put on General Photographs of the Bureau of ships. I looked at it and it was such of waste. There is nothing about this collection that will help find our Ancestors. If this is the direction Ancestry is going then I will not renew.

12 Tony BrothersFebruary 27, 2009 at 11:29 pm

For Chris Lydiksen:

As an example, what was added to the Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925, last updated 2/26/2009. Or better yet, what is still missing? Do you really expect me to repeat my searches for 100 individuals EVERY TIME you “update” this database, without my knowing whether you have made any changes to the year I need or the county I need?

And regarding “The concern stems, I believe, from the format of the Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently list on Ancestry.com. This list can be a bit confusing in that it displays all new releases regardless of country and size. ”

Why don’t you fix that – so that US subscribers only see US content, and ancestry.ca subscribers only see Canada content, etc. Is it because you are more focused on shoving the opportunity to upgrade to a more expensive subscription, than making the site user-friendly?

And also regarding the Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently, why don’t you preface the titles with the country-state, etc. Is a new entry that reads “Sir John Thompson” meaningful to anyone? How about “[Miscellanies by an officer]“. Do you think that we really have so much excess time (well – we do, because we’re waiting for pages to load), that we can click on every single stinkin’ new thing you put up?

The fact that you are AWARE of complaints of this nature, and that you do not address your plans to CORRECT these deficiencies is very upsetting. Your having to write a blog to explain something that should be so simple to use should tell you that you’ve made it overly complicated.

13 Ron LankshearFebruary 28, 2009 at 12:37 am

I have an RSS feed which includes What’s New on Ancestry and I see nearly all USA data.

When will there be more UK and Australian data?

In particular the London records from LMA?

14 JadeFebruary 28, 2009 at 5:25 am

Ron, re: your #13,

I also anxiously await the London LMA group – especially the parish registers of St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Mary Milk!

For those who do not know about this planned release, check out

http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=2847

15 JadeFebruary 28, 2009 at 5:28 am

Chris Lydiksen, re: your #8,

Thank you for the responsive reply.

And thanks to Brett for #7 – who knew? [g]

16 DianeMarch 2, 2009 at 9:15 am

On 2/26, an update to the Iowa State Censuses was posted. But what was updated? Were actual new records added? Or were previously existing records re-indexed. Or was the details page enhanced and no new records added?
It seems that it would be a small thing for you to indicate on the details page for an updated resource, the scope of an update to it, e.g. “2009-02-26: Added a, b, c and d counties to 1895 census.” or “2009-02-26: Added age as indexed field”. This historical reference would be very beneficial to customers.
I realize that may not be possible to provide details for every updated database but, when possible, just a few clues??? Even with something like the yearbooks, perhaps listing the states affected for each update? Or “2008-02-26: Yearbooks added to most states”. Most other genealogical subscriptions try to provide at least some idea of what was updated.
For longtime subscribers like me, researching hundreds of Iowa families, I can’t see diving back into to each family, when the updated state censuses could be little more than one county added.
Am sure this frustration is shared by many. We understand the SSDI gets additions every few months. But City Directories are updated and who knows what cities were added? UK Birth Index is updated but for what counties, what years?
You have to know the scope of your updates. Giving subscribers clues would definitely go a long way to reducing some of our frustrations.

17 MikeMarch 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

In line with Diane’s #16, is also what has been discussed before, i.e. better descriptions of databases. For instance the TN marriage collection I mentioned above. There should be in the description specific note of what counties were not included and why, and when/if they would be added. (And if there are cases of local/county officials not cooperating then they should be named and shamed as there is no long term benefit to playing nice with them as with state officials.)

18 barbara (bobbi) setliffMarch 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

mike just wondering if you remember me.

19 Deb HMarch 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I don’t know if the “content releases” have slowed down, but SEARCHING the content sure has. I didn’t think it could be any worse than it was a several weeks ago, but I was wrong. I found myself with some free time for the first time in over a month, so – ever the optimist and ignoring the many blog comments – I decided to “play”. It took 5-6 seconds for the home page to load, then another 10 seconds to bring up the page after signing in. I then went to “browse by state”, chose South Carolina (all with 5-10 second delays in page loading), then clicked on “US General Land Office Records 1796-1907″. It was torturous just getting to this point. Then I typed in my desired surname and clicked on the dropdown list to enter the state. Imagine my surprise when South Carolina wasn’t even a choice! How can this be? Where’s the logic? I’m a long-time subscriber with 3 months left on my subscription at which time I most definitely will be cancelling. I’ll continue to monitor the blog for updates by users. Maybe in another year the site will have reverted to “old search”, function quickly and actually locate relevant records and I’ll reconsider (I can dream, right?) For interim “search emergencies” I’ll go to the library and use their subscription. I thank my lucky stars I never posted an on-line tree because what those people are experiencing is ridiculous – they have my sympathy. To all you regular blog contributors – keep chiming in. My future with Ancestry (or lack thereof) will depend on your comments!

20 Sandra McGrawMarch 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

WHY is this darn website so slooowww in uploading??? It takes me twice as long to do any work on my ancestry lines. I have a headache now from the frustration. I have DSL not dial up too. What can be done to speed up the loading of pages?

21 JadeMarch 2, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Deb H., re: your #19 –

The reason you found nothing on South Carolina regarding the US General Land Office database is that no SC land was sold through the GLO.

The original 13 Colonies’ land was allocated through Town, County and Colony/Province/State grants or patents.

For some of the history, go to the GLO site http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/

The first page has a good introduction, and a helpful link to a page listing links for information for each of the original Colonies.

Back on the first page, there is a link at upper left to the Search page. I use the Standard search there. The search engine is excellent, and the indexing is nearly perfect, unlike Ancestry’s indexing.

There is no point to using Ancestry’s version of the General Land Office database. The GLO search engine is fast, and gives you direct links to images of the patents, plus you can get a text summary of the legal description that is savable in low-KB text format or an html page, your preference, if you click on the “printable page” link at upper right.

22 JPMarch 3, 2009 at 10:26 am

How many NEW US databases are added a week.

When I origianlly subscribed we were promised to get a certain number of NEW databases a week.

23 Deb HMarch 4, 2009 at 7:00 am

Jade, re your #21 – thanks for the tip. I have used glorecords.com successfully in the past for some mid-western searches and am just starting to research a couple of the southern states (looks like I need to do a little more homework before proceeding). That said, your response just reinforced my point. The US General Land Office Records should NOT be considered a database relevant to South Carolina (or to any of the other numerous states NOT included in the dropdown)when using the “browse by state” option. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful and well-written insights on the blog to date (and frankly I admire your persistence!)

Deb

24 JadeMarch 4, 2009 at 10:44 am

Deb, re: your #23,

Ahh, I see I may have missed your original point: that GLO records search is listed under a “filter by state” for South Carolina.

This is only one of many instances where the so-called listing of State databases includes items for which there is nothing at all for that State — such as photos of NY passenger ships, the 1890 US Census and Veterans’ schedules, blah blah blah.

This inaccurate and frustrating tendency to “pad” lists by including completely irrelevant items is deeply embedded in TGN’s approach, which is the “more is better” (a/k/a “washing machine”) approach, whereas the goal of the searcher is to **refine and limit listings to what is actually relevant**. Some of it is just ignorance (e.g., listing items on the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware River in PA with State of DE).

Such items have been often referred to in blog items regarding searching, in the past 9 months. Still no progress on the simple job of fixing this is visible.

And thank you for the kind words. Those of us who describe such problems in this forum are butting our heads against the wall – no progress on any of this has been made.

25 Chris LydiksenMarch 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thanks to all for your great feedback. I’m going to respond, but have been tied up…also working on some answers. Many good comments, thanks, Chris.

26 Mary Beth MarchantMarch 5, 2009 at 9:08 am

I went looking for new US data bases posted since 2009. I found at the most 12 to 15-and a few so-called updated ones. I can never find what was updated though. What I do find predominating is a whole host of memoires and biographies for preachers and/or churches in Canada. This does no constitute genealogy for me. In addition, I suspect those books were just brought over from Genealogy.com. The new data base-Non population census- has just one state-South Carolina. Where are the other states.

27 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm

#10, #12, #16, #26,

1) Yes, we will be adding more non-population census schedules. We will also be releasing more images before indexes are complete to allow users access to the records as early as possible.

2) The “Updated” dates that display in the hover box have been fixed (hover over the database title to see this).

3) Concerning the confusion on whether databases were actually added to vs. fixed, that’s a fair question. We don’t do a good enough job of communicating this. I’ve had some internal discussions on the topic this week, thanks to yours and others’ comments on the blog.

From now on for U.S. Content, the plan is to blog about what changes, fixes or additions were made to “Updated” databases. In the interest of getting you answers now, here is some high-level info about the updated databases released thus far this year:

Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925
- added new data for one roll

California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957
- added Head Tax Cards of Alien Seamen Examined at San Francisco, CA, 1921-1924

PERiodical Source Index
- added data from 2006-2008

Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820
- database was restructured to improve searchability
- data was parsed into more fields
- more meaningful field names were added
- search results were overhauled to help users find records more easily

Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000
- added 10,000 maps and atlas pages

Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925
- added 1925 census

U.S. School Yearbooks
- truncation bug was fixed

U.S. City Directories
- truncation bug was fixed

New York Chinese Exclusion Index
- fixed several data display and searching errors

U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
- fixed Civilian Occupation codes
- fixed errors in state of residence
- removed random characters from data
- clarified state field heading

Also, coming soon are higher quality images for the 1880 census.

28 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm

#11 – We have already released millions of new U.S. records in the past two months. Hundreds of millions more U.S. records are on the way. Concerning the ship photographs, this collection would have meaning to those whose ancestors sailed on those ships.

29 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 4:49 pm

#12 – To see what each database contains, please read the database descriptions. When records are added to a database, its description will be updated to reflect these additions.

The search and browse user-interfaces are being worked on heavily this year. With limited resources, we are allocating them as wisely as we can to improve the user experience. For now, I would recommend you bookmark this page to see what new or updated U.S. content has been released.

30 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm

#13 & #14 – The International Content team will be posting to the Ancestry Blog as well, so stay tuned.

31 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 4:59 pm

#17 – Interesting comment. Some of the time, the record sources aren’t even certain what is included, what is missing or what even exists outside of the collection. I’ll forward this point, though, to our descriptions writers.

32 Nancy RogersMarch 5, 2009 at 4:59 pm

One of your more recent “solutions” does not solve any problem. I am referring to the just released U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871. To release it without indexing it when one section is of A-G of New York is over 1,000 pages long just does not cut it. Prehaps to release to the web site something about we are currently indexing this particular set of data and hope to release a fully indexed version by …
I also agree that there are plenty of state data basis and other information that could be indexed and released. Releasing small family books that were written about 1900 and frequently contain errors does not help most of us.

33 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

#19, #20 – Deb, I know that our technology folks are very aware of site speed issues and are constantly working on needed infrastructure expansion, repair and optimization.

34 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 5:19 pm

#32 – For most collections in the past, we have held back the images until the index is complete. Now you are seeing more image sets released before the index. The plan is to get these collections out to our customers as soon as possible to help in their research. Obviously, some will choose to wait for the indexes before they use the records. It’s your choice. Personally, I appreciate getting the images ASAP, rather than waiting for the indexes.

I agree with you that we need to do a better job of communicating indexing plans, and I think we have improved in recent months with some World Archives Project images being released to the live site. We are in the process of evaluating when/if certain collections will be indexed.

35 Chris LydiksenMarch 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

#22 – I’m not aware of the promise you cite, but we are currently releasing multiple databases a day, most of these daily releases are Canadian books from a large collection we acquired. When these run out, you will see other types of records being released frequently.

Please note the difference between databases and records. For the last several months, when U.S. databases were released, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of records were included in these releases. Incidentally, we are working on ONE new database with over 100 million records.

36 MikeMarch 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Chris,

Re my #17 where I said:

“In line with Diane’s #16, is also what has been discussed before, i.e. better descriptions of databases. For instance the TN marriage collection I mentioned above. There should be in the description specific note of what counties were not included and why, and when/if they would be added.”

You replied #31:

“#17 – Interesting comment. Some of the time, the record sources aren’t even certain what is included, what is missing or what even exists outside of the collection. I’ll forward this point, though, to our descriptions writers.”

————–

The thing with this collection, i.e. the Tennessee Marriage collection, is that it was not imaged from one physical source in the care of one repository, but rather based on records held in all the individual counties. So your people pulled it all together to make it one collection on Ancestry and thus should know what is missing as far as entire counties, but just not as far as the details of an individual county’s holdings.

And my point is that although listing what counties are contained therein is a description, a better one is to also explicitly list the counties that were not included and tell why and when/if they will be added.

Also on another topic brought to mind by your saying that the PERSI database was updated to add 2006-2008, it would seem to me that Ancestry should similarly be committed to keeping all databases which are dynamic in the real world updated to some reasonable schedule on Ancestry. An example is the KY death certificate database which stops in 1953. Five more years are now available from the the state.

While I recognize that you can’t keep such databases evergreen in real time, I would think Ancestry would have a plan to update such databases instead of just years later some content or marketing guy saying “hey we haven’t updated these in a while – let’s do it!”. And if you do have a plan that happens to be a 5 year one, well then I guess I jumped the gun.

37 JPMarch 5, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Why did you delete my “updated” question? I believe it would have message #27.

There was nothing negative in it but it did mention the word “free” at other places.

It outlined what we researchers consider useful databases and would like.

It asked how many US databases had been added a week.

It asked why images were not included in the BMD indexes because there is so much more information than the index provides.

#35
“I’m not aware of the promise you cite,”

I realize you probably aren’t aware of it.

No current employees seem to remember any “promises” made by ancestry.

The other big one is that they would never sell user contributed trees – but of course that is what they are now doing. It seems to be the main focus of the business.

Those of us that have been at this for a LONG time have long memories.

Those of use that have been at this a LONG time need to have useful databases added (as I described in my deleted message) to keep up as subscribers.

I would still like answers to my deleted message.

38 Ron LankshearMarch 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Re your 30
#13 & #14 – The International Content team will be posting to the Ancestry Blog as well, so stay tuned

I am tuned if this is the Blog – when will more UK and Australian data be added. I just had email notice that Ancestry.au are raising the price because of all the data. Where/When is it?

39 Ida FrenchMarch 6, 2009 at 6:58 am

Chris, I am not going to play tit-for-tat with you. Bottom line is Ancestry is adding too much usless junk. I always answer the surveys in hope Ancestry will add more of what we want. We want more birth, marriage and death records. Not just indexed but images. More directories, cemetery and bible records. This is how you will keep the subscribers.

40 MarshallMarch 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm

I agree Ancestry has slowed down and almost all the new records seem pretty useless to the tpye of genealogists I know that use ancestry. I am waiting for the Mormom church to add tons of records to their free site. I am debating leaving ancestry after many years

41 Kathy WilberdingMarch 7, 2009 at 1:35 am

What happened to the Iowa 1925 census images? All of the 1925 Iowa county census rolls included images of the smaller inset pages that listed the name and birth place of the parents of each individual enumerated. They were columns 9 & 10. I downloaded some of these images when this collection was first released. When I was doing some research in this census this evening I was astounded to see that these images had been removed! The names of parents are listed on the record, but many of those are poorly deciphered and I don’t trust any extraction to be accurate.

42 JadeMarch 7, 2009 at 7:34 am

Re: Kathy’s #41, 1925 Iowa State Census,

Completely agree with Kathy, the 2nd page with statement of parents’ names including mother’s maiden name is the most valuable part of this Census.

I noticed the removals yesterday.

*Why, Chris, was this done*? Was this part of the advertised “Update” of the Iowa State Census database?

This is a cruel trick: “Yes, let’s update this database by removing the most central useful part of it, then put it on the New/Updated List! The silly geneies will never notice.”

Please, please, put them back!

And post on the message boards (not this little hidden corner) when it is done, too.

43 JPMarch 7, 2009 at 8:05 am

Kathy #41

They are missing.

This isn’t the first time they’ve removed important information from a database. Sometimes they even remove a whole database.

They deleted a message of mine outling what I and others would like to see added and consider useful. Instead of adding what we are looking for they are taking it away! Again!

It seems to me that everytime they “improve” something or have added something “new” it justs ends up being a disaster.

44 Chris LydiksenMarch 7, 2009 at 4:16 pm

#36 – Mike, Your comments have opened up discussion about making descriptions more detailed when justified. I agree that we should “explicitly list the counties that were not included and tell why and when/if they will be added,” but only when/if we know this information. We might have no control over exactly when missing data can be acquired.

I agree with you that PERSI and other dynamic databases should be updated on a more regular schedule, and will do my part to make this happen. I’ll also forward your comment about KY death certificates to our acquisition crew.

45 Chris LydiksenMarch 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

#37 – JP, I’m not exactly sure what happened to one of your posts. I do delete malicious or spam posts to maximize the quality and relevance of my corner of the blog, and I do remember deleting a couple from here. If I got yours by mistake, I’m sorry. Now, let me try to answer your questions.

The question about how many databases a week had been added can be answered using the link provided in the original blog article. A more informative question would be how many names were released, which for the most part can also be answered by visiting the aforementioned link. But, the wide variety of content and the complexity of producing the content involved in the ever-growing Ancestry.com service is not easily measured in terms of impact to the genealogy profession/hobby. While some complain that we haven’t added records helpful to their family history research recently, others are thanking us from the bottoms of their hearts. We hear of customer success stories weekly as they call in or email to say thanks.

One of the major value propositions of Ancestry.com is that we include images of original documents, along with electronic indexes. If you see a collection that does not have images, chances are good that we were unable to acquire the microfilm or digital images, or they simply weren’t available.

I’m still not aware of the promise you cite. Please be more specific.

46 Chris LydiksenMarch 7, 2009 at 5:02 pm

#39 – Ida, I, for one, have found no ancestral records yet in any Canadian databases, however, thousands of our customers have. I’m happy to report that millions more names in vital records and city directories are coming. We’re also working on more cemetery records.

47 Chris LydiksenMarch 7, 2009 at 5:05 pm

#40 – I repeat, there has been an increase over last year in U.S. record releases on Ancestry.com.

48 Chris LydiksenMarch 7, 2009 at 5:07 pm

#41, #42, #43 – I will look into the 1925 Iowa State Census images and get back with you. There was no intention to remove any images with the recent update.

49 JPMarch 9, 2009 at 9:23 am

AHA! The comment on this article form is back.

#45 Chris

“I’m still not aware of the promise you cite. Please be more specific.”

I’m not sure how I can be more specific.

If you go back into your archives for the late 90′s and early 2000′s your should be able to find what I’m talking about.

One of these days I’m going to go thru some of my very old ancestry stuff and see if I have anything to prove what I’m saying but I doubt I saved any of it. I was naive enough to believe ancestry would hold true to their word.

Right now I can think of three areas where I believe they broke their original contract with me.

1. New databases / records

I believe that the policy was that there would be at least two new ones added per week. At that time they even allowed those, and I can’t remember if it was all of them at the time or how many were even free to anyone for a month.

At the time ancestry only had US data. I realize ancestry has expanded to include other countries and that one could say they are meeting or even exceeding their two per week BUT as a US user, close to 100% of them are useless to me. There must be some middle ground. If there were two good and useful US records per week added for states I don’t need I wouldn’t have a justifiable complaint but there have been very few new and useful US records added in the last year and probably for a few years.

“A more informative question would be how many names were released”

I disagree. It’s not the number of names, it’s the quality of the information regarding those names. I have run across a few databases where I ask myself why it was even included in the collection because it was just that, names.

A few things we would like are:

BMD records including the images or at least all the information contained on the certificates.

State censuses which, as in the case of the IA 1925 census can contain a lot more useful information than the federal censuses. Some of the earlier state censuses have the county where the person was born.

Wills

County biographies

Older obituaries – there used to be some at ancestry but they took them away.

I am sure that there are others things that would be useful, but these are what come to mind right now.

We don’t need records that are already out there and for free. A couple that I can think of are, veteran burials, the IA cemetery records, etc. I know there are more, just can’t remember which ones right now.

I have long ago exhausted the information that ancestry has availble which was useful to me, except a dribble now and then and if nothing is added (and completed and fixed) there is no reason to continue to subscribe. I cancelled about a year ago but am a non paying subscriber for a while.

2. Selling user contributed data

There is a history behind this one. Ancestry and genealogy.com were separate companies and in competition. genealogy.com was selling, on disk, user contributed information that made a lot of people, those that contributed the information, unhappy. Ancestry also had a tree for user contrubed information which was free. Ancestry’s written policy was that that ancestry would NEVER sell user contributed information. As soon as Ancestry and genealogy.com combined, ancestry started that fiasco called OWT and started charging for user contributed trees. And now we have a variety of user contritubed trees that are being sold.

Not only are they selling them, but these trees are clunky to use. The WorldConnect format is much more user friendly, free, and it is my understading that WC could of and wanted to upgrade the features but weren’t allowed to. I haven’t kept up on that so don’t know all the details.

As a new user, trees were useful and helped generate my interest / addiction. Interest equals more subscriptions. People shared information. I no longer do lookups, answer questions or contribute or correct information because I don’t want it to end up on ancestry and being sold. A “cousin” and I have extensive data on a number of family lines and would love to be able to freely share with others. It feels like such a waste keeping it all to myself. A lot of the fun of this hobby has been lost because of my decsion to keep it out of ancestry’s reach with my own data and with helping others. I could post it out there freely somewhere else, but when I have, it ends up on ancestry and is being sold and so far I haven’t figured out a way to keep that from happening.

3. Subscriptions

When I started there was one subscription. It was all inclusive and included the censuses. At one point, when it was time to re-subscribe I was told I had to pay two subscriptions. One was called the US Records Collection and the other Census Collection. I had had access to the censuses one day and the next had to pay for a separate subscription for information that had been included in my subscription the day before.

When they added the family histories and newspapers they also became separate subscriptions even though they were US material. A least then subscriptions were ala carte and I opted out of the family histories and newspapers because I already had them somewhere else. PLUS ancestries search with those two, didn’t work properly and still don’t. I just kep the US Records Collection and the Census Collection.

Then they changed to combing everthing into one subcription, the US Deluxe Collection. At renewal time I called to see if I couldn’t just keep to what I was already subscribing to. The answer was yes, they called it the Hertage something, I think, but it was the same as being grandfather into the US Records and the census records separately. This continued for a while. The next thing that happened was that they started adding US records but I was locked out of them. When I called, I was told there was no US Records Collection, which was an out and out lie. After a LONG discussion, the manager I was talking to supposedly called the head office and I was promised that those records would be unlocked. (I have proof of this one) They never were. Funny thing is, when my next renewal date came up the notice I received for renewal was for the US Records Collection and the Census Collection – after I had been told there was no such thing as a US Records Collection.

The combination cost for the renewal this time for the two collection was a LOT more than it had been and more than the US Deluxe so I had no choice, if I wanted to subscribe, I had to take the US Deluxe. There was no question in my mind that the reason the new cost for the two was raised so much was to force everyone into the US Deluxe and to get rid of the US Records.

My only interests are the US and Canada. I didn’t want to pay for a World Subscription just to have access to the little bit of Canadian information available and I called and asked for a month Canada subscription. (there is one) I was told I couldn’t that I would have to cancel my US Records and Census collections take the World Deluxe subscription to have access. If I had done this, I would not have been able to go back to my US Records and Census collections it would have to be the US Deluxe. After another discussion with another manager I found out it was possible to just subscribe to the Canada collection along with what I already had.

It’s hard to trust ancestry any more with any thing they say.

They say a set of records is complete and it really isn’t. Take the WWI cards. There are names on the index but no images to go with them. There are indexes with names but they bring up the wrong card. This has been reported to ancestry over and over again and they have never fixed or completed any of it. There is one county on the census that I’m aware of that has close to 2000 names names missing. There are databases that you have to go to the actualy database form to get the information because the main search engine doesn’t reach them. A couple have been fixed. Who knows how many things we may be missing out on. There have even been forms where you couldn’t put the names in the name boxes but in the keywords box to get the information. Now there are some forms where the keyword box isn’t working They’ve messed up the family groupings on the 1850 census. They’ve messed up the “see others on the page” for the 1930 census. Information that once was there is now missing in other databases beside the 1925 IA census. I could go one and on.

Every time there is some great new improvement it seems that what it really is a disaster.

All we want is new, useful data,quality control and policies / promises kept. I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

50 MikeMarch 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

JP,

On your #49 and the promise thing. I *think* I remember talking on the Ancestry Insider blog re how Ancestry “liked” to release a new database/title each day. But mainly as a marketing/promo thing and not as a promise. And after all, even if you dig back 5 years and found that promise, then if they fulfilled it before your next subscription, they fulfilled it didn’t they? But the question is whether you were promised on your last renewal date by the then current T&C that there would be such daily additions. After all you subscribe by the year and not for life.

Having said that, of course I think we subscribers have a right to insist on quality control for what is added or was added in the past. But as for new additions, I too do keep harping on that, but mainly as something that keeps me subscribing. When I don’t think enough new is added in a current year or likely will be in the next, and the US content is becoming somewhat static for the records I need, then I will stop subscribing regularly.

Ancestry should realize though that much of the value of any subscription comes from the site being dynamic, since rich as the older sources may be, they have already been mined to a large extent by long time customers. Which is why libraries should not be overpaying ProQuest for their Heritage Quest databases since they are now static.

51 MarshallMarch 9, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Another big day for databases in German but no US databases of worth

52 DianeMarch 9, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Chris,
The Iowa 1925 census is still broken. This is the sort of thing that is really annoying. Ancestry was made aware of the problem more than 60 hrs ago.

Most customers don’t read the blogs (they don’t even know they exist). A customer new to that census would not know there is important data missing.

At a minimum, when Ancestry knows that a resource is broken, you should add a temporary one-line explanatory message to that resource’s search page (preferably in red).

Example: “2009-03-09: The additional pages for each entry in the 1925 Iowa are temporarily missing. We apologize for the inconvenience and are addressing the issue.”

This is just good customer service. It not only ensures customers that you are on top of things but also reduces your support costs by heading off complaints and inquiries.

Suggest considering this as a standard operating procedure.

53 Mary Beth MarchantMarch 10, 2009 at 8:20 am

Chris, using “millions” of names to justify adding US records does not cut it. You could add the whole US phone book and claim you added “millions” of names but that would be one data base. Cite the actual US data bases that have been actually added this year-not the so-called updated ones which may have added one tiny jot of information-even that we cannot know unless we had access to the previous one and knew what was updated. I just now looked at the new data bases which are showing as being added beginning the first of March.
US data base-on the positive side:
US Criminal Court and possibly the Annapolis data base. On the negative side-I cannot even count the many data bases-mostly in German added yesterday. What good does that do me. Even though I have a lot of German roots, I cannot read German. So-where are the “millions” of US records???

54 JPMarch 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Mike,

If I had cancelled my subscription at some point and then started again I agree that whatever their policy is at the time would trump previous policies or if they had personally notified me of a change in their policy that would take place at the time of renewal I would be stuck with whatever they chose to do.

With my US Records Colleciton subscription they just starting locking me out of new US records. This was in the middle of my subscription.

As you know, ancestry just bills your account unless you tell them to cancel your subscription. With any other contract, rent, leasing etc. you are notified of changes and you are usually required to be notified a certain number of days before the renewal period.

I have received very few renewal notices and none of them have stated that I would no longer receive the same services as what I originally signed up for and I have never been notified that they are removing one database or another.

IMO, Ancestry is the provider and it is their resposibility to notifiy subscribers in policy changes and that those changes need to be in writing to the individual subscriber.

Since I don’t know the ins and outs of the legalities of any of this – some of this is fact and some is opinion – I could be way out in left field on the opinion part.

This discussion is probably all mute. Ancestry will do what it wants to do – like NEVER doesn’t really mean NEVER.

Since I have cancelled my paid yearly subscription I may take it once in a while for a month if anything interesting shows up but I was without any subscription for about 9 months and I can say that I didn’t miss out on much during that time period.

55 Chris LydiksenMarch 11, 2009 at 9:52 am

FYI: The Iowa State Census missing image problem has been found and will be fixed on the site shortly. Thanks for pointing this out to us.

56 Kathy Duncan CawleyMarch 11, 2009 at 10:03 am

I too have noticed the dramatic decrease of U.S. posting……a mere trickle.
I am thinking of canceling my subscription as we could certainly use the money.

I think it’s very sad that not only have the records dwindled, but even with my DSL connection, AOL is painfully slow at peak hours.
I think it got to big and forgot to grow, shame shame

57 JadeMarch 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

Chris,

Thank you very much for the info on the 1925 Iowa State Census! Can you tell us how deleting half of the images occurred?

Now, if we can only get the images for the last 2/3 of the alphabet for World War I Draft Registration Cards for Tioga Co, PA; the images are somewhere, they are indexed, but the images cannot be found by the index links or by browsing. This issue was brought to Ancestry’s attention more than 2-1/2 years ago. No explanation was offered.

Thank you so much,
Jade

58 Chris LydiksenMarch 11, 2009 at 2:26 pm

In terms of what happened with the Iowa State Census missing images, a bit of human error and a bit of process complexity. We’ve documented the learnings to help avoid this happening in the future.

59 Ann HenningsMarch 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Am I the only one who would like to see a translation of new database titles when they are not in English? Isn’t there room for both? I might use them (along with Bable Fish translator) if I had some idea of what the content was. It would sure save time.

60 JadeMarch 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Chris,

This evening 11 Mar in the USA the missing 1925 Iowa State Census images were restored.

This is a remarkable example of how responsive to database trouble TGN can be when it is determined to do so. The process of taking care of this in the past few days is also a model of how TGN *can* honestly admit to and address a problem when someone decides to do so.

So – it is possible! Good things can happen! Stuff can be done right!

The nagging little question remains – it was reported to Customer Support two weeks ago.

Thanks to everyone who made this fix possible.

61 Ida FrenchMarch 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Chris, FYI – I reported a problem to customer service months ago about a problem with the Kentucky Death Records 1852-1953. Mainly Jefferson County. The first names were transcribed incorrectly. They said they would look into it but nothing has been done. They said I should send in corrections as I found them but this is something that Ancestry should correct.

I can give you some examples: Sarah A Fisher Died 8 Jan 1875 the index gives the name of A.P. Fisher – If you look at the record the first name is clearly Sarah A.

Julia A Kell Died 10 Jan 1887 the index gives the name of William Kell – If you look at the record the first name is clearly Julia A.

I could site many more but you probably get what I am saying. Now this does not occur in later years and I am not sure if it occurs in other counties but it needs to be fixed.

62 JPMarch 13, 2009 at 9:43 am

Chris,

There are many databases that are “broken”. I only use a small percentage of all that is available so I can only imagine how many there are out there are a “broken”.

1. From the day they are added

and

2. After someone does something as with the 1925 IA census.

There are also search forms that are “broken” for the same reasons as stated above for the databases. I’m not talking about the complaints you all are getting on the “new improved” searches. There are ways around that problem. I don’t have that problems since I use a VERY old search form.

There are databses that just disappear never to be seen again.

There is information with the results that was once there but part of that information has now disappeared. An example is the IN marriages. The only time you find these is when you are going back to check something out and what you know was there is not longer there. Who knows how many databases are not showing all the information that is availabe in the records but doesn’t show up in the results.

Quality control and testing the products doesn’t seem part of ancestry’s normal operating procedure.

Reporting broken databases and forms just seems to fall on deaf ears. Some have never been fixed after years of reporting. An example are the Tioga Co., PA WWI card images that we have been reporting over
and over and over again.

End users are paying for a service and expect quality.

Since it seems to be left us to the end user to do the testing and reporting – although reports fall on deaf ears – I would like to see a message board just for reporting REAL problems which I outlined above.

This message board should have the ability for us to upload images which sometimes better show what the problem is.

I would like it to exclude transcription errors, trees and problems with the “new improved” search engines, shoeboxes, hints and all the other window dressings which don’t really have anything to do with real research.

This message board would need to be monitored by the person responsible for the above. And we would like a response from that person regarding the problem and the schedule for fixing it and then an announcement when the problem is fixed.

If ancestry really cares and wants to have a quality product – quality control, testing the product and listening to the end user and correcting problems would be their top priority.

63 Jeanette Stokes FergusonMarch 16, 2009 at 6:24 am

I was on a few weeks ago.A tag came up with, A Book of Stokes . I had already clickes on something else
and couldn’t find it again.

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